What makes a great university? Great students. What makes a great class? Again, great students. So I thought I'd start a series of occasionally recurring posts on this blog that showcases the brilliance and intellectual adeptness of the undergraduate students that populate my university, and more narrowly, my classes. In addition to the students' broad astuteness, you'll likely witness exemplars of immense personal/academic drive and motivation, razor sharp logic and reasoning skills, as well as humble and gracious demeanor.
To kick things off, here's an ACTUAL email exchange that took place near the end of last semester (and yes, spelling was left intact). Stuff in brackets is my commentary for you.
Student: Dear Proffessor, class has been great. Unfortunetly, I stopped going to class during the second week because a few of the students continued to ask stupid questions and were controlling class time and discussions. It was very distracting and I couldn't learn, so I stopped going to lectures that week. I wanting to know what I can do to get a good grade on the final exam. I checked Blackboard [*a website that both students and teachers use in order to communicate and share information*] today and found out that I didn't do that great on my midterm exams. What would be the best stratedy to study?
Me: If I'm understanding correctly, you missed the second week of classes? If that's the case, then I suggest you get the missed notes from a classmate or stop by your TA's [*teaching assistant*] office hours to review what you missed. The TAs, or I, can speak with you about final exam study strategies during our office hours.
Student: No what I meant was that I have not been to lecture since the second week of the semester. The constant questions by several of the same students made it very difficult to concentrate and it was like they were trying to controll class and argue with you. Can I get the contact info of the TAs and when do they have office hours? When are you're office hours? I have read several chapters of the book but I don't have any notes. I don't know people in class so I couldn't get notes.
Me: Oh I see. So you're saying that you haven't come to class for practically this entire semester, and now you're asking how to prepare for the final exam? I hope you understand that our willingness to assist students hinges on how much effort they put into the course. Secondly, all of the TA information is on your syllabus, which was handed out the first day and has been available on Blackboard the entire semester as well.
Student: I can't make any of the TA's office hours because they aren't at convenient times for me. Its difficult for me to make it on campus on days I don't have classes. When are your office hours?
Me: My office hours are also on the syllabus, right next to the TA information - it's hard to miss. Regardless, there's no reason to meet with me (or the TAs). If you admit that you haven't attended class (since the second week), don't have any notes, and have only read "several" chapters of the text, then you've eliminated most of your opportunities and methods to study, right? I suggest reading the book thoroughly - that's about all you can do at this point.
Student: So would tomorrow at 2PM be okay to meet with you.
Me: [*I forward email string to my TAs with the following note*] Can one of you please deal with this shit - I don't have the time. Aside from being laughable, it's quite depressing. I'm at a loss for words.
TA: [*later that day*] Dr. Cynicism, I've gone back and forth with this student. She still doesn't understand what's wrong with missing class the entire semester. Can we just fail her now? :-)
Me: This is why you're my favorite TA.