Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Two Readers Ask Wide-Ass To Hold Up And Reconsider.


That's it. Teach. The. Fucking. Class.

Let us be clear on this: your job is to (sing the song, sing the song), yes, but it does not actually absolve you from basic human responsibilities that under other circumstances are dubbed ethics, morals, empathy, etc. No one's asking you to act as anyone's therapist. In the earlier post about Amanda, however, he was advocating not saying "Hey, I think that kid's going off the deep end. Hm. Well, back to grading," when you could say "Hey, I think that kid's going off the deep end. Hm. Perhaps I'll give a call to Student Services and recommend they make an appointment with him before I get back to grading."

Do you seriously mean to push your bullshit about how people looking for trouble can't be helped? Really? "All the interventions in the world couldn't save him"? Perhaps snowproffie would have better luck understanding this idea if I put it in Humanities terms: one novel does not a library make. See, if I pull one novel off your ridiculously pretentious shelf that showcases the books you don't read (I know you've got Anne Rice on the shelf back at home), all I know is that book: a sample size of "one" does not make a representative idea of your reading tastes. Nor does your experience with one person in any way reflect on a policy for dealing with the masses - given that it is almost guaranteed that any policy that does good for the masses will fail for many specific individuals.

I must pause to highlight the irony of the humanities snowproffie, who will undoubtedly a week later claim his discipline is oh-so-important because it teaches students to be humane or some variant of that song, finds "we are a little responsible for the people we interact with every day" to be just too much of a human concern for his head.

Look, Prof Carebear, no one wants you running out there and playing Psychoanalyst to the Stars! But, yeah, if you think someone might be headed to a bad end, putting in just the slightest bit of effort to derail that is human decency. I was going to say "common decency," but every email like yours makes me question the "common" in that quote.

[*]

I see Wideass Wolverine's point: students often act irrationally, and attempts to help might be perceived as intrusive or even illegal or improper. And I don't agree that faculty are even a little responsible for students welfare. But by his logic, if I see someone get run over by a bus, I ought to just keep walking because I'm not a trained EMT, I can't diagnose severe injury, and it's not my 'job' to help other people. Besides, if I do the wrong thing because of my lack of training, I might be sued. I'm a computer programmer and can't be expected to do anything outside my field of expertise.

So lost tourists can forget about asking me for directions; if someone slips and falls, I'm certainly not going to help them up, and no way am I helping a blind person cross the street, or a mother carry her stroller up a flight of stairs.
Of course I'm being facetious; I frequently help complete strangers, to whom I have no obligation, who need assistance that is well beyond my field of expertise. There's no obligation to do so; no law that says I must be compassionate. If you can't tell the difference between someone who's already plummeted off the deep end and typical student high-jinks or even just a need for therapy, then perhaps it's best to just ignore the whole situation. But sometimes the difference is obvious to everyone.

There's no reason not to place a two-minute call to the counseling center, except compassion. Whether or not that's a compelling enough reason is a personal choice. I recall finding a lost little girl in a supermarket who had already asked several adults for assistance, all of whom ignored her. I suppose Wolverine would be in that category. Based on his attitude towards students, I wouldn't expect him to assist a complete stranger.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Wide-Ass Wolverine from Willamette Weighs in on Responsibility. So, He's No Dead Poets Society Fan.


"We are a little responsible for the young men and women in our classes, and if we don't know how to help, we must turn to someone who can."

No, we're not. No, we mustn't.

Here's what we are responsible for as instructors/teachers/proffies/snowflake wranglers:

  1. Determine concrete instructional objectives for a class.
  2. Assemble appropriate curriculum to help students achieve said objectives.
  3. Present said curriculum to students.
  4. Provide assessment opportunities based upon said curriculum, to ensure that students understand the material and to verify that objectives were met.
  5. Maintain communication with students and administration.
  6. Present final grades to administration.
That's it. Teach. The. Fucking. Class.

We are not mommy or daddy. We are not the big brother or big sister. We are not the bestest buddy in the whole wide world. And we are certainly not their fucking psychologists or counselors. We are the instructor. The line of responsibility for our students ends at the classroom door.

As someone with an arts and humanities teaching skillset, I am no more certified to diagnose mental illness than I am to teach a class on computer programming, chemistry, business, or medicine. And in our hyper-litigious culture, the sheer thought of attempting to diagnose mental illness, much less suggest treatment options (even simply suggesting seeing a therapist) opens up plethora of liabilities.

Sometimes, based on our relative lives, students are just a little "weird," just as we're "weird" to them, based on their own relative norms. No mental illness, just difference. And when we realize that college-aged students can go through periods of spontaneous self reinvention, we also have to consider that their "norms" may also be shifting--especially if those norms are being influenced by other undergrads undergoing their own identity and norm shifts, especially in an age of Youtube-fueled, American Idol-centered, fame chasing Gen Y'ers who all want to be the center of attention.

Having spent my undergrad and graduate periods in arts and humanities circles in the early 90's, I've known more than my fair share of Amandas--students who break norms if only for the attention it gets them. I knew girls who swore they were vampires, and boasted about drinking blood in our writing classes as they showed off their self-inflicted cuts. I knew art majors whose sole fashion agenda was to make others uncomfortable and whose behavior was intentionally designed to evoke response. I knew a student so obsessed with Christopher Walken, she presented a masturbation narrative about him to a graduate gender studies seminar.

...and safe for the one unarmed guy who tried to break into a state capitol building and order a veggie pizza for himself and jelly donuts for the police officers who would ultimately arrest him, as he suggested cutting a rap record in space as a means to ease the state's budget crisis, none of them had mental issues. And in the case of the friend who stomed the capitol, all the interventions in the world couldn't save him, as we spent the week leading up to his break in trying to get him help.

If a students wants a collision course with disaster, they'll get it. We cannot be metaphorical Holden Caulfields, trying to catch them before they plummet into the abyss. I understand that empathy may incline some of us to try and offer help to the Amandas in our classrooms, but unless we're trained psychotherapists--accredited and licensed--we have one job and duty to provide to our students: teach the fucking class.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Let the Gnashing of Teeth Begin. The New Princeton Review Rankings Are Here to Ruin Your Crappy Job at Your Crappy School.


