Thursday, April 21, 2016

Irritated in Irvine Saves Herself.

I have it good. I love my teaching and 90% of my colleagues. But I still find great humor in the shared misery of this website! I am such the fan.

But today I had an experience that allows me to join you all. I'm very proud. I hope I do not do this incorrectly or make Compound Crystal have to move mountains to fix the formatting.

I teach writing at a super lovely college. Our students are pretty high achieving and they normally make my job fun.

But, let me tell you about today.

We write 4 essays in the course of 15 weeks. It's on the syllabus, I talk about the 4 essays taking place within UNITS. Each unit is 3 weeks long and includes reading, drafting, peer revision, and then a final draft.

As of three weeks ago we had done THREE of these. There are FOUR essays total. Are you with me?

So for the past three weeks I've been talking about Essay #4. We've done reading. We've written paragraphs in our writing lab. We've had a peer edit of some APA documentation.

So today I mention the due date - which I've done nearly every day in class (and it's on the handout, and in the syllabus).

No sooner do I finish saying the due date and someone up front asks, "What? You mean there's another essay?"

"Well, I said. Not another. The one we're working on. Essay #4."

Another student in the back says, "Wait. I thought we were just writing practice paragraphs. You mean these are for another essay? Is it an unannounced essay?"

And I stood there, catching flies with my mouth.

Before I could recover, a different student said, "I don't get it. We've already written THREE essays."

"W-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-wait," I said. "There are FOUR essays."

And a weird fog came over the room. The rest of the students, GOOD students, normal people, began to take to this insane idea.

"Yeah, you said three essays." It was a Lord of the Flies sort of vibe. They sensed I was caught off guard, knocked free of the conch, and they were going for control.

I stumbled to the PC at the front of the room and frantically found the online syllabus. As the machine whirred to life, the noise from the students started to subdue.

I was saved at the last minute when the evidence appeared, when the focus engaged and the syllabus with its hard truths shone down on them.

22 comments:

  1. So what you're telling me is that they had to write a total of three essays, yes?

    Annie

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  2. This is what we call Thursday on my campus. Wednesday too.

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  3. I've been getting this sort of thing a lot lately. Like there's this collective wishful thinking about due dates and assignments, and that if they repeat it to each other it must be true.
    No idea where this thought process came about, but I haven't experienced it until the past year or so.
    Nothing like the syllabus to burst their collective bubble.
    -- Agnes of Dog

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    1. My belief, bolstered a bit from biannual visits to a local high school for seminars, is that teachers want students to feel empowered, and if enough of them band together, they can often get rules and guidelines relaxed.

      One Spanish PROFESSOR I teach with told me proudly after her class got together and made a "formal" request, she cancelled her final and let them organize a party instead with Mexican food.

      "Did they speak Spanish at the party?" I asked.

      "At first, yes, but then it just got to be fun!"

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    2. Remind me why there have been so many comments from "Anonymous" in recent months? It was mentioned a few months ago as a Google problem or Blogger problem or browser problem, right? Or no? Is there something the rest of us can do to help with that? Because of that Oregon Duck troll, I still tend to not even read comments from "Anonymous"--which is kind of unfair to those commenters, I guess. But, more importantly, I can miss out on interesting comments if I skip those. On the other hand, for a very good reason, a lot of us got in the habit over the years of not reading anything from "Anonymous" because he was such a toxic person. Just wondering.

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    3. What the fuck, Reg, what the fuck!? What kind of a soft-headed weasel is this Spanish prof? I HATE, HATE, HATE that kind of behavior. What if we band together and ask the IRS if we could please not pay taxes this year? What a spineless douche.

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    4. Bubba,
      I kind of like the anonymous option, but I always put my pseudonym underneath. I once had that name registered for a google account, but I have since forgotten the login information.
      I promise I am not a troll. I'm a longtime lurker who feels more comfortable posting comments this way. If I can re-create my other account, I will.
      -- Agnes of Dog

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  4. I nearly had one of these moments today, but a few of my more together students rose up, and repeated in unison: "NO, [the assignment in question] WAS DUE TODAY!"

    I'm at a loss for how I could be more clear about what is due when...

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  5. One of my colleagues recently was flabbergasted because a student insisted that a quiz she'd missed, and therefore got a zero on, never existed, and that the professor had "made it up" in order to give the student a zero.

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  7. Say to your students, "I know what you're thinking. 'Did she assign four essays or only three?' Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a detailed syllabus, the authoritative description of everything you will do in this class and will determine how I evaluate your performance, you've gotta ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, snowflake?"

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    1. Beaker Ben for the win.

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    2. This is true, but a shoutout to whoever came up with that graphic is definitely in order.

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    3. First and foremost I must pay homage to this beautiful homage. Bravo!

      Secondly "Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself." isn't a joke but the plain truth. By this point in the semester I have to read my own syllabi to be sure of what is in them.

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    4. Mine is a spiral curriculum....currently last seen spiraling out of control.

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    5. The graphic: is that Carly Simon, Sofia Vergara, my first real girlfriend, or a combination of all three?

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  8. I'm very glad you posted this anecdote, Irv. As bizarre as the event was, it's a sign of the times. Snark's invocation of Lord of the Flies reminds me of that other book we all read in high school, 1984, in which reality is malleable and ever-changing. The plasticity of the digital milieu leads heavy users (young people) to believe that all reality is amenable to wishful alteration. Many are only loosely connected to (what we call) reality, and we should be very afraid indeed.

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    1. But what do you call reality?

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    2. Monica wants to initiate a circular discussion.

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  9. Undergraduates are like WOLVES. They can smell fear, which starts with even the slightest uncertainty. At their first whiff of it, they mass for ATTACK.

    And they are like SHARKS. Even a drop of blood in the water will send them into a feeding FRENZY, in which often they will start eating EACH OTHER!

    And they are like RABID VAMPIRE BATS, swarming to feast on warm human BLOOD, while spreading FILTH and DISEASE everywhere they go, over the odor of AXE BODY SPRAY!!!

    What you need is one of these HEAVY-duty STAPLE GUNS, with a non-slip rubber handle so when the BLOOD starts POURING, you won't FOUL things up with a SLIPPERY GRIP!!!!!

    Or you can just say: IT’S IN THE SYLLABUS. That is the safe word that wins all arguments. The good part here is that it doesn’t even have to be true. My students can’t be bothered to read anything, anywhere, ever, so they NEVER check.

    We tell students in science that it’s OK to admit you were wrong and to learn from experience. That a teacher dare not actually DO this in front of a class, or risk being torn LIMB from LIMB by NASTY, SHARP, POINTY TEETH is an irony that is not lost on me.

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    1. Actually, I don't think that saying "It's in the syllabus" shuts them up. I think that when we say that, we project the confidence to imply "my ass is covered, suckers!" It's not that they know the syllabus is the final say.

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  10. Best. Thread. Ever.

    (Until the next one...)

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