Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Our future is bright

Found here!

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.


  1. Honestly, I think we need to come up with a stratedy to controll any possibality of her reproduction. The future is bleak enough as is just with her poised being to assume the role of adult of tomorrow.

  2. WOW, I guess her time if more precious than everyone elses. I mean, I KNOW my time is more precious, I pretty much am the most important person alive!

  3. I weep!

    Just got back from SA and they have changed the pass rate of Matric (Grade 12) to 30% and 50% is all you need to get into University.

    Anyone know of an island for sale?

  4. I don't know how you manage to teach post secondary. I did it for one semester and had to leave due to stupidity in students. It was astounding.

  5. It’s an easy mistake to make. Who knew that passing a class would require attending that class? I just assumed we absorbed knowledge through osmosis or something.

  6. A strategy I learned late in my high school career took me through college. BROWNNOSE.

    Make sure the teacher/prof knows who you are. I can't remember the number of times I turned in an exam and the prof asked what I thought. "oh number 53 was vague, and 25 could actually have been two answers" They usually threw those questions out.

    When you hide, you no longer get the benefit of the doubt. you work for a state college or a community college..haha j/k

  7. Wow just wow. We are lost as a species.

  8. I'm a high school teacher and I get questions like this fairly often, but they come from the parents. They start caring when their child's failure is eminent. It becomes really easy to see where a student's a-hole nature comes from.

  9. ha ha! Yes! I could never be a professor, simply because of the stupidity of others on a daily basis, ESPECIALLY those students who think that the rules don't apply to them.

    Kudos to you. Kudos.

  10. Sigh.
    I had this student last Fall. And last Spring. And the semester before that. I wish I had a TA that I could foist her upon.

    I'm going to be posting some student emails later this week too. They're just too good.

  11. First, this is just the tip of the iceberg my dear friends - it gets much much worse than this. I can't wait to share!

    @ Vinny C: I love it! Stop it at the source of the problem: reproduction. We could call our movement, "Nip it in the bud/ovaries/testicles"

    @ Bird Shit and Baby Caca: I still can't get over your awesome name. Anyhow, I totally get that she thinks her time is more precious than anyone else - I'll let her have that one. (hell, there are many times when I suffer from that as well) But to openly tell the people in charge of her grade... it's just a whole new breed of stupid.

    @ Nubian: OMG... is this where they're all coming from? I reserve 1 shack on that island of yours.

    @ Not the hero: It's brutal at times. My colleagues and I swear that the undergrads are getting worse and worse every year, or we're just getting older and older.

    @ Drake: Very true, I shouldn't be so harsh on em huh. Attending and doing well - it's a harder equation than in most calculus classes.

    @ Bearman: Hey, I'm the first to admit that brownnosing and sucking up still works. I'm totally not above that.

    @ Oilfield: Bingo. We're all fucked.

    @ Johnny Utah: I understand your plight. My mom was a high school teacher. The parents are worse sometimes - I feel for you :-(

  12. @ McKeli0: Thanks for the kudos. I could also use some alcohol :-)

    @ Didactic Pirate: They're EVERYWHERE!! Run for the mountains and islands! Sounds good, I'll be looking forward to reading them!

  13. the other students were asking stupid questions and trying to control you? well if this isn't a case of the pot calling the kettle black i don't what is. F as in get the fuck out of here.

  14. Tatoollly wut Vinny C sayd.

  15. Can I get an extension for submitting my comment?
    I was held up by a snowstorm, cyclone, hurricane or flooding.

  16. Do you know where college students get practice asking stupid questions? In High school.

    Do you know where high school students get practice asking stupid questions? In middle school?

    Do you know where middle school students get to practice asking stupid questions? In elementary school

    Do you know where elementary school students get practice asking stupid questions? AT HOME!!!

    We need to greatly reduce the gene pool,or we'll be royally screwed as a naiton...oh wait, we already are.

  17. So, you're meeting with her tomorrow at 2:00? Right?

  18. I want to be one of your TA's. I have no experience and can only have offic ours one day per month. how can I get htis job? Your a great teacher, but I;ve actually only seen you on campus and I've smelled the class book. How can I get and A on the final and a job as a AT?

  19. Denny wasn't even accepted to a public high school.

  20. My favorite is how she opens with "class has been great," and then immediately proceeds to inform you she hasn't actually gone to class since the second week, when she decided it was, in fact, too unbearable to attend.

    I can't wait to be a professor!

  21. I wanting to know how fuck students 2day writes so awfully.

    Also, how many times could she repeat the story about people cutting you off? As if you'll turn around and be all, "Oh man, that's so true, would you like an 'A' for being so reasonable?"

    Also we need to start having actual Grammar Police storming the nation.