From MSN.com:

According to The Princeton Review's annual survey of college students, the best professors are at Davidson College. Students party the heartiest at Pennsylvania State University and they're most satisfied with their financial aid at Swarthmore College. Colgate University takes top honors as the most beautiful campus, while Virginia Tech serves the best campus food and Smith College has the best dorms.

The Princeton Review, an education services company perhaps best known for its test-prep courses, asked 122,000 students at 371 colleges to rate their schools on dozens of topics and report on their campus experiences. The company uses the students' responses to help generate reports on the top 20 colleges in over 50 different categories. Other ranking categories report on topics such as campus political leanings, social scenes and sports interests.

All of the rankings are included in the 2010 edition of The Princeton Review's annual college guide "The Best 371 Colleges." The book also has unique ratings -- scores from 60 to 99 -- on each college's profile in eight categories, including Financial Aid, Fire Safety and Green (a rating based on the schools' environmental commitments).

"It's Hot In Here...WHAAAAAAAAA." A New RYS Playlet.


Why is it so hot in here?

Because this school is cheap, and it turns off the air conditioning in the “evening.” And you guys can continue to feign heat stroke and wave your folders in front of your faces as if you were all dying in the desert, but if I can actually teach and move around up here, I think you guys can handle sitting still and looking brain dead for another hour.

Do you have a stapler?

No, I don’t have a stapler. Did I have a stapler the first three times you tried this? See, I didn't write a paper that needs stapling. You did. Do you know who does have staplers? The store. That’s right. They are fully stocked. And I hear they barter goods for cash and coinage, so why don’t you plan on walking yourself over there at some point and picking one up? Excellent.

Why did I get a point off on this assignment?

Really? You’re really going to come up here and whine to me about a 39/40? Look. I know you hail from Crappy Mid-State U, and you’re only gracing our humble CC for this summer class, but you seriously need to chill the fuck out. Yes, even you might not receive completely perfect grades in this class. Even you might find you have something to learn at a lowly CC. Deal.

Can you do something about the heat in here?

No, I cannot do anything about the heat in here. And no, I am not canceling the rest of class. But I WILL force the next person who asks about the motherfucking temperature in this room to go old school Nelly on us and take off all his/her clothes. So STFU about the heat already.

I really still don’t understand this essay, even after twenty minutes of coherent class discussion. Can I ask why you assigned this?

Oh, I’m sorry. I did not know that I was to pick only readings that you would be able to wrap your brain around. You may have noticed that most other people in the class do understand the reading. Might I ask why you are so obtuse? As much as I would love to assign happy, fluffy, predictable tripe (you would SO "get" that!), or perhaps dwell on the meaning of classics like Green Eggs and Ham or Goodnight Moon, the rest of the class may not find this as challenging as you undoubtedly would. So keep up or shut up, and stop wasting our time. Done.

Can we take a break so I can clear my head?

Sweetie, the last thing you need is to clear your head.

Can we get out early since it’s soooooo hot in here?

That’s it. Stand up and start stripping.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"It's My Business." Heather from Hastings Closes Down the Amanda Conversation.


As a student with a long-standing history of mental health problems, I have a few things to say:

1) Even before Virgina Tech, students with mental health issues have been stigmatized. School officials look at us like we have "Future Lawsuit" branded on our foreheads. This is why many students who are suicidal, potentially suicidal, or severely anorexic end up being kicked out of school. The school doesn't want to deal with the liability that may occur should a student, y'know, do something stupid on campus.

This is why I:
a) Keep my mental health treatment separate from my school life. (Subset to a -- I am actually not able to receive treatment through my current university because my past psychiatric history makes me a liability to the counseling services, so...) I am not registered with counseling/psych services, nor have I filed anything with disability. I encourage students in my position to do the same. This is because:

b) You can not entirely be sure that was is said in treatment stays in treatment. Even worse, having an on-campus therapist or psychiatrist increases your odds that you will be forced into a "contract" (ie. if you do this, that will happen) that is not based on your psychological needs but to keep the school out of a potential lawsuit. For example, I have several friends who were forced to take a medical leave of abscence from school to attend outpatient treatment once or twice a week. In the real world, this could be accomplished whilst also attending class but, again, the university is scared that they might be at the receiving end of a lawsuit.

c) Do not live on campus.

On a personal level, I understand why some professors might become concerned about my well being. I have no problem explaining that I have a long history of treatment outside of school and am currently seeing a therapist/psych/whatever. Beyond that, it's my business.

I realize that a lot of professors, etc., believe that mental illness and university are not compatible.

Fuck them.

And that's all I have to say.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Programming Patty Calls "Hypocrite."


The mail that has come in regarding Bitchy Bear's post from yesterday has been a little raw and untamed, and while we normally like that, we thought the issue of a student's psychological state needed a slightly more reasoned response. So we chose a couple of pieces to post today. The first comes from longtime RYSer Programming Patty, and the second comes from a relatively new reader. Please to...well, you know.

It's not like Amanda merely took up painting and changed her major. Ten copies of a very long letter of gibberish underneath a professor's door ... perhaps that could be overlooked if the professor teaches creative writing and that was Amanda's only unusual behaviour. But singing a dirge-like song wearing clown shoes and a pageant crown outside the Student Union, then doing the same again dressed in her pajamas the following day?

Defending these actions as 'trying out different identities' is the very reason people believe art = multiple personality disorder and other forms of craziness. Perhaps Amanda wasn't dangerous to herself or others, but she was clearly not doing well psychologically and needed help. That she ended up in a state hospital means that her parents couldn't, or wouldn't, take her home to care for her. I don't agree that professors must be custodians of their students, but a little compassion is commendable. If a student is no longer able to communicate rationally, it might be prudent to call the school's counseling center and let them know you're concerned about him or her. This is not about the relative merits of careers in the creative arts versus soul-less accounting. It's one thing to ignore crazy homeless people singing dirges in their pajamas but what about a shred of compassion for a formerly good student who might be in trouble?

Also, Bitchy Bear labels the mental health staffer a flake and the business majors cubicle rats, yet she bitches about people equating artists with 'crazy.' So it's okay to insult other people's professions, just not her own. What a hypocrite.

