Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tiresome Tim Tortures Teachers

Hi fellow Miserians!

I am Red. I was an avid fan of RYS, and then moved over to College Misery. I’ve commented on posts and finally requested posting rights. I teach largish (n=400) at an R1 university in FarFlungFormerColony.

For the most part our UG students are resigned to being nameless members of large classes and we only occasionally get emails or visits during our 1-hour per week consultation times. But every year I get the odd, and I mean literally ODD student who bugs me so often you’d think he was paying me to personally tutor him.

For example, a recent test essay asked which of two hamster raising methods would be recommended, given a few stated decision factors (all of which pointed to option A- yeah I know but I knew I’d be away at a conference so I wanted the choice to be unambiguous to avoid arguments). My feedback document explained clearly why Option A was the better option but explained that a portion of the available marks could be earned by those who chose Option B, depending on the quality of their justification for option B.

It also explained the usual procedures by which students could request that I personally review their essay (which was graded by teaching assistants under my supervision) and when I would next be available to consult with them in person. As soon as the essay marks were released, the following email interchange ensued.

Tiresome Tim: When I can I see you?

Red: As announced in class and via email, I am away at a conference this week, please come to my office next Monday anytime between 10-4.

Tiresome Tim: I’m not happy with my mark. I chose Option B and did a wonderful job of my answer yet to my surprise I only got a B+ for my essay.

Red: The correct answer was Option A as explained in the feedback document.

Tiresome Tim: Why no marks for Option B?

Red: As explained, even if you chose the wrong option, you could obtain some marks for Option B, depending on the quality of your reasoning and justification for your choice.

Tiresome Tim: So why didn’t I get marks?

Red: You did get marks. B+ is a very good grade given you had the wrong answer.

Tiresome Tim: I want a higher grade

Red: I can understand how you feel, and I’ll take a look at your answer in my office next week, but that’s a decent grade given that you chose the wrong answer.

Tiresome Tim: Give me feedback on why I only got a B+.

Red: You only got a B+ because you recommended the wrong option.

Tiresome Tim: How can I do better?

Red: choose the right option.

Tiresome Tim: when I can I see you to discuss this?

Oh the saints preserve us from the stupid!!!!!!!


  1. Replies
    1. Siberia always needs ditch-diggers, rough loggers, and basic carpenters, among other non-desk jobs. This stupid fool will fit in well.

  2. Confession:

    One semester I got a similar email exchange from a student and after hearing the same question over and over again, I finally told him I would be moving his email to the spam folder as I had no choice but to conclude that I was speaking to a "bot".

  3. After the first explanation, I'd probably have simply stopped communicating with him. Did he ever show up to attempt badgering you some more?

    1. Agreed, CC. I suspect I avoided a similarly futile exchange with a student last term by not responding to the email that said, "I don't understand what you mean that I will get an F whether or not I turn in the paper." I couldn't come up with anything less snarky than "reread the email I already wrote," so I didn't respond at all, and - o miracle! - the situation dissipated.

    2. tommorrow's the big day for a face to face and I predict a smackdown. Yeah! Cant wait. In the meantime, I've had an average of 5 emails a day from him (one word answers or no answers from me). I am keeping a record in case he complains.

  4. Wow, Red, this is an awesome first post! I love your distinction between "not earning marks" and "um, yes you did, it's a B+, jerkoff."

  5. I'm thinking that about 15 years ago, Little Timmy followed his mum through the market whining "But whyyyyyy can't I have a box of Toasted Suger Bombs?!? Whhhhhhyyyyyyyyyy?"

    And after saying "Because I said so!" 15 or 20 times, Mumsy bought him the damned things.

    I hate those tea partying B+ students. They can be the biggest pain in the ass.

    1. If I had done that, my Mom would have gone, "Smack! SMACK! Smack-smack-smack!!!" So I didn't do that. Now she'd be arrested on child abuse charges, and the results you see all around you.


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