Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Miracle!

 The semester is over!  Exams have been graded, and grades submitted to the University of State!

And, yet, one student wants to meet with me to “discuss” a failing grade.  He agrees that he doesn’t want to resubmit any homework; he agrees that he doesn’t want any extra credit.  He agrees that the curve has already been applied.

(By the way, do these intellectual giants really think that I would release their grades before applying the curve?  Why on earth would I do such a thing?  Just to tease them!?)

Anyway, even though this young scholar agrees to all the points above, he still wants to meet with me next week, when school is out.  Sure, kid—works for me.  I’m in it just to see if you come up with anything interesting.  Good luck.  However, if you don’t, I get to assault you with dripping sarcasm for wasting my time.

But that’s not why we’re here today.  We’re here because of a Christmas miracle!  Yes, the Spirit of Christmas has affected even me, The Devil Himself.

Today, I was preparing the class web pages for next semester.  I found myself improving the web pages, trying to make the content better.  I was reflecting upon the lessons, coming up with better examples, more interesting homework assignments, etc.  I was optimistic that I will do a better job in January.  It dawned on me—I havent become cynical.  I’m looking forward to next semester.  I haven’t been beaten down by the slackers, stoners, and weasels.  I’ll be there for the good kids.  I still have hope.

Merry Christmas, everyone.


  1. I suggest you go easy on the sarcasm. Snowflakes never seem to get it, except for the cases that immediately go crying to one's higher-ups. I get wonderful satisfaction in awarding grades earned, fair and square, by students' performance, and making them stick. This goes for all grades, both high and low. It's a big help in renewing -my- perennial beginning-of-term optimism.

    By the way, your "intellectual giants" -don't- think. Hope springs eternal in the 18-year-old breast, very much irrationally. There's seemingly no limit on their sheer wishful thinking. Maybe you've made some kind of mistake somewhere? Maybe you'll make an extra-special exception, just for them? Sorry, I say, but no.

    I also hope you realize you don't have to answer e-mail, much less meet with students, when campus is officially closed? The day campus closes, I activate a vacation message (or send out an identical message consciously, if caught before the automatic message starts), that I will be back on the day the new term starts. With any luck, with their short attention spans, by then they might have forgotten about the whole thing.

  2. I had a student complain because I didn't stretch their grade from a F to a D-. Their reasoning? They had "been through a lot this semester". Boo f-ing hoo. No you can't do extra credit, should have done the one extra credit assigment I offered! it always amazes me how they go from Jeckle to Hyde as soon as they are held responsilble and do not get their way. Welcome to the real world sunshine, don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out!

  3. A student demanded I meet him to discuss his grade on Christmas Eve. When I ignored him, he sent a letter of complaint to the Chair. He did not understand why missing every quiz given in the class, and only being in attendance occasionally gave him a final grade of "F." Apparently, according to the Chair, he said "but I worked hard when I was there, so I should get an A for effort." He was shown to the door.

  4. This may be off-topic, but I strongly dislike those auto-responses. Granted, I only get them from colleagues who will end up responding to my email regardless of their vacation plans, bust still. Hate the bounce-back auto-reply.

    I relish meeting with students against whom I have a strong case for an F. I build my case slowly, showing them the very many ways they failed to take advantage of every opportunity. If built quietly, it can create an awesome presence in the room.

  5. @AM:
    I didn’t used to like auto-responses either, but e-mail has been around long enough so that if one doesn’t answer every message instantly, too many snowflakes will wet their pants. Frank Zappa noted the undesirability of yellow snow, so I make a concession to reality and use the auto-responses. It’s much like with emoticons.

    I do -not- relish meeting with students who deserve bad grades. The high-pitched whining is hard on the ears, and I often feel like I’ve lost IQ points. Worst of all, I’ve had more than enough jagoff higher-ups who have wasted far too much time complicating what ought to have been transparently obvious nonsense, and I’ve had to waste far too much effort preventing my decisions, made fair and square, being reversed. I need my time and energy for good students. Legitimate grading mistakes are rare, and can be handled without whining in about five minutes during office hours after the next term starts.

    My compliments to your Chair. That’s the way I’d have handled that when I was chair, aside from saying, firmly, “like the rest of campus, the Department of Physics is CLOSED until January 12.” It helped that my Dean frightens snowflakes: he wants faculty to do more research, so he doesn‘t take a lot of guff. Even better, he resembles Craig Ferguson, in both looks and manner. Treasure the good administrators, they are rare!


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