[*]

I'm not a psychologist or a counsellor at my college, just a regular proffie who ends up knowing about 250 students each semester. Of this group, I'd estimate 10% have certain counselling needs that I'm absolutely not prepared to address.

We get trained during orientation every couple of years to watch out for vague and often confusing "warning signs." Most of us don't understand the signs shown to us in the hopelessly outdated examples that are play-acted in front of us, so when confronted with something "odd" in one of my students, I tend to focus on the homework or the essay or the project, and then get that student the hell out of the office as soon as possible! (I know I'm not helping.)

A year or so ago a colleague turned me on to a book called "College of the Overwhelmed," a fascinating - although a little scary - book that has been a godsend for me. It explains student depression and anxiety through student stories that match a lot of what I see. Among other things, the authors cite studies that show 50% of all college undergrads will face depression, and that as many as 10% will contemplate suicide.

Now, I don't know what's "wrong" with Amanda from the earlier postings. Her rambling letter may seem "creative" to some, but she sounds like she's in need to me. Her actions on campus, the pageant crown, the pajamas, might all by themselves be part of a sorority prank or something, but I don't think so. Had Amanda been my student, I would have called up one of the mental health folks here on campus - and I wouldn't call them "staff-flakes" either.

I LOVE the Bitchy Bear from Boston, and although I've only been reading the page for a few months, I've found her take on all things academic to be right on, but in this case she's way off. We are a little responsible for the young men and women in our classes, and if we don't know how to help, we must turn to someone who can.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Six Shot at Campus Concert in Houston. No Fatalities.


From Time.Com

Gunfire on the Texas Southern University campus wounded six people and scattered the crowd at a community rally, and police on Thursday were investigating whether a gang rivalry was behind the drive-by shooting.

People were gathered at the event that included a Houston rapper's performance when a car drove by and shots sprayed out from the vehicle, school spokeswoman Eva Pickens said, citing witness statements to police. The sound of gunfire made people drop to the pavement of the parking lot where the rally was being held to promote community service and voter registration.
(Read "Gangs: the Mara Salvatrucha.")

Peter Role, a local music promoter, told the Houston Chronicle he heard what sounded "like the Fourth of July."

"We heard some gunshots and everybody was hitting the ground," Role said.

Six people, including one male student, were being treated for injuries that were serious but not life-threatening, Pickens said.

Campus police believe the violence resulted from a rivalry between two gangs, one from Missouri City, a suburb southwest of Houston, and the other from Fresno, a small town outside Missouri City, she said.

Before the violence, Houston City Councilman Peter Brown and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee made appearances at the event billed as a "family block party," and local rapper Trae the Truth performed songs.

Lucinda Guinn, who's managing Brown's run for mayor in November's election, said she had no details on the shootings, but was dismayed that "an effort for bringing a very positive message to the community" would end in violence.

The rapper's publicist told the Chronicle that he'd left before the shootings.

An e-mail sent to Lee wasn't immediately returned. Her telephone mailbox was full and wouldn't take messages.

Texas Southern is a historically black university in Houston with an enrollment of around 10,000 students.

Boston's Bitchy Bear Wants To Address Olive From Ohio. (Amanda continued.)


Dear Olive (Mental Health Staff-flake,)

We don't have enough evidence to conclude anything really about Amanda, and yet the fact she chucked the business school to become an artist seems to be enough to make people assume she needs to be "in state care." We don't know if her note indicates a real, self-destructive mania, or whether she was just doing some steam-of-consciousness word play. See, I'm a creative professional in an art field, and it pisses me off no end that art equals crazy here. Yes, she swung from one extreme to another, but I am still not convinced. As somebody who is a successful creative, there is a business end to what artists do if we want to make a living.

In addition to being "fragile" as you note, young people try out different identities, and some of those identities are stupid and undignified in the process. I smoked pot and wore a suede fringe vest and ghastly Jesus sandals and dated some ridiculous socialist who read Robert Bly. The soul shudders to remember these things. But maybe Amanda really wants to be an artist instead of a cubicle rat. WHOA SHE MUST BE NUTSO.

And you know what? I actually blame your profession somewhat for stigmatizing such a choice. Amanda might have been acting weird and running between extremes, but she didn't sound dangerous to herself or anybody else. So she wasn't going to grow up to be an accountant right away like mummy and daddy wanted and therefore she needs to be controlled, like stat, to bring her back in line? Will we even know who she is when "state care" is done with her? Maybe she'll emerge from this whole thing ok, knowing what she wants to do. Maybe medicine can and will help. But to me the whole thing seems like an over-reaction.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

"Hey, Flirty at Forty...He's Just Not That Into You."

We had a bulging mailbag this morning in response to our 39 year old student who was really into her proffie. Most of it went like this:

[*]



I'm a guy. Nowhere in the guy's manual of behavior, whether influenced by university policy or otherwise, does it include ignoring the hint when a woman you want tells you she's attracted to you. Therefore, when guys ignore such blatant statements it only means one thing. They hope like hell you'll never bring it up again and avoid future awkwardness. I don't know what kind of "vibe" you get that ignores such an obvious clue, but there you go.

[*]

Hon, if your prof were not above dating in the student pool (and some aren't) he'd be chasing women half your age. Professional men don't need to date undergraduates in order to meet women in their late 30's desperate to hook up. They're raining from the heavens on any popular dating site.

[*]

I just watched Forgetting Sarah Marshall, because I like to watch comedies while I grade crappy summer school papers. A character in the film says of someone's relationship, "It's like The Sopranos. It's over. Go find another show." Horny 39 year old, it's over. It probably never existed. Go find another show. Watch Mad Men instead. You're as likely to get to fuck Don Draper as you are this professor, who was probably embarrassed by your admission and who may or may not be in a relationship anyway.

[*]

NOT INTERESTED. HE IS NOT INTERESTED. The "how-to" for profs says IGNORE IGNORE IGNORE. Actually, since you are "grown up", I will let you in on the secret: if you make your interest known to ANYONE, male or female, in a way that cannot be misconstrued, and they ignore that part of your communication, it is because THEY ARE NOT INTERESTED. Also, it probably means that they don't want to mess up the rest of what's between you, be it friendship or a working relationship or whatever. So at least you have that going for you. (Good God Almighty, I cringe at the thought of how this questioner "came right out and told him" ... that's the kind of email I want to see here. That would be like watching the film in driving school of cars on railroad tracks GETTING SMASHED. TO BITS.)

