Saturday, September 24, 2011

RBOC: Colossal foolishness of students

  • My students appear to be prudes, for the most part.  The subject of sex as a social science topic came up today, and people tried all kinds of verbal acrobatics to avoid saying the word.  Several of them seemed almost involuntarily to speak about "marriage," even though I kept reminding them that "marriage" was not the topic under discussion.  What I really wanted to say was, "This is not about people getting married.  This is about people FUCKING.  Do you understand that those are two separate phenomena?"  Some of these students may swallow their own tongues when we get to the gender studies component.
  • I had not one but two students come to the same class today while visibly, audibly ill.  One of them was in such bad shape that zi couldn't fully stand up.  They both came to (attempt to) attend class, and give me doctor's notes to explain why they hadn't been in class for the last quiz.  Kids, when you're so ill that you look like you could keel over at any moment, DON'T COME TO CLASS.  I now fear that I will contract whatever microbes are messing with you, thus causing me problems I don't need, especially due to the fact that you are total idiots.
  • I had a student spend two weeks avoiding class, because zi had done poorly on the first quiz and thought (completely erroneously) that this meant that zi had already failed the entire course.  Stu: read your fucking syllabus.  DON'T PANIC.  I explained this to Stu, who seemed hugely relieved, and promised to start attending class again, now that it seemed worth the trouble again.  Stu promptly failed to show up to the next class.  *facepalm*
  • Almost no one seems to be doing the reading, with or without proper note-taking habits.  Including, as far as I can tell, most of the students whom I counseled one-on-one about this.  In most of my classes, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of students who actually know what the fuck is going on.  
  • Almost no one did the reading for today, either.  No big shock there, I guess.  But I can't help but think it's additionally foolish and counter-productive not to read an assignment for a class that the motherfucking professor wrote himself.  Once again, I learn by experience that the professor's ego is worth very little in this complex equation.  I intentionally scheduled my own reading for a day that didn't matter much, since it's more complicated than the basic this-is-what-your-friendly-neighborhood-pseudologist-does lesson.  But boy, I didn't know how wise that was.  
  • Seriously, I can't get over this in its entirety.  I understand blowing off a reading here and there.  I can even understand a clever, cynical college student figuring out that the professor's own research publication is relatively unimportant for study purposes, and deciding to skip it.  But if you're going to do that, then why the fuck would you show your ignorant ass in class, where I can call on you and ascertain in a public forum that you didn't do the reading?  Why would you scowl at me when I do this?  You could have taken the day off and avoided looking like an asshole in front of the class, and you didn't.  Your fault, not mine.
  • I have to grade the more recent quiz this weekend.  I'm kind of dreading it, based on the responses I noted in passing while collecting papers from students.  Just like with the reading, a select few seem to comprehend the very basic concepts being examined, and the rest are stumbling around in the dark.  Figuring out a fair rubric for these things is bad enough, but I can usually handle it once I reach a place of serenity in which I can see some useful effort in mostly mindless responses.  What is worrying me now is what I will have to do, based on the grade breakdown that I end up with.  Dr. Crazy suggested I send a warning to students by threatening to zero out the grades below C if they don't come in for a consultation, and maybe suggest that they should drop the course if they incur this result.  I like this idea in theory, but unless I get myself in a frame of mind to grade with great leniency, then I will essentially be threatening to zero out a huge majority of the quizzes.  And, if my last experience is any guide, forcing them to come in for consultations accomplishes nothing if they're not actually already on the ball.  I'll look into my options for this next semester, but right now I feel like I'd be overstepping what little authority I have by suggesting they drop a course they're failing.  (The phenomenon seems far too common at Ghosttown U. for a youthful VAP to make some moral stance out of not letting people trudge along to failure.)
  • Depressingly, I keep coming back to the realization that lowering my grading standards through the floor makes my life easier and less angst-filled, despite the angst that I feel at the idea of not really holding my students to a standard of achievement higher than what everyone else the Dumbest State in the Motherfucking Union expects of them.  It actually feels worse, to my surprise, to hold them to high standards, see them fail, counsel them on how to succeed, and watch them fail worse than before.  It's even worse when I, unlike the students themselves, have a clear understanding of the kind of dead-end nothing to which they will need to resort, once they either fail out or drop out of college.  Dead-end jobs in this part of the country are pretty grim.


  1. It's hard, but you do them no favors by letting them slide by and lowering your standards. Be indifferent to their apathy. Just fail them until they see the light, if that even happens. Eventually, they either learn or they disappear to no longer be your problem. In either case, things have worked out for the best.

  2. Can you hold them to an only-a-little-higher standard? The failing-worse thing has to be discouraging for them and for you. Can you break down your assignments more? Not dumb them down, break them down. If students can't write a coherent sentence, then work on "one coherent sentence stating a detailed, arguable claim." If they can do that but fall apart at paragraph level, work on paragraphs. Build up from the lowest skill they can all more-or-less do. Angst is not helpful for anybody, especially you. (If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.)

    But yeah, all this sounds familiar.