Monday, October 26, 2015

A new game show for mid-Fall From Amelia!

Hi folks, it's time for everyone's favorite game: Confabulate like a fabulous student. Here are the rules.

You'll find 5 scenarios below. For each scenario, guess what the student told me. (Real answers are at the bottom of the page). Extra points for creativity.

  1. 1. Student arrives in 9:30 a.m. class clutching Starbucks cup, 10 minutes late. Student has missed quiz at start of class and wants to take it late because s/he was unavoidably delayed due to _____________________________
  2. The week before Fall Break, student informs you that s/he will be missing class and exam the Friday before the break begins (days off on M/T/W) for the unavoidable reason that___________________________. S/he will need a makeup exam upon hir return.
  3. Student turns in a paper in which the last page consists of sections from the self-same paper in your hand that have been copied and pasted at the end. Suggested length was 5 to six pages and the paper was exactly 5 pages. Upon questioning, the student tells you that: ______________________________
  4. Student turns in a paper with some phrases mysteriously in a lighter gray color and underlined. Student tells you this is because_______________________________.
  5. Every student in your class fills in a short answer identifying Belize as being a country in Africa. You ask why they would think this, and they tell you ____________________________. 

Real Answers:

  1. student did not wake up in time to both go for coffee and arrive in class on time.
  2. student did not check syllabi before making plane reservations for break.
  3. student did not think you would read that carefully.
  4. sloppy copy and paste from Wikipedia.
  5. hey divided up the study guide, and the intellectually challenged flake prepared the answer to that section.


  1. For #4, my students usually blame the fact that they used several and/or their mom's/boyfriend's/sister's/pet piranha's computer(s).

    #2 is often a family wedding, or funeral, often held in the old country, with related activities lasting at least a week (I do have some sympathy for several aspects of this, but, repeated too often, it can definitely make it harder for a student to make steady progress toward passing/graduation). Among nth-generation Americans, it's most often a service trip (but sometimes a wedding for them, too. The U.S. and its long-established subcultures have their own elaborate and extended wedding traditions). Extra (usually lost) points for the student who schedules her own wedding during the term (or takes a summer class that will be interrupted by same).

    #3 would usually be blamed on an inexplicable technical glitch (student is often in IT or Computer Science).

    #5 Most of my students work too many hours to collaborate (unless, of course, they're members of the same sorority/fraternity), so the most likely answer is or yahoo answers or something along those lines.

  2. I hope to write about this at some point, but maybe not. I'm seriously considering leaving the profession. I've had varying amounts of hope about it all at times, but I've never been lower than I am this semester. It feels as though the profession is racing off a cliff and that there is no way to stop it. I do not like the person / professor I'm becoming.

    1. Are you eligible for a sabbatical (I know; hah; fat chance; forget I even asked), or an unpaid leave while you try out something else, or a mental health leave, or anything along those lines? Seriously, you sound like an excellent teacher and colleague, and we need people like you in higher ed (preferably in tenure lines or even administration), and it's really, really hard to get back in (let alone get back tenure) if you leave. You know what's right for you, but if there's any way to take a break and regroup and get some perspective, I'd say take advantage of that before burning any bridges. Maybe a Fullbright or something?

    2. As someone who's given up tenure twice, let me tell you getting back is ridiculously hard. One of my chief complaints about academia is this notion that anyone who'd leave a good job or give up tenure is some kind of nutjob. There are all kinds of things that contribute to new positions and so forth. I'm a trailing spouse and have left great jobs for no other reason than I loved my wife more than the gig.

      Hiram, he has reported before, is married and happy in the real world. I'd say look before you leap, much like Cassandra cautions.

      And I do know burnout can fade with a sabbatical. But, man, life is wicked short. If you hate your day to day, finding something else that makes you happy is not the craziest think you can do.

    3. I was thinking of you, Cal, and of a few other people I've known in person who managed the giving-up-tenure-and-earning-it-again trick (though with great difficulty), and a few others who've left for good and been happier for it, all of them/you braver than I. I suppose the fact that it's easier to get a decent job when you already have one isn't unique to academia, and maybe that's even true of the tendency to value experience within the "industry" far more than experience outside it, but those tendencies do result in some seriously perverse incentives. I'm pretty sure we could solve the adjunct crisis tomorrow, by sheer force of supply and demand, if A.B.D.s and Ph.D.s knew they could stop teaching and do something else for a few years, and still have some chance of returning (which I suppose actually happens in some fields, but not much in the most teaching-intensive ones).

      One thing tenure does offer, in most places, is the opportunity for a phased exit. I've never actually seen someone who was planning to leave academia entirely do that, but if one can be "on leave" from a tenured job for a year or more while making sure that the tenure process at a new school is going to go as smoothly as anticipated, I don't know why one can't do that while trying out a non-academic job. The new employer might or might not appreciate it, but the new employer doesn't necessarily need to know (universities are very slow to update their websites, after all).

  3. #3 is magnificent in its weaselly simplicity.

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