  22. This is totally Off topic - don't give me an F for that please!!!

    RE: Your comment. P90x is going well. I can't say great. I still hurt, I'm on week 3 and I'm still in pain. All I can say is that if you're hurting, do the XStretch and be sure to have a recover drink [or as I do a protein shake] after each workout the protein helps with sore muscles! Keep it up!!!

    I'll let you get back to your lesson! :) P.S. Let me know if your wife likes the spaghetti squash recipe, I bought another one for dinner this week, I think I'm hooked.

  23. Your TA took the words right out of my mouth. FAIL her - immediately!

  24. I laugh, but I also feel slightly nauseous.

  25. Unfortunately, things don't get any better once they decide to attend law school. It is bleak.

  26. wow.... thats why it must be great being a teacher. It never stops being interesting

  27. @ pattypunker: Kettle officially black.

    @ dbs: He makes a damn good point doesn't he...

    @ Antares Cryptos: Sadly, those excuses have been used before.

    @ Alessandra: So Freud was right? The parents are always to blame for pretty much everything, huh...

    @ Meg: Ummm... well... yes.

    @ Nicole: "Your a great teacher, but I;ve actually only seen you on campus and I've smelled the class book." LOL. LOVE IT!

    @ Denny: Likely because he was just TOO awesome for them to handle. That's it.

    @ Dr Becca: Right?! And the kicker is nothing like that was actually happening. That particular course does typically make the questioners come out of the woodwork, but it wasn't bad at all that semester. I'm now wondering if she even attended the right class, lol.

    @ Kev D: "we need to start having actual Grammar Police storming the nation." FUCK. YES. If you form a posse, I'll start making the gallows. Ummm... we are going to just hang everyone, right? No sense in trying to simply correct their grammar?

    @ Kelly: Yea, I need to just go a bit easier for the first weeks and gradually increase my weights and intensity. My muscles are on fiiiirrreee. As for the recipe, we'll kick it off this weekend - I'll let you know how it goes :-)

    @ meleah rebeccah: Want a TA job??

    @ Nicki: Yea, that's our response. We all sit around and tell these "war stories" and have a great laugh. Then we just slowly get depressed and quiet because we realize that this is the career path we chose: herding the stupid.

    @ k: Ouch! Really?! Law school doesn't weed them out? Daaaamn.

    @ Emily: You nailed it. Professor life is never boring, that's for sure!

  28. What ever happened to "no child left behind"..
    I have tried on several occasions to get the school to flunk my now 14 year old but they won't. something to do with the "No child left behind" law. I used to wonder why the new college kids where so stupid, now I understand. High school just kicked them out for professor's like you to deal with.
    I suppose I'm a brown nosier too...I always ask lots of questions in class. If I don't understand something I ask for clarification. My online class is a bit harder..Nobody to suck up to..But I'll try my hardest to e-mail my way into his good side.

  29. @ hisqueen: My guess is that "no child left behind" is still intact - simply because I'm still having to deal with all the casualties and bullshit :-)

  30. Excellent exchange; and yes. Please fail that student immediately. :-)


  31. No, it was because I was functionally illiterate at age 13.

    Well Denny showed them. Denny showed them all.

  32. @ Pearl: Consider it done - I'll tell them I had your approval :-)

    @ Denny: Damn right you did Denny.

  33. The student was pulling a prank, right? I mean... there's a REASON why your university has an APPLICATION process where the DEAN OF ADMISSIONS deems someone worthy enough.. RIGHT? Or am I just TOO optimistic about the state of the world?

  34. So I can see that they don't change much from 5th grade to college....

  35. Do I want a TA job? No, but thanks for asking!

  36. This sounds awfully familiar! I am literally sitting in class administering a test right now, and one student, who clearly forgot we had a test, just asked if he could "do it later." In front of the whole class. Classy!

  37. @ Leila: You're clearly waaaayyy too optimistic. It's okay, we all suffered from that disease, as youth has a tendency to give us the impression that the world is a good place. Just keep coming to class and you'll get better in time. Our thoughts are with you.

    @ Jules: Hiya Jules! You know, I've occasionally prayed to get my college students replaced by 5th graders during some rough days. And now you've taken that from me? sigh

    @ meleah rebeccah: Damn.

    @ BabyFem: Does your school frown upon public beatings? Because I recently found out (the hard way) that mine does. I'd suggest causing the student public humiliation instead. Oh, and browsing the web, commenting on blogs while teaching?! Awesome!

  38. Thank you thank you for posting this. I left academia because I knew I was going to be a lousy teacher due to many reasons. On top of that, I was exhausted by the need to justify my existence (teaching liberal arts...) to a bunch of rich kids with undeserved sense of entitlement (theatre MFA majors). That was more than a decade ago and I see that things have only gotten worse... Kudos on keeping your cool. I would have exploded (Reason 149 I would have been a sucky teacher)

  39. @ Absence: In the words/voice of Will Ferrell's impression of Harry Caray, "You made a wise choice my friend."