Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cynical Language

I'm fluent in five languages (I like to brag). My SI (bursting whatever bubble of denial I've settled into) reminds me that being fluent means holding a civilized conversation in a language, not just yelling expletives and gesturing wildly at the locals. Clearly, my SI doesn't count swearing in five languages as valuable a skill as I do. But I digress. I merely want to point out that I can spea... OK... swear in five languages. And this makes me feel pretty good about my linguistic abilities. So why? why? dear friends, do I constantly misinterpret what the ‘flakes are saying?

Have I grown SO cynical that when they open their mouths, all I hear is: “It’s your fault that I didn’t [insert whatever they’re supposed to have done] so you have to fix it for me”?

‘Flake says: I forgot the paper in my printer/backpack/roommate’s car/dog’s ear. Can I bring it tomorrow?
And I think: Are you saying that I’m dumb enough to believe that you actually did the assignment and then didn’t bother to pick it up and bring it to class when it’s worth 35% of your grade?

‘Flake says: I emailed that to you. You never emailed me back.
And I think: So are you saying it’s my fault I didn’t get the assignment you never emailed to me? My computer dings obnoxiously at me when an email arrives. I have no choice but to look. Yours never arrived. In fact, I bet if we look in your ‘sent’ box, no such email will exist, and you will be as baffled by this because it has “never happened before.”

‘Flake says: I had a doctor’s appointment so couldn’t come to class. Did I miss anything? I heard we had a quiz, so I’m going to take that tomorrow.
And I think: So you’re saying that your doctor only had openings in the one-hour slot when we had class? And now you think I’m going to change class policy for you so you can take an unexcused quiz a two days later than everyone else?

‘Flake says: You never said we had to do that.
And I think: Really? Did I have to say it? Did I actually have to articulate the words: “You need to staple the 15 pages of your paper together before you bring it to class to turn in because if you don’t, it will get mixed up with the other 378 pages of papers I’m collecting from your peers.” or “You need to write your name at the top of your assignment because I don’t know who the eff you are based on the blessedly ugly gothic font you’ve chosen for this assignment.”

‘Flake says: I don’t understand. I worked really hard on this paper.
And I think: Is that code for: 'I procrastinated, panicked, and then soothed myself by staying up playing games until 4 a.m., at which point, I decided I should get started, and then typed randomly repetitive ideas for three hours until I printed this out and now you need to reward me for it because if you don’t, it’s your fault that I won’t pass this class'?

What mostly worries me about this is that when I do swear and make gestures at them, they don’t get it. They stare blankly at me as I speak, explain, act, entertain, and then wait for them to bombard me with questions. No questions seem to exist, so we leave class for the day, and the next day, everything they missed because they didn’t take notes or listen, is once again my fault.

I’d request a dictionary, but I fear it would exist only in LMAO, BTW, FTW format. And besides: perhaps I already know what they’re saying but am not yet ready to admit that an uncynical corner of my body still registers incredulity when they utter their excuses.


  1. "You never said we had to do that."

    The scary thing is that most of the time, I did say it, including stapling, name, and the rest, to the point of having one page of my syllabus dedicated to the format I expect in homework submissions.

    Having just graded the first batch of homeworks for the term, I can say that it doesn't matter if you say it or not, they won't do it.

    1. Pat from Peoria, and me, too. I actually HAVE said it (and it's in the syllabus), but why must I say this every single day???

  2. "I emailed you; didn't you get my message?" is becoming a favorite among my students, made all the more complicated by the fact that many of them, following university-provided instructions, have university email set up on devices that don't seem to work entirely consistently.

    The doctor's appointment excuse comes up a lot, too. As with many things, the problem is that they have not actually programmed any free (as in homework/prep) time into their schedules, so it's either miss a class or miss (paid) work. Guess which they choose, even if their per-hour wage is less than the cost per hour of class time?

  3. Ditto on the doctor's -- and the dentist's -- appointments. I wonder if it's a carry-over from their childhood years, when a doctor/dentist appointment meant being taken out of school?

    1. Good point. Many times, with my students, their 'parents' have made the appointment, and I bet they think college is just like high school.

  4. So true. I would also add this:

    Gradflake says: "I wanted to talk to you in person about this, but you're never in your office."
    Code for: I have no clue when your office hours are, and am too goddamned lazy to hike up the stairs to get to your office anyway.

  5. "But you didn't remind us that the assignment is due today."

    Let's see...It's on the syllabus. We've been doing prep work for the assignment. I said the assignment is due "next Tuesday." I even wrote it on the blackboard and wore a T-shirt that said "Assignment due next class."

    Next semester, I'll hire a plane with a streamer and fly it over the campus. But one of the snowflakes will say that it didn't mention him by name.


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