[*]

Wait- a guy that you expressed interest in hasn't asked you out, and you're confused?

Read a book. This has nothing to do with the professor-student relationship, it has to do with the fact that you're 39 (at least, you admitted to being 39, which likely means you're well into your forties) and he's an attractive proffie with a candy jar full of nubile coeds to choose from.

Then again, if you really were a "grown up," and you really did want a relationship / casual fling with this guy, you would cut out this electronic flirtation crap (you probably told him that you were attracted to him by typing "omg ur so cute lol" with innumerable smiley faces for punctuation) and ask him out/proposition him in person. On the other hand, if you're being childish, perhaps you're hoping that he will save you the embarrassment of having to equalize your gender roles... or accepting the consequences of whatever might come out of your illicit affair (it's easy to deflect the blame for the fallout if he's the one who made the first move).

[*]

Why did the instructor not respond to your email advances? Two words: "Paper Trail.” Being as this professor would likely lose his job if their was any evidence he was banging a student, 39 or 18 makes no difference. So if he is contemplating his options, he might be thinking about how to make this connection w/o generating any evidence. What you need to do is talk to him off campus. Find out where he goes for coffee, or lunch, or the weekend - and coincidentally show up there. Don't come with any friends, the last thing he'll want is witnesses.

[*]

Oh dear god I hope this woman goes to law school and never teaches. No, we’re not required to take drug tests and don't have time for drugs anyway; we keep from knocking the sh*t out of our students because we are adults and it's illegal; and whether in or out of school, ignoring a pass is the politest way to say no. "They" teach us that it's not a good idea to sleep with students, but at my institution it's actually not a disciplinary matter if the student is of age, not being supervised by you and never will, and consenting. It's merely bad taste and guaranteed to make one's colleagues snicker, and who (especially before tenure) needs that?

[*]

It isn't a matter of being interested or not. By ignoring the overture the Prof hopes that the you will drop the subject. We get no training in this and while some would take advantage of the situation some of us see sex with students as a violation of our ethics as faculty members and human beings.

In my almost twenty-year career seven students and one same sex faculty colleague expressed an interest in sex / a relationship. I have heard of others, who didn't express their feelings to me. Three students stalked me, one for almost 2 years. Two stalkers would park outside my home at night watching my apartment. When I rejected one student's overture they attempted suicide by downing sleeping pills and then positioning themself outside my office door.

As a consequence of my past experience I am less warm and open with students than I once was. Today, every time a student relaxes enough to be friendly with me I get a small panic attack. Thankfully, as I get older and grayer I seem to attract less ardor.

I am not against relationship happiness or true love. Students who have a romantic interest in their professors should wait two years after graduation and then reestablish contact if they still want to.

[*]

They don't teach us anything about that. It falls under that heading of knowledge often maligned and ignored by students of all ages--the one called "common sense." You know: Don't bathe with plugged-in electronics, don't post revealing or nude photos that openly identify you by name to publicly-accessible websites, don't engage in premeditated murder, don't fuck your students.

Honestly, common sense. The teacher-student relationship is a sacred one, built on trust, and the ethos that a teacher won't abuse his or her power over students by taking advantage of it--consentual or not. And the fact that you have to ask a question like this not only tells me that teaching is an unwise career path (if only because it's likely redirected lust and longing for this "proffie," and not actual interest in pedagogy), but to expect to see you on the evening news eventually.

Amanda (cont.)


While a student counsellor will see the 'Amanda-like' students many professors don't encounter, for professors who deal with large 1st-year service courses, it's only a matter of time, given a large class size, that one has to deal with students with mild to severe mental health problems.

Sometimes the situation is mildly comical (e.g. the student is a Type A personality who is neurotic in a non-threatening Woody Allen or George Costanza-esque fashion), other times mildly worrying during one-off incidents (in one lab a student accused another student, who didn't know him from Adam, of ruining his lab experiment as part of a concerted sabotage campaign), other times quite tragic (e.g. attempted suicide in the student residence room).

I think the situation that influences and worries the most professors is the student who, when faced with failure in school or other difficulties in life while at school, loses control and lashes out at others. My blood ran cold when I saw the news about the Virginia Tech shootings. I have enough well-adjusted students as it is who collapse into tears and despair, or place the entire blame on me, upon getting a poor grade in my course, thus being denied what in their mind is their predestined placement in med/law/dentistry school et al., and I worry about the student who will take those emotions and lash out at me.

I never have such encounters with upper-year students, they've done poorly on some other course before and know it isn't the end of the world, or they know the system well enough to drop the course early if things aren't going their way. It's the first year students who got all A-pluses in high school, and aren't doing as well in their first term, who worry me. Some have come in raging-mad angry, others come in and proceed to collapse in tears onto my office floor, they come into my office after the first midterm and start talking about how their life is ruined, they'll be out on the street because their parents will kick them out for failing in school, and I start eyeing the distance to the phone and trying to recall the extension number for Security, just in case...

Monday, July 20, 2009

On Amanda and Student Fragility. Olive from Ohio Offers Perspective.

I was very touched by your recent article about Amanda, the student who dropped out of school and delivered 10 copies of her rambling letter to the professor who wrote the piece.

As a mental health professional at a small liberal arts college, I've heard Amanda's story far too many times.

I applaud your posting of the piece, and I hope you didn't do it merely to make fun of yet another "crazy" student, because this story should be a bit of a wake-up call to all professors. This sort of thing is far more common than the typical professor understands.

The term I use for Amanda's episode - because it truly could be very temporary and/or caused by a mis-prescription or mis-use of a substance - is primary psychosis. At my 3000 student college, I see a dozen Amandas a semester. There is a bit of a running joke among my colleagues in the teaching fraternity that I must do nothing all day but watch soap operas and do my Sudoku puzzles. But Amanda and other young people just like her are on every campus, and the fragility of these students is not something to make light of.

