Saturday, December 4, 2010

The End of RYS. 15 Million Pageviews, and Did We Fix Anything?

Rate Your Students, the blog, the experience, closed down in June of 2010.

We barely kept the page alive over its past few months, and the last moderator with the keys to the compound had exhausted all reasonable options to continue the site when he closed it down.

In the end we were just not able to generate enough of a workforce to manage the mail and content, and to do the page in the way that we think it deserved to be done.

We have tremendous regrets about closing down, but we no longer felt that we were responsible enough to carry on what "The Professor" started out to do in November of 2005.

Without sounding too much like complete and utter doofuses, we have been honored to have been able to provide a place where so many modern proffies have worked out the angst and ennui of their academic careers.

Those of us who have worked the page feel a sincere closeness to many of you, longtime writers and readers who have opened their hearts and minds to us. We thank you so much for your trust and collegiality.

But we are no longer active; we are no longer accepting submissions. We've left a pared down version of the voluminous and scandalous archives to the right. 1000 of the original 4000 posts are still available to be read, admired, and wondered at.

A good number of former readers ran a blog for six years called College Misery. It was a terrific site with more than 6000 valuable posts and 70,000 comments.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Ring of DistinKtion.

Periodically during the reign of RYS, we inducted posts into our "Ring of DistinKtion." We revisit that tradition with a (somewhat) final list of all-time posts:

Things We Can Do to Improve...

In December of 2010, a Chronicle reader - responding to an article there - asked us about posts on our site that aimed at improving the lot of poor proffies in the academy.

While we're sort of fond of all the posts here at RYS (like they're our children, or our database of absinthe recipes), we provide this quickie list of 20 you might enjoy:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Short, Brave Life of RateYourStudents.

An article titled "The Short, Brave Life of" appeared in December 2010 on the Chronicle of Higher Education website. It was written by the last standing moderator of the page, and it does a good job of capturing what RYS was all about.

While this site is no longer active, we have left about 1000 of the old posts up for archival reasons. You should browse the sidebar, or just start with the most recent Ring of DistinKtion, for some favorite posts from 5 years of angst and ennui.

We, of course, are still relaxing, still drunk, and still wondering where Walt is.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Things We Did Not Sign Up For.

Today I had to teach a student how to write on a piece of lined notebook paper. I never once thought my job would come to this. Once upon a long time ago, I taught college composition and the MLA-formatted research paper.

Now, I'm teaching students "your" and "you're," subject/verb agreement, adverb usage, pronoun reference and...margins (?)

"What is this -- 'margin'?" I was asked. "Do we write inside the pink line?"

(Do We Write "Inside" The Pink Line...????)

I may now actually have to write my instructions so that they include the following:

  1. Write your text on the RIGHT side of the vertical (up-and-down) pink line. Do not write on the left side of the vertical pink line.
  2. Write in-between the horizontal (side-to-side) blue lines as well. Do not write outside of those horizontal blue lines unless you're writing in cursive, in which case, your formatting for letters such as "q," "y," "f" and "g" may fall to the space directly below the blue line you're writing upon.
  3. When your text reaches the end of the horizontal blue line, continue your text on the next horizontal blue line below it.
  4. To signify the start of a new paragraph, begin a new line of text on the next horizontal blue line but have a four to five-letter word's worth of empty space between your text and the right side of the vertical pink line. We call that "indenting."
  5. When you reach the bottom of your piece of notebook paper, do not write any text on the very bottom of the page because there is no horizontal blue line there. Instead, continue your text in-between the first two horizontal blue lines of the next page.
  6. Again, do not write on the left side of the vertical pink line.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In 48 Hours It Will All Be Over.

Case #1: record to date

Exam I: Missed week before exam I, showed up for exam I saying she missed the previous week because she was going to drop but changed her mind, then pointed to all of the questions she couldn't do saying "I couldn't do this, or this, or... because I wasn't here when you did it" and was surprised that that wasn't a good argument towards having me not count those questions for her. Flunked.

Exam II: Missed this and the following class, showed up a week later asking what she could do about the missed exam, had it explained (while pointing to spare syllabus I carry around for just such an emergency) that missed exams increase the weight of the final exam.

Exam III: Missed this, showed up at next class, asked what she could do about the missed exam (I swear to God). After hearing missed exam policy for third time, added that she knew she had to miss the final and smiled at me like the dumb rabbit in Bambi. I said that was not possible and asked her why she "had to" miss it. Court - followed by TMI. I told her "You can take it the Tuesday before." which seemed agreeable to her.

