Saturday, April 30, 2011

Student Impatience and the Ballad of Sick Sally

Look, I know I'm taking a whole two weeks to get your papers back to you. Yes, they're important. I know this.

I tried to head off the last minute blizzard of snowflakery about taking a whole two weeks on your papers by telling you at the beginning of the week that I'd be doing it, told you point blank that I wasn't done with them, probably wouldn't be for our next class, and that it would be after the weekend before I knew I'd have them for you.

So what do I get Wednesday? A few people, in both classes, asking about their grade on that paper.

"When will we know what grade we got on x?"

"When will you put x grades up online?"

"So do you know yet how we did on x?"

...No. No, no, no, no. I will put them up when I'm good and done with them, which would be a hell of a lot faster if you guys would have spent this amount of energy writing the damn things instead of repeating each other and asking about things I clearly don't have to pass back to you that day. Don't email me after class is over to ask me the same fucking thing either! Jesus Christ, I'll get to them when I get to them. How about you work on the paper that's due in a week, hm? It's worth more points! And maybe, just maybe, when I offer to put up a play by play example of what you're supposed to do with extra practice and hints as to how you can view them, you actually use it. In one class, half of them said they'd use it. In the other, no one.

Not a single student.

So don't fucking bitch about me taking soooo long to grade them or the shitty grades you'll be receiving. Maybe if you would have paid attention in class, maybe if you would have come to office hours or to the writing center for help, maybe if you would have showed even a tiny bit of interest in helping yourself write this paper, you wouldn't have to be so worried about what you got on it.

And Sick Sally, you've got to be fucking joking. You literally changed your topic two days before you had to pass out workshop copies, looked like a goddamn deer realizing it's about to be mowed down when I reminded you of this fact, and then the morning you are supposed to bring them to class you tell me you've been puking all night (ew), work sent you home (, and you don't think you'll make it to class. When I say you still need to get me your workshop copies, you want to just email it to me or give me one copy, reminding me again that you're about to die of barfing.

Um, no. I'm not making your goddamn copies for you and you aren't getting out of having to pay for copies like every other student has had to.

Reminding you again that if you don't workshop you can lose major points, you then throw a small hissy fit over email (after I've already started teaching my other class) and say you'll try to get your mom or someone to drop them off.

Seeing you not in class, I go ahead and walk all the way back to my office while the rest of your class is doing student assessments (ugh) -- in heels. Do you know that heels are the devil? That they are deceptively cozy and comfortable until you get all the way back to the office before turning into razor blade laden bits of hell and you have to turn around and walk all the way back? Yeah, guess what. Your papers weren't waiting for me outside my office or in the department office. So my feet hurt for no goddamn reason at all.

I go back to teach in those razor blade laden shoes (now with only one razor blade, directly over my right foot's little toe) in front of two of your classmate's "pen pals" -- middle schoolers. Cue me having to watch my mouth as we discuss the most unethical article we've read in class. Awesomeness.

It's about twenty minutes until the end of class, I'm trying to wrap up citation discussion quickly before moving the class into group work, and I catch someone pacing outside my door, in only my view, waving her hand frantically to get a student, any student's, attention.

What. The. Fuck.

By now I'm tired of all this, Sick Sally. I'm really, really trying to get your classmates to understand that they really do have to use this one particular citation, how to figure it out if my handout is too tough for them, and that they only have two options when they use someone else's words or ideas. It's the end of the semester, I'm tired and frustrated and sick of having to watch my mouth and keep these stupid shoes on.

So forgive me for striding back to the door, yanking it open on your friend, tartly snapping "What" to her, and not listening to her bubbling explanation of "my sick friend Sally wanted me to bring these by....she's been puking..." before snatching your papers from her hand and closing the door. Forgive me for getting completely frustrated by the fact that your workshop papers were not stapled and barely broken apart into those stupid little cut and fold over operations you guys think work so well but fail miserably. Forgive me for mumbling under my breath while I separated them all and passed them out while your classmates were working in groups.

But be grateful, Sally, that there were middle school kids sitting in, watching me as they doodled on coloring sheets. Be grateful that I did not have time to explain to your wayward friend exactly how dropping your work off in the middle of my class, much less pacing and frantically waving for someone's attention, wasn't the way to help you out. Be grateful that I didn't send you a snarky email afterward telling you exactly why that wasn't appropriate, for either you or her. Be grateful I didn't leave her out there and not pass your papers out at all, Sally.

You damn well better be in class on Monday.

Back to grading,



  1. Oh, boy. I recognize this phenomenon and I'm sorry.

  2. Yes, that's always, always frustrating! Sadly, it's not something we haven't most likely all experienced (Sick Sally & her roommate are all too common). Funny how student illnesses are exacerbated by deadlines and such.

    I am curious about your workshopping technique. How/what do you do with essays in class? If Sick Sally is not there to receive feedback, do you simply have students write on the essays and give them to her? What would the procedure have been had Sick Sally been there? I'm trying to find techniques that work for MY classes.

  3. May, you made me wonder, "Dang, did I post this in my sleep?".

  4. May, your stories are always the worst -- by which I mean, your job seems to suck almost the very most. I am so sorry.

  5. CC: I schedule a week for workshops for each essay they do. I teach TTR, so two class periods are devoted to it. The class period before that week starts, every person who is up for workshop has to bring in enough copies of their paper for the entire class. I've tried letting them send it via email but they always end up going far past any deadlines I set up and their classmates don't end up printing them out, so that's a no-go. The official workshoppers are up first once that workshop week starts as a class-wide discussion, then the second day we do mini workshops where everyone brings in a copy of their revised paper and we get into small groups to look them over.

    Because there are two days of workshop, Sally could have brought her workshop copies the first of those days to distribute for the next class period. Shitty for her classmates, but she could. If she isn't there either day, I'll collect her papers for her (comments from her classmates intact) so she can pick them up from my office and she would lose all the points tied to successfully being workshopped.

    We will not discuss her work -- while the class would gain from it, the person who has the most to gain from it would be Sally and as we have other people still to workshop, I want to focus on the people who actually showed up and what the class can learn from those papers. Also, I've found students dog on papers from students who aren't there to defend them (or at least listen to the comments), mostly out of frustration for having had to read through them carefully and make pretty extensive comments on them when it was all for waste, in their eyes.

    Frog: If you can believe it, this is actually a good, possibly even a great semester compared to others I've had (especially last semester). :)

  6. CC: email me if you want a more detailed explanation than I gave above of what I do in class, if you don't mind.

  7. @MM: thank you for your description of what you do. I'd love to hear more about what you do in class itself while workshopping (i.e. do they have questions they have to answer? do you direct it as a whole class? do they get a grade for this?, etc.). I am sadly incompetent at figuring out how to email you?????


    Shoot me an email and I'll reply

  9. Blah, I wish I could send you a care package by e-mail. The suck sounds sucky in the extreme.

  10. Workshopping always seems such a waste of time when your students are Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee though.

    Blind leading the deaf....

  11. Agreed, but while they usually slack off a tad by now, it's all about how you set them up at the beginning of the semester and in leading their comments throughout the workshop.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.