I've seen scores of students over the years who go through this sort of "break" with reality. The stresses of being away from home, living on one's own, dealing with the academic and social pressures of a typical college life can bring this on, but as I noted earlier, the use or abuse of substances can often bring about these alarming breaks. The worst I ever saw involved a freshman who simply had a new prescription for a long-standing and normally useful anti-anxiety medicine.

I try to tell my friends on the faculty that they need to be aware of their students and to watch for changes in behavior. Those of us on a college campus are not just there for a paycheck. We're there - in part - as custodians of the students who come to us. By being aware that Amanda is not simply a freakish tale, we may get ahead of the next Amanda. She may be in your class this coming semester; what will you do to help?


Friday, July 17, 2009

Amanda.


Last year, one of my favorite students lost her mind.

I had the ideal student: not brilliant, not a straight-A student, but very interested, someone who would ask the questions everybody else was wondering. A young woman like Amanda makes teaching easy; she illuminated for me what is unclear to the hoi polloi.

Therefore, I was a very saddened when, one Monday, her roommate (also a student) told me that Amanda was completely dropping out of school "to become an artist." I was surprised to hear this because Amanda was a Business major, and had not, to my knowledge, ever exhibited any tendencies toward making or appreciating art.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I came to my office the next day to find ten copies of a very long letter underneath my door, with the words "please translate me into anything" written on the back:

The trees are really beautiful in this part of the world and dont you want to know how this love miricle is only being seen by you and me. Bet you did? Right. And I want everyone who loves the rainbow to come to my little party where I will sing a song of luff and tenderness and luff and miricles and we can find that it is all true you and me and the pumpkin. Want to get in a car and go for a drive? Bet you did and that car is full of other people who will help us. My Facebook friends number of 5millions and each one can tell me the time and the sorrow of their own cars with there squeeky wiperblades. If i had a dollar I would buy out all the Walmart stores and replace them with sanktuarys of tenderness and luf. You don't understand me robot what is wrong with you. Just because I can see *IT* and you cant doesn't mean we shouldn't call what is a scam a (&REAL(* scam. My name Amanda comes from a Chippewa word for princess of peace and that's where we will begin. I bet you a dollar I can make you cry before the day is over. I tricked you already crying.

It went on and on. That happened on a Tuesday. On Wednesday, I saw Amanda outside the Student Union singing a dirge-like song - wearing clown shoes and a pageant crown. On Thursday she was doing the same thing, only dressed in her pajamas. On Friday, I received an email from Student Services informing me that she had been placed in state care.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Square State Suzy On Zeal.


It's the review session. I'm doing this with the "Lazy Professor" pedagogical pattern and letting them think up possible questions - and answers - in groups. I just walk around looking intelligent. There's one guy I don't recognize, so I go ask him who he is.

- "I'm Matty" he chimes up.
- Hi, Matty, why are you here?
- To review for the exam.
- But you won't be taking the exam, will you? I've never seen an exercise or lecture note from you this semester.
- Oh, I registered late. They screwed up my application.
- Oh right, you were the guy who begged to get admitted to my already filled class and then never showed up! Well, you didn't do the exercises, and they are prerequisites for the exam.
- No, I haven't, when can I hand them in?
- Hmm, let me think. This past Sunday was the last possible submission date. I don't take late work. You do know that the lecture notes are 20% of the grade? I don't think you submitted any.
- Where did it say that?
- In the syllabus, Matty, the one posted on the web site.

I have him come up and review his work. Moodle is great (although they are trying to have this function turned off on account of privacy and all). Matty has logged into the system a total of 6 times this semester. His last visit was 21 days ago. I review the syllabus - you must submit 8 exercises to be admitted to the exam. I say that I will take the exercises that he could not submit because of the late admittance, and then the rest up to 8 so that he can take the exam, but the exercises won't count towards his grade, they will be zeros because they are late.

"Um, " Matty looks for words. "I haven't actually started the exercises yet. But I purchased the textbook!"

Holy Mother of Snowflakes! Do they believe that knowledge is absorbed by osmosis? Or has Prentice-Hall started packaging litte white knowledge pills inside the shrink-wrap?

Go look up "student" in a dictionary, Matty. Okay, you can use the Wikipedia for this exercise, too.

derived through Middle English from the Latin second-type conjugation verb "stud─ôre", meaning "to direct one's zeal at"

Now go look up "zeal," Matty. And bring me a drink while you are at it. Make it a double.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fuck Don Asher (continued).


If you can't beat him, join him:


  • A savvy professor wants to earn as many as possible, as few as possible, and avoid at all costs. So how do you engineer your score on ratemyprofessors.com? Student-shop at the beginning of each semester. Recruit many more students than you can possibly take, and drop or drive away boring, difficult or stupid students sometime in the first two weeks. (It won't show up on their transcripts.) If a bad student fails one of your quizzes, ask them if they really need your class, or if they can drop it and take any easier version, or repeat it at a later date with a professor who gives lots of extra credit.


  • Students are people, too. They worry about being liked, whether they're gaining a few pounds and whether or not they're good at texting. So go visit them. Ask them for clarification of some point they made in class. Try out your paper or lab ideas on them to see if they plan to do any work or not. Ask them the best way to catch cheaters before the exams. It's probably not a great idea to focus on cheaters only, as in "What do I need to do to make it impossible for you to cheat in my class?" Get your students to help you be a better teacher. And maybe ask, "Have you lost a little weight?"


  • Study a broad in her sophomore year, not junior. The junior year is a time to concentrate on her major and get the most out of your department. If you're a broad, you can't do that, unless you’re at Bryn Mawr. Plus, some students get distracted by drinking with their peers, or that cute French guy or gal JYA at your school, and blow their peers instead of using that suction to garner your favor. Grad schools and employers care most about student’s GPA’s in the final two years of college, so if you can’t get any sophomore tail, make sure your upper class students know that, and go lecture a broad in her junior year about those grades. Finally -- and don't tell anyone -- but most sophomores aren't 21 yet. In most of the world, the drinking age, official and unofficial, is much younger than that. So... always keep a case of wine on hand and offer it to students you can lure to your home to “review data” and "discuss papers".

If We Had a Dollar For Every Post We Got Like This Last Week, Well, We'd Be Able to Buy the Really Good Ham in a Can.