Exam IV: Came late, dressed like Charo, still had face glitter from previous night. Flunked. Smiled like dumb rabbit again while pointing out things she didn't know because she cut class. Was surprised, again, that those questions still counted. Asked when the final was, and said she couldn't make it... court, repeated TMI. Was told again that she could take it the previous Tuesday.

The final is Thursday. Tomorrow Thumper is supposed to take the final. Just now she e-mailed:

heyy Professor Xxxx! I'm not really sure when is the final. Is it on tuesday or thursday? 
can u please let me know as soon as possible, Thank you.


Case #2: record to date

  • Low Ds on all exams.
  • Low F on take home, open book midterm, on which students had 3 weeks including Spring Break to work
  • Cursed out lab professor on second to last lab class because lab professor wouldn't let her in over an hour late
  • received extra credit practice final via e-mail, which has been opened, printed and completed on various operating systems and versions of MS Word including: 2000, 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2010.

Then this student sent me this email this afternoon:

What program was this created on because i am unable to open the file.

I want to write back "I wrote it on super secret software that only CIA operatives are allowed to use. I never intended for you to actually be able to access the document. But since you figured me out, you get an A for the term, even though you know nothing about chemistry and you were an asshole to your lab instructor."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Macy from Maize on the Adult-ifying Power of the Curse.

I don't do it every day, but I curse in class.

Oh noes! Oh yes.

Why do I do this? I do it because I could never get away with it when I taught high school. I do it to make it easier for me to teach -- it's simply part of my everyday vocabulary. I curse. A lot. And to take out something that easily comes to my tongue when I'm trying to give real life scenarios off the top of my head is really difficult to do. I do it because it makes my class just a little funnier/more authentic. I do it to share a tiny bit of camaraderie with the students.

But most of all I do it to make students realize that college is a place for grownups. There are reasons it isn't exactly proper to curse in a kindergarten class. There are reasons it isn't allowed in middle and high school. There's also a reason people give you nasty looks when you say it out in public, but I always hated those fuckers anyway. Back to my point. Where cursing is allowed -- not generated TOWARD anyone but as a part of the vocabulary -- is considered "adult" space. So in using this language I give my students an automatic message that they are in an adult space and they better damn well act like an adult, because that's exactly what I expect.

The first couple of times I let it slip they tend to freak out. Not in the throwing bibles that they got from the creepy evangelist on their way into class kind of freak out but the OH MAH GAWD did she just SAY THAYT???!?!?!1? kind of way. There are giggles, snickers, whispered comments. And then I curtly, quickly explain to them why I did so, that it wasn't an accident, and move on with discussion. They get the hint pretty quickly and while few of them join me over on the cursing side of the line, they accept it and start acting a little more like the adults I expect them to be in the process.

So what would I do if this was my student. Well, first I'd ask if the statement was directed negatively at me or was somehow incorrect and something that I personally needed to correct, i.e. Ms. X is going to fuck up my GPA. See, this is incorrect. The student is fucking up the GPA, not the teacher. So it passes that test in terms of whether I would say anything.

If it were my student in the hallway, on their own time, it seems rather idiotic to get into their conversation. Just proves you were eavesdropping and that you give a fuck about what they think, which you shouldn't. So no, I wouldn't get in his face, even to make a simple comment like "Come see me and we can talk." More than likely I'd make a comment the next class period reminding them that they should come to my office if they'd like help with their papers or have questions/concerns about their grade. If I was really upset by it, I'd email the kid directly.

So this Ms. Pyle. First, it seems like she thinks she's teaching in a monastery. Honestly, I think everybody in this day and age could use a little more respect but screaming at a student because they cursed outside of your class is just over the line. I understand that sometimes you just snap but seriously, have a xanax, slurp down a few strawberry margaritas and tackle life after that. And while it's good to see the school stand up for the instructor for once, everyone knows there are certain professors and instructors that are just bat-shit, ones that propose the stupidest things or who have a Napoleon complex. This was more about her feeling defensive about the grade that was given and whether the student thought he deserved it than whether said kid cursed in the hallway.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Perry from Pennsauken Goes Old School, And Throws In a Curve There At the End.

