Tuesday, June 7, 2016

White lies Dr. Amelia has told her students.

  • The low grade on this assessment was lower than what the lowest grade actually was (I tell them it was D+. Truth: it was actually C- for instance)
  • If they do something extra for the class like show up at the speech the adminiflake wants the kids to go to, the extra credit could really make a difference in their grade (Truth: Other stuff I grade gets adjusted so it comes out in the wash and they get a grade that represents mastery of class material)
  • Whatever class I am standing in at the moment is my favorite subject to teach (Truth: There's good and bad about every subject, and the composition of the students makes a huge difference in how your class will go. I am not presently optimistic about you guys).
  • I understand that their head cold/migraine/tummy ache meant they can't come to class. (Truth: I come to class if I am not actively bleeding or vomiting. I secretly question their commitment.)
  • I believe they are sick on Friday morning, when I know it is "alcohol flu" (Truth: When you come in that afternoon to pick up your paper, I know what that magic marker on the back of your hand means. I am not stupid.)
  • I think they sure are lucky to have the chance to go to the Caribbean for Spring Break. I had too much work. (Truth: I do have work, but secretly, the rest of my family doesn't get my Spring Break, and I'm not going to St. Kitts by myself. Also, I can't afford it.)
  • Anyone, if they try hard enough, can learn this skill/understand this material. (Truth: Some of you will never get it. But if you don't try hard, you have no chance)


  1. One of the signs of maturity is knowing when to insist on the exact, precise truth, and when it's okay to hang out in the general neighborhood. Also where it's productive to spend one's energy, and where it isn't. All these sound like mature decisions to me.

    I must say, though, I'm increasingly grateful to students who *don't* bring communicable diseases to class. The semester goes a lot better if I don't lose a week or two to working at half speed (but I, too, tend to come to class as long as I'm able to drive safely, stand upright, and get through a full class period without an emergency trip to the bathroom, so I may be a hypocrite on this subject).

  2. I love "I am not presently optimistic about you guys" in #3.

    I noticed a long time ago that their little faces fall if you indicate you are nothing less than thrilled about teaching the class subject and about being a professor. I actually had a crooked path to becoming a professor, though I do like it. But one semester long ago, a student asked me if this had always been my dream, and I honestly said no, that I had left graduate school shaking the dust off my feet, and only come back to academia after reconsidering because I had a baby (so I was needing part time adjunct work). And I liked it when I came back to it. I just needed the break when I took it. That answer does not mean I became a prof at gunpoint. But her little face just fell. She wanted it to have been my lifelong dream. So now, I always say it was my lifelong dream (surprising how often that comes up!).

    1. Oh, dear, Bella. Some time ago a student seriously considering grad school confidently said to me, "You do this because you love students." And I had a viral outbreak of truth, and said "I do this because I love Hamster Fur Weaving." The student nearly cried, so I tried to recover by saying, "so I love getting to introduce it to students because I know how much they'll love it," but my reputation never recovered.

    2. @Ego,

      Yeah, that's pretty sad that that one innocent moment could make or break a reputation.

    3. This is another area where my students seem to have somewhat lower expectations, which is a good thing, since I, too, am much more "engaged" by the material than by the thought of juggling interactions with 90 or so people for 15 weeks, then starting it all over again with 90 more people -- nothing wrong with the people, but I'm an introvert,and there are a lot of them.

      I teach a required course, I think it includes genuinely helpful material/experiences, and I expect most students to be able to succeed in the class (which means a B of some sort, not necessarily an A) with a reasonable amount of help and support, which I'm happy to provide. I don't expect them to be thrilled about taking another required English class, but I do anticipate, based on experience, that most of them will find it challenging, and will find at the end that they've learned something new, and useful. I make all of that clear (sometimes in words, mostly in actions and attitude), and it seems to do the trick for most of them.

      There are advantages to having students who somehow manage to combine youthful idealism with sometimes appearing to feel almost as exhausted and jaded as I do. Life hasn't always gone exactly the way they'd like for most of them, and they don't expect it to, but they do have reason to believe that hard work brings some sort of payoff over time. That makes them a pretty good bunch to teach.

    4. That's a wonderful state of mind for students to have, CC. My applause to them! And to you, because no way that has nothing to do with you or the culture you're part of at your place.

  3. I'm guilty of pretty much all of them. Regarding the tummy ache, etc., I think sometimes they tell the truth and sometimes they stretch it a wee bit.

    Like Bella, I love the "I am not presently optimistic" line. Last fall, I just could NOT engage 2 sections. It got so bad, one student commented on the evaluation that I really tried to engage the students but it just didn't work. At least someone noticed.

  4. Oh, that last bullet point. That's the one that breaks my heart. Because some of them really do try, and never get it.

    1. This. And it's not just the experts disease. I have, more or less, internalized that it isn't easy for everyone. But I don't get how they can't do it at all, even with detailed, step-by-step instructions for some class of problems.

      Though in my present circumstances I am somewhat shielded from from these encounters; except in the gen ed class the ones who just can't get my discipline usual fail to get the math first.

    2. Those are the sad ones. Like PP, I'm somewhat shielded by prerequisites, but I do get the occasional student -- usually with accommodations -- who has almost certainly gone as far as (s)he is going to go in college work, and would probably be better off exploring other paths to a successful and satisfying life.

      And then there are those who just need another year or two of English study (which may well include flunking the class I teach once or twice before passing it; that's fair enough, unless family/financial pressures are making the kid's life hell in the interim).