In 4 years I've been moved 5 times into 4 different offices (yes, I've had the same one twice, with two others in between).

Two of the offices were exclusively mine, the other two were shared. Oh, and when I need to teach at the satellite campuses, which is almost half the time, I have to camp out in the adjunct offices (usually a closet with a broken chair, a broken desk, and a broken computer -- no phone).

I used to try to decorate and make the spaces my own, but I gave up and left my things packed after the last move, so my current decor is distinctly "stack of cardboard boxes." Space? Personal space? I don't know what the fuck you're talking about.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Does it Make Me a Narcissist If I Believe This Craiglist Post Is About Me? (I Gave a Summer Final 9 Hours Earlier!)

Fuck Don Asher.


Don Asher is a fucktard of the highest order. He's a putative college expert who specializes in helping snowflakes along a bright shiny path to college success. He's published a number of books about college, careers, including the surely stunning Asher's Bible of Executive Resumes, and The Overnight Resume. (Because nothing says success like an overnight resume.)

Anyway, he writes a column for the US Airways magazine and is "widely" published in a variety of ... yada yada yada. He's the education dork at MSN Encarta, and published a piece this weekend called "The 7 Secrets of Highly Successful Students."

It's a tour de farce. It's full of such howlers that I just thought your readers would like to know what some of the current, hot, advice is vis a vis being a successful student.
  • A savvy student wants to earn as many A's as possible, as few B's as possible, and avoid C's at all costs. So how do you engineer your GPA? Class-shop at the beginning of each semester. Sign up for more classes than you can possibly take, and drop boring or difficult professors sometime in the first two weeks. (It won't show up on your transcripts.) If you get a bad exam or quiz score, ask the professor what you can do to earn extra credit.
  • Professors are people, too. They worry about being liked, whether they're gaining a few pounds and whether or not they're good at their jobs. So go visit them. Ask them for clarification of some point they made in class. Try out your paper or lab ideas on them to see if you're headed in the right direction. Ask them the best way to study for the exams. It's probably not a great idea to focus on grades only, as in "What do I need to do to earn an A in your class?" Get your professors to help you be a better student. And maybe ask, "Have you lost a little weight?"
  • Study abroad in the sophomore year, not the junior. The junior year is a time to concentrate on your major and get the most out of your department. If you're abroad, you can't do that. Plus, some students get distracted by drinking in Naples, or that cute French guy or gal in Nice, and blow their GPA during the study abroad. Grad schools and employers care most about your GPA in the final two years of college, and if you go abroad in the junior year those grades are prominent. Finally -- and don't tell anyone -- but most sophomores aren't 21 yet. In most of the world, the drinking age, official and unofficial, is much younger than that. So...
There's other shit that's actually not bad advice, but the inclusion of the elements above just makes me crazy, especially the notion that students SHOULD try to game the system, game the proffie, flatter us poor dolts with comments about lost weight.

I'd like to find Don Asher and beat him with a bag of oranges. I'd like to put a pencil in his ear and watch it shoot out the other side.

To those of us who know better, he might seem a bit harmless, but it feels to me that more and more of this insanity is sold to students and parents, and soon the tipping point will come and college will truly just become this rubber-stamp-feel-good-handjob of a joke that so many people seem to think it is already.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Best Thing About My Office...


...other than my Scottish clan dagger that scared the crap out of the Dean when he visited me, is my officemate, Picard.

He's quiet, doesn't take up much space, and lets me dress him up any way I like. In the fall, he will wear a jersey from my favorite football team.

In winter, a sweater from my favorite hockey team. Sometimes I let my colleague dress him up in a Minnesota Twins shirt but he thinks it makes him look fat.

Today he has on a T-shirt from Shirt.Woot.com and I think he looks smashing.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cash Figures Out Another RYS Staple...the Shitty Links.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"So, You Didn't Get This Job Either. What Is It That's Wrong With You?" A Reader Reaches Out.


To Adam in Albuquerque....call the whambulance..

WHAwhaWHAwhaWHAwha...

I was on two hiring committees this Spring for tenure track positions in my department and another very different discipline. In the other department, they hired the “part-timer here with an impeccable record” that had a “history of full time tenure track work exactly like what is needed at (This) college.” Why? She was a fabulous colleague, even better teacher and did it with grace and charm. She took her fair share of less desirable classes and times, served on serious committees and made it seem like it was a privilege to do so. She took her interview seriously and gave a solid performance. She wanted the job and let us know. It was our luck she wanted us. Lucky students. Very lucky department and college.

But in my department, we didn’t hire Sammy, the part timer, who thought he had that impeccable record and thus, the job. He did have “exactly the background” we are missing. But we hired a much younger, less experienced candidate (who had also taught part time on our campus). Why? She is a skilled and dedicated teacher and a quick learner (even in writing syllabi). She participates in departmental stuff, volunteers on unbelievably shitty committees, takes her share (but not more) of crappy classes and she does it without dripping in attitude. She is a colleague, and doesn’t try to get us to cover her classes because of the latest adrenaline packed adventure. She took her interview seriously, without making flippant comments. The decision was a no brainer. She won, Sammy is still part time. We sincerely hope Sammy takes this as a prompt to change and reflect during his next year of part time work. Sammy has fabulous skills and attributes we need and could use. We would love to give him the next tenure track but at this moment, his pluses do not outweigh the minuses.

Adam, there is a reason they didn't hire YOU. Find out what it is and strive to improve.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Compound Cash Has Just Wet Himself.


So, here at the compound we have the big machines and the software and the menswear and so on, and one of the items I check and log occasionally is a collection of search terms that bring our readers to the site.

Generally about 60% of our readers come to us through a direct link, leaving about 40% who find us through Google, etc.

Most of these searches are awfully ordinary: "rate your students," "students & plagiarism," "f*&%ing snowflakes," etc.

But today. Oh Sweet Jesus On a Moped, we got someone who found us using the following search string:

pissy pants girls & diapered pussies

Listen, I just work here. I don't take any enjoyment in reporting this. It's so *dirty* that I don't even know what to do with the information. In case you're wondering, the RYS page that the horrible search led to was NOT at all about that particular variety of kink, it was just this piece about the supposed anti-youth bent of our page.