Sad Eyes Solomon did next-to-nothing all quarter. He rarely had a notebook. He often slept in class. He seemed completely disaffected by everything. The he got a laptop and he was furiously typing on it every class. Yeah, probably playing solitaire or Facebooking, or on IM, I am sure. Imagine my shock-- SHOCK I SAY! -- WHEN HE APPEARED, 10 MINUTES LATE, to the mid-term sans writing implement. He begged me for one, but I refused, at which point I got the full-blown puppy-eye treatment. It was like looking into a dying dog's eyes. A classmate generously loaned him a pen, at which point he decided to CLIMB OVER AN ENTIRE ROW of students to take a seat in the middle. Having barely 30 minutes left to take the exam, he started flipping pages; I wondered why he wasn't writing anything on those essays...hmmm. It was actually a quick test (for most of the class), and everyone finished in about 30 minutes, which left Sad Eyes alone for the last 15 minutes of class. The pen-loaner asked for his pen back before he left, so for those last 15 minutes of class, I got to see those sad eyes and frowny pout until I got fed up ... er, I mean Solly finally relented and handed in his half-empty exam. I had warned the class with both a stern oral pronouncement and a note on the board when the exam would be and to BRING THEIR OWN WRITING IMPLEMENT for the 3 class sessions beforehand. Sadly, he wasn;t the only one to forget, but at least the others got there early enough to ask for a pencil from a classmate BEFORE the exam. I am sure Pouty McPuppy-eyes ran to his coach and told everyone he knew what a horrible, nasty, meanypants I was. I just wanted to smack those sad eyes right out of his head.

Live Streaming Video Vincent was also in that class. He also had his laptop everyday! He never met my eyes once during class. He handed in no papers all quarter. When I showed video segments to provoke class discussion, the lights on his face always screamed "I don't care about my grade!" I tossed him from class, gave him zeroes, gave a midterm warning for possible failure. Nothing mattered. Well, except those videos he was watching everyday during class. I had never encountered anything like that at Slightly Better-known University across town. Maybe he was smarter! I have zero evidence to support that statement though. I wish I could have tossed that laptop right out the window.

Chatty Cathy LOVED having little side discussions with her friends. I asked her to stop, but she couldn't help herself. I heard noise, saw her mouth moving, and immediately jumped to the conclusion it was she who was speaking. HOW DARE I! She wasn't talking at all! Maybe someone had their hand up her shirt and the two of them were just performing their best Wayland and Madame impression. Yeah, that's gotta be it. I tossed her from class, but I wish I would have made her sit up in front of the class like she was in kindergarten. Maybe she would have cried. That woulda been fun.

Glossary Gus was a super-keener. He was always on time. He always paid attention. He always took notes. He completed two of the three essays (best 3 of 4...see how fair I am!) for the class before most people had done one. Except, well, somehow he never learned what plagiarism is. In both papers, he used expertly worded definitions that smelled way above his ability to craft in prose. A quick look at the textbook's glossary revealed he had lifted them verbatim from the book. Not even a citation or general reference! He ignored the warning against plagiarism in the assignment instructions. He skipped the warning and listed consequences in the syllabus. No, no. No one had ever told him he couldn't do that! NO ONE. Sadly, I believe him.... I cut him a break and let him re-do one of the papers; he whined and groaned and protested (repeatedly) that he would then have to do FIVE papers for the class. I thought this approach might actually teach him how to avoid plagiarism in the future; I doubt it worked though. I should have just failed him for the entire class just for being an asshole, er...I mean plagiarist.

Then there was A- Alvin. He was the only one to read the 10-page article I asked the class to read. He was usually late, but slinked into class and took the first seat available before he pulled out his notebook and took copious notes. He read the textbook, asked interesting questions, and seemed to take the class seriously. He didn't grub for grades. He got a few middling grades here or there, but he seemed to take them in stride. He was great. I wish half the class could have been half the student he was. Sadly, he had only an A-, so I gave him the grade he actually earned. I wish I had given him an A just for being a good student who OBVIOUSLY stood head and shoulders above the dumbfucks he sat amongst. Damn my sense of fairness and justice!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Paloma from Pembroke Pines Posits a Pox.

Why worry?
"Crying Caroline" was in several of my classes the year I taught at her school. She was both a flake AND a shameless brown-noser, an utterly hellish combination. When she did come to class, she sat in the front row, smiling and nodding compulsively like a bobble-head doll on crack. When she didn't—which was ALWAYS on a day when there was an exam or a major assignment due—she invariably had some heart-wrenching excuse: she just HAD to organize that letter-writing drive to free those Taliban hostages! She HAD to take those poor, poor under-served kids to the museum! Couldn't I see that she was making a real difference in the lives of others, and this was SO much more important than my trivial problem sets?

