Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Frog & Toad Gets Smacked By a Snowball.

Alrighty then. I haven't posted because frankly, it hasn't been that miserable. I had a summer and a fall and a winter blessedly flake-free, mostly because they were practically without teaching for a number of reasons I won't get into here. I have a great class this quarter of students who seem to be processing the reading and classroom discussions/lectures.

But it's halfway into the quarter, and suddenly this class has coughed out a giant snowball. He didn't show up for a month. He "forgot" he was in the class, no, dropped the wrong class thinking it was mine, no, went to the wrong room. Whatever. He came to me asking if it was still possible to pass at this point in the term (with perfect scores on everything it is). Enough, right? Come to class, do the work, and hope you pass. But no. In the days since he joined the class, I have received several long, excuse- and emoticon-filled e-mails explaining why he is not doing what he is supposed to do. All with little passive-aggressive smileys and "thanks for responding soon!"

He is, he says, raring to go, but this happened and that happened, and you see Professor, I need blah blah blah and you understand that blah blah blah right? Please get back to me when you can!!!! =) =)

I can tell already that he is going to take huge amounts of my time, time I do not have. I want to chew the top off of a vodka bottle, grind up the glass between my teeth, down the whole thing, and jump off a bridge.


  1. What a shame your spam filter is catching most of his emails! You've tried to reset it ...

  2. Oh, dear. I think I've got his sister, or cousin, or female complement of some kind.

    She's taking way, way, too many credits because she "needs" to graduate early (this May) due to some difficult family and personal circumstances (which do, indeed, sound difficult). She keeps forgetting about my class (required for graduation, ideally taken early in the junior year) because it's online (yes, that's one of the dangers of online classes, mentioned in the email I sent at the beginning of the semester), but she refuses to drop and register for a summer section (which needs to be done *now*) each time I suggest that her accumulated grades so far make it very, very unlikely that she will earn a passing final grade. Unlike your snowball, Froad, she actually sends work, but her first attempt to catch up was a "research paper" in which each paragraph was taken from a different source (cited at the end, and only the end, of the paragraph), substantial portions of the text were plagiarized (mostly from the sources cited, and she ran it through the plagiarism checker, so there was no attempt at deception -- a situation which, in my class, results in an F and a required revision rather than a trip to the honor board, which is the penalty at any stage for deliberate plagiarism), and there was no argument beyond an occasional comment about cause and effect in what was essentially a narrative (I assigned an analysis). When I emailed her prior to a scheduled conference warning her that she should take a look at the results on the plagiarism checker, I got another long explanation of how busy she is, how she really knows all this stuff but is overwhelmed, stressed out, losing sleep over how her husband will react if she doesn't pass this class, etc., etc.

    The latter two concerns seem to have disappeared from the exchange in response to my suggesting, in a very carefully-worded p.s. to one email, that if she has genuine concerns for her health or safety, that she should contact our counseling center or a domestic-violence hotline (I'm pretty sure most of what I'm hearing is narcissistic drama, but email makes it hard to judge, and I couldn't take a chance on her being in genuine danger from herself or someone else). And my pointing out that she's going into a high-stress writing-intensive field, and that plagiarism will have even more dire consequences there, seems to have convinced her that "I only plagiarize when I'm in a hurry" won't cut it as an excuse. But I'm still hearing a lot about how she's a senior, and has done well in her other courses, and has held prestigious internships, and has family and family connections who are experts in her field (and who, the implication is, approve of her work). None of this bears much resemblance to the reality of her work as I've seen it, but it's clearly *her* reality, and she's sticking to it. Let's just say that I'm wording my emails very carefully, in part because I'm beginning to strongly suspect they may be read by others during a grade dispute.

    And now I've got a draft of a research paper on an entirely new topic (which she originally proposed writing, start to finish, in about 6 hours -- that really boosted my confidence, and made me wonder about further plagiarism) sitting in my inbox, accompanied by a request for a conference "at my earliest convenience." And she hasn't run it through the plagiarism checker. Aargh.

    Apologies for the thread-hijack, Froad. Clearly this one is bothering me, even as I try to give her only her fair share of my time so as to concentrate on her peers who have been working steadily all semester, but/and still need help.


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