And to get this straight, I'm not anti-kink or anything, but at least have some kink about something that makes sense, like knee socks or handcuffs.

Out,
Cash

Monday, July 6, 2009

Stewie Gets a Dozen Sterling Bits of Advice.



  1. I feel Stewie's ennui, for it is my ennui, except that I don't have a boat, not even a crappy one.

  2. I suspect that I, you, and Stewie can make to set ourselves on a new course of optimism and fulfillment. I know this really works because I saw it on a granola bar commercial.

  3. Pudding three times a day? Why not switch up one of those for a plate of cheesy, greasy, microwave-easy nachos? Or greet your morning with spoon after spoon of peanut butter fresh from the jar? Complex carbs make other people seem less stupid!

  4. My advice for Stewie would be vary his celeb death-march viewing with a little Top Chef Masters. Watching people who know how to do stuff, and contemplating the yawning bergschrund between them and the snowmass that is set to engulf us all, is sure to refine that dull mood to a delicately poignant sorrow tinged with dread.

  5. If you do sail away you'd better send post cards. I need to dream, too.

  6. Gee, how 'bout enjoying all these months during which you don't have to report to work? Maybe catch up on some reading in your field of expertise, do some research, or just kick back and relish the fact that, unlike most working adults, you get an entire season off.

  7. Are we supposed to feel sorry for you because you cannot re-charge in your 3-4 months of vacation?

  8. People who hate life are GOING to hate life regardless of the advice they get.

  9. Sail away? Baby, it sounds like your ship has already...well, you know.

  10. 5 years in is enough to be ruined. Now decide if you want to work 9-5 in a suit...quick. Okay? Not so bad now, right?

  11. You know the rule of battery recharging? Well it applies to us, too. The "memory effect" eventually kicks in, and we never get all the way back fully charged. Oh, and we can be thrown away, too.

  12. Fuck Stew.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sail Away Stewie Needs Our Help. (And Maybe Some Sailing Lessons.)


You know how summer is the great recharger, that period of time where we come back to life, those of us who toil in the academy?

Well it's not working on me this year. I've been off since May 11th and I'm hating life and students and my shitty college exactly the same now as I was nearly 2 months ago.

Where's the get up and go? Where's the signs of life? By now I've usually gone to campus to move some papers around, clean up the mess from last term. But this year I'm just eating pudding morning, noon, and night, watching the celebrity death march on TV, and wishing I could just sail away.

Sail away? Yep, I'd sell this crappy 1945 Craftsman faller-downer in a minute for a sloop or a sorta-sloop. Just put the mainsail or jib or whatever in the air and nod aimlessly in a pretty sea, hell, even down this shitty river here in shitty college town America if I had to.

Why aren't I coming around? Oh, am I an old timer? Well, not really. It's my 5th year! I'm not jaded; I don't remember the good old days when students were forceful and engaged. I've always had snowflakes and they've always been complete assholes.

But every summer has recharged me. Except this one.

What am I to do? Sail away? Stay and fight? Wait for the inevitable recharging? Accept that maybe I won't recharge again and learn to live with the disappointment?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

More Job Woes From Adam in Albuquerque.


I'm in the same boat as "Thanks for Nothing" a few days ago.

I was recently passed over at my college for a full time gig, even though I've been a part-timer here with an impeccable record and have a history of full time tenure track work exactly like what is needed at my college.

I wish there was some way to find out why I got passed over, but even in a casual conversation with the provost, who goes to the same church as I do, all I got was the typical "better match of skill set" bullshit that comes in rejection letters.

At first I took the news that I'd been passed over for a MUCH younger and less credentialed scholar pretty well. I thought, "Oh, maybe the other candidate was better trained, better suited. But after a week of being around some from the search committee, and some embarrassing Google time, I've discovered that who my college hired is pretty much a ninny. It got me thinking about my own job search, how I presented myself, my credentials. Was I confident enough? Too confident? Was I too familiar as a part-timer? Was my being an extrovert a turn off? Should I have been a wallflower instead?

And my annoyance at this has gone from personal to a larger sense. What has the college chosen to do? Put an unqualified person in the classroom? Bypass folks with more experience, even people who have experience at this college, teaching awards.

My college bypassed (not just me) a number of first rate folks for someone who's never built a syllabus for a class, never taught a class on his/her own until 9 months ago, and who will surely need seasoning before being ready to really help this college move forward.

I don't even want to begin to imagine why the college did it. Money? Malleability? Quota? Whatever?

It's enough that it's been done, and my anger just grows.

Friday, July 3, 2009

We Can't Think of Anything to Add to This Exgraordinary Tale.


Hello professor how are you, I hope that you are having a good summer.

I want to thank you for letting me have the take home final and I want to apologize for the problem that occurred. You are very kind and I feel horrible for betraying your kindness because you're totally right and I knew the rules and I really appreciated you and I would never say anything bad about you or your style of teaching.

But in this case I'm not the cheater. I will tell you how it all happened. I am the victim.

It took me so long to send the final because it was very hard and very specific and I had to do a lot of reading in this subject and others in order to give the good answers. I am graduating later this month, so I know you understand how busy I am with my family and my preparations for a wonderful career and future. I was so busy in fact I forgot to send you the final when I was supposed to.

In fact I had the final ready in time but didn't print it out off my USB, but I did have the cover page and I made it just like you wanted and had it all printed out. While I was in the student union, I had to leave my computer on to go and say hello to my friend who were getting ready to go home to Canada for the summer, so I spent some time talking with them, but only five minutes or so.

I think what happened was that while I was gone another student from our class spotted my take home final, and was jealous that I had the extra time to work on it at your great kindness and he or she inserted the plagiarized material.

You might seem to think that I'm only sending this email so that I can graduate with my family in a few weeks, but I send it to justify my position and my honor. This the only truth and for this I have the God testimony.

Professor please take these exgraordinary events into consideration as you figure my final grade. I'd be honored to write another exam or whatever you need. Remeber that I am a victim.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"The Grade I Deserve." A New RYS Playlet.


4/15, 4:18 p.m.

“I am writing you this email because i'm just wondering if i could possibly know where my grade was at this point. I know that i have missed a couple classes recently and i just wanted to see where i was standing. if you could supply me witht the information it would be greatly appreciated. thank you for you time and understanding.”


++++

4/16, 1:42 p.m.

“Dear student:

It is impossible for me to tell where you are grade-wise. Two large grades are coming due: Writing Assignment #2 was just handed in, and has not been graded yet, and Writing Assignment #3 is due at the end of the semester. Also, there is the final exam to consider, making a third large grade yet to come.

Here are your grades so far:

I'd advise not missing any more quizzes; you've missed 2, which will be dropped, and you cannot afford to factor in any more zeroes with the grades you have earned so far.

Your first paper grade was decent, so if that indicates your minimum performance level, you are in a good position.”

++++

4/28, 2:55 a.m.

“ I am writing you this email to inform you that I will not be in town as of [Exam period day #3].
My other finals that I will be taking are on
[Exam period day #1]: 2-4pm
[Exam period day #2]: i will find out on friday

thank you for your cooperation and understanding”

AND

5/1, 12:40 am

“Dear Professor,
I will not be attending class today because i will be participating in the rally. I would just like to know what we would have been doing in class today. Thank you very much for you time and cooperation.”


++++

5/1, 8:43 p.m.

“Dear [students requesting alternative exam dates]:

Because you have requested an alternative date to take the final exam, I am e-mailing you to confirm when and where you are expected to arrive.

As announced in class today, the "make-up" final exam will be at 1:30 p.m. on [the study day we’re not supposed to offer exams, but I am breaking the rule because you all begged me].

The final will be 58 multiple choice questions culled from all 12 quizzes. Some questions have been slightly revised for clarity.

We will meet at [the regular classroom]. The room should be empty, but if the room is in use we will go to another room. I expect the exam to take no more than 1 hour to complete.

This will be the only day and time the final will be given other than the regularly scheduled date and time of [a week later].

I will see you all on the [very special exam day I wish I hadn’t agreed to offer].”

++++

5/2, 12:54 a.m.

“Professor,
I am just writing you this email to ask if I should give you my project … during my exam of if i should drop if off sometime before then. I'm sorry that i didn't get a chance to hand it in today [the day it was due], I went to [the rally] and thought i would be back in time. I have it ready to hand it and was hoping to have given it to you today but by the time i came back class was already over. Please let me know when i could give it to you, because i have it ready and set to hand in..i'm sorry for the inconviniance and I thank you for you time and cooperation.”


++++

5/2, 11:56 a.m.

“Dear Student:

As indicated on the assignment's instructions, late submissions will not be accepted.

Therefore, if you knew you were not going to be in class, you should have made arrangements to drop the assignment off early to ensure its timely submission.

I will see you on [the very special exam day I chose because it was the only day that didn’t completely inconvenience everyone else].”

++++

5/13, 2:42 p.m.

“Professor X,
I was just writing you this email to see as to why I obtained a D in your class. I know that my grades for the projects were both B's and would like to know my final quiz grade as well as what i got on your final if its possible.
Thank you very much, I hope to hear from you soon”


++++

5/21, 5:06 p.m.

“Dear Student:

Here are your 12 Quiz grades: [3 zeroes amidst mediocre grades]

Two zeroes are dropped, making your final Quiz total XX.

Your 3 Writing Assignment grades are: [mediocre #1, mediocre #2, plus a zero].

Out of 37 days for which I have attendance records, you attended 28, which translated into a [mediocre attendance & participation grade].

You scored [one of the lowest grades] on the Final Exam, but received [decent] points for the two extra credit assignments.

In total, you scored XXX of the potential points of the course, which translates to a D.”

++++

5/11, 1:48 p.m.

“Professor X,
I just wanted to know how you calculate your points that translated my grade into a D. I don´t think I deserved to obtain this grade and am just interested in how you calculate your grades to see if my grade for my final project would have affected my final grade. Thank you once again for your cooperation and time.”


++++

5/11, 11:40 p.m.

“Student:

Have you looked at the syllabus you were handed on the 1st day you arrived in class? Everything is thoroughly explained there, including the reasons why you earned the grade you were awarded.”

++++

6/2, 2:07 a.m.

“Professor X,
I did review the syllabus and saw how you did indeed end up obtaining my grade. I saw that the fact that you didn't recieve my last project affected me greatly. I don't think that its fair that I didn't get to hand it in. If i knew I was going to miss class i would have honestly given it to you ahead of time. My other projects show my hardwork that I have participated in your class, and besides the fact that i'm not a good quiz taker, I believe that I did show my dedication in your class. I wish to still be able to hand this in because it does affect my GPA very much and I wish to speak to the head of the [really lame] Department because that day that i wasn't in class was due to participation in [the rally] that i take seriously. I wasn't in class for a legitimate reason and did indeed think that i was going to get back in time, I even have a note that says i was with the group. Thank you for your time Professor X and i'm sorry if im pushing this but its really important to me and i did enjoy your class and wish to get the grade that i truly deserve. Thank you once again.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Harry Hardass Screws a Student Over for a Lousy 9%!


Dear Professor Hardass,

It has come to my attention that my grade for your class is listed as a D . My ending grade for the class was a 73 which is equilivent to a C not a D.

It may have been a typing error since the letters are so close together. I would greatly appreciate it if you would look into why it is posted as a D.

Will you please email me back as conformation that it has been corrected.


--()--

Dear Math-challenged snowflake,

I'm not quite sure where you are coming up with a 73% for the class that you just took. In fact, your final average for the class was a 64%, which is equivalent to a D, not a C.

I did go back and check to make sure that I did in fact input a D as your final grade. Since the C and the D keys are so close together on the keyboard. I wouldn't want to make a typing error while inputting final grades, now would I?

Prof. Hardass

100% Canadian Content. Brittany (Really) from Brampton.


Listen, I don't require much care and feeding. I'm from Ontario, eh? I get by just fine. But don't you silly silly bastards know that we aren't going to search the 2500 posts for our favorites, and that you need to resuscitate that "Flashback" feature every now and again.

I send you all back in time now just ONE year to the funniest graphic (for my Loonies) you ever did. As it appeared last year on this fine, fine day.

Do You Have Any Idea How Hard
It Is to Find a Picture
of a Regular Beaver On the Internet?


Happy Canada Day.