I hated her.

I was driving to campus, dreading the sight of her grinning, bobbing head, when the news of the Virginia Tech massacre came on the radio. Of course, my heart dropped. But being in an already foul mood (and stuck in freeway traffic), I couldn't help thinking, "I can't wait to see how Crying Caroline will try to use this to get out of class."

Then I wanted to slap myself for being a cynical bitch.

Flash forward two days later: Crying Caroline runs up to me outside my office: She can't come to class that afternoon because she was being interviewed by a local newspaper about how students are reacting to the Virginia Tech tragedy! And the only time the reporter could talk to her was—wait for it—during MY class!

And this was SO important because the world really needed to hear what she, an actual university student who COULD HAVE BEEN THERE, had to say about this very, very important matter! (No, our school was not even in the same time zone as VT.) And oh yes, she couldn't finish her homework either, because she was so traumatized by the tragedy!

I should note that our school was in a major metropolitan area with several other large universities. Of all the universities in town, each with tens of thousands of students, somehow Crying Caroline got picked as their representative. And of all the 168 hours in the week following the tragedy, the only possible time she could spill her guts to the media about her precious feelings was during MY CLASS!

Over thirty people died and a community was thrown into a world of pain—all so darling Caroline can avoid dragging her ass to campus.

A pox on her.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How to Graduate.

Dear soon to be former students:

You have begged, borrowed, stolen, done some work and have made it to finish line...your graduation day. As an experienced faculty marshall for these kind of events (we think, so you don't have to), here are important tips to make your graduation a success.

Your family:
I told my parents
the wrong day.
  • By all means, invite as many family members as your ticket allotment allows. But please, if you wish to bring a larger posse with you, arrange trades with your fellow students PRIOR to arriving at the coliseum where the ceremony will be held. Our ushers don't like it when you yell them "Who should have to wait in the hot car? Great-grandma or my toddler cousin?"
  • Please inform your family that Uncle Cletus's best, nearly clean wife-beater, flip flops and Skoal cap might make him feel slightly underdressed for the occasion.
  • I know your family is excited that you are graduating and they want to represent for you. However, if the people in the room can't hear the name of the next graduate when it is called over the 6-foot-high speakers, that's a problem.
  • No. Air. Horns.
Arrival at the facility:
  • We ask you to arrive one hour before the ceremony is scheduled to begin. If you arrive fewer than 15 minutes before the processional, this is a problem, as we have to get you in alphabetical order.
  • If you know you will be "celebrating" until the wee hours the night before, you might wish to have your Mommy come by and make sure you are awake in time to arrive that 15 minutes before. It makes her feel like she is still important in your life and she has seen you vomit before, so it's ok. Depending on the liveliness of the celebration, you may wish to rise an additional 5 minutes early in order to wash the detrius of the festivities out of your hair. It look bad in the pictures.
  • If your baby's due date was yesterday, please consider seriously if you should be there. Having to run into the bathroom every 10 minutes to check on you takes me away from other important graduation duties.
  • If you want your family to see you in the seated group of graduates, remember that of the 600 of you down there, approximately 80 will have Hi Mom written with the masking tape they were using to seal up boxes yesterday.
  • Graduation gowns can be ironed, if you don't want the "square lines from being packaged" look.
  • I don't have an extra hat or tassel or bobby pins for you, so don't ask.
  • If your shoes have heels more than 3 inches high, you will trip going both up and down the platform. I guarantee it.
Conduct during the ceremony:
  • Your iPhone screen glows white hot in the middle of a fleld of black in a dark room.
  • It's a big coliseum, so we put your beautiful face on a huge screen for all to see when you get your degree. Gum and dip does not look so good at 20 feet high.
  • Please do not assault the president.
  • Keep your shoes on until you have crossed the stage. You won't have time to find them.
  • If you try to leave as soon as you walk, I, and all the other faculty who have to sit there until the bitter end, will glare at you.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chicago Charlie on Grading, Grade Inflation, Love, and the Grade Bump.

Well, it is 2:15 am on Thursday night (technically, I suppose, Friday morning), and I have just finished the last of a long semester’s grading. It was quite a slog. I teach the humanities course required for all incoming freshman at Moneybags University, so I get a couple interested in my subject, but for the most part, it is nursing students and accounting students and business and econ and anything but actual literature or humanities. And it is these silly little essay questions, and I am thinking, “Hmmm… does that answer about the general will in Rousseau merit a 7.5/10 or an 8…” And what is the metric by which a qualitative thought gets transformed into a quantitative measure anyway? After a few years, it still seems more than a bit incongruous to me. But that is all just by way of introduction here.

Confession time. I try to grade fairly, I really really really do, but I see a student’s name at the top of the exam and, even as I’m grading as objectively as I can, there is a part of me too that is thinking “Come on, come on, you can do it…” and I am secretly happy when they get the answer right and I can give them full credit. Conversely, I am secretly unhappy when a student I dislike gets an answer correct because I was secretly hoping that they would give me an excuse to hit them with the grade I hope they get.

I must say though, that usually the students who are smart and attentive do well and the students who are stupid and distracted don’t, regardless of their personality. But, as happens every semester, I can’t help but think of grade inflation. I know it gets a bad rap, and I know that it’s usually attributed to the snowflakes demanding their $50K worth of letter grade… which usually means an A. I’m at one of those schools where an A is actually a B, a B is a C and a C is a D. You get an F if you cheat (too often) or are too stupid to fill out add/drop paperwork and if you get a D, well, you are just fucking dumb as barbwire. Really fucking stupid barbwire.

Anyway, I’ll be the first to tell you that my grades are pretty massively inflated. I ran the numbers, I give about 40% A/A-, 30% B range, 20% C, 10% F pretty consistently across classes and across years. But I don’t do it because I give a shit about little Sally Snowflake complaining to the dean or smacking me with a bad rating on that voldemortian site we must not name or having her parents helichopper in or anything like that.

Really, I do it for one reason only, and it is a reason which will, no doubt, open me up to a world of hell from RYS readers.

It is this: I am a damn fucking softy.

I am ice cream melting in Chicago summer soft. I am two-ply toilet paper soft. The little fuckers give me high holy hell all semester long about how their assignment is late because their second cousin’s grandmother’s sister’s niece’s piano-teacher’s ex-husband’s former mistress’s surrogate mother’s cleaning lady’s pen pal stubbed a toe. And the oh so lonely office hours and all the other shit we complain about. But dammit, when it comes to giving a low grade, I just can’t do it. I feel badly. I remember getting bad grades and how sad it made me (and I got a whole hell of a lot of bad grades as an undergrad… long story short… a potent mix of cannabis, delivery Thai food and a young French-Canadian named Heloise…).

And I remember, too, how an unexpected good grade could really make my day, my summer even. I just feel so much better about life giving a high grade than a low one. I hate giving low ones. I hate thinking of their sad little faces. I like thinking about their happy little faces. And at the end of it all, I really just kind of think they all deserve As. And here’s the thing about giving good grades: it costs me nothing. The difference to me between giving a student a B+ and an A- is absolutely nothing. I couldn’t care less and, much like one of my many undergraduate benders, I will find myself in some far off place with absolutely no memory of the last sixteen weeks nor the faces of any of the people I interacted with. I remember and think fondly of them now, but in a week or two, I wouldn’t recognize their face much less remember their name if they came up and punched me in the face. But to them, that A- means a lot. They will hold on to it; it will sit on that pretty little transcript forever. And when they file out past me that last day of class, I do, I really do, I get a little weepy. I mean, I don’t actually cry, but I wouldn’t be in the business getting the pay I get and taking the shit I take (from students as well as deans, hiring committees, department chairs and everyone else) if I didn’t really love the students.

And after 16 week talking Plato and Augustine and Melville and Emerson, well, I kinda come to love the l’il bastards. I mean, I’m not one of those freakshows who wants to be friends and hang out after class and shit and have them over to my house to drink wine and bake cookies. I like to keep it professional. But I feel a certain type of intellectual intimacy; we reveal a lot about ourselves when we critically analyze the works of others. And that brings us together, and I am sad to see them go. And I love ‘em and I want to give them As. And as much as I get kicked around all semester long, at the end of the day, I get to give them whatever the fuck grade I want (and, honestly, I could give the worst student an A and justify and the best student an F and justify it – not that I ever have or would, but to know that I could is enough). Giving a grade is really the only thing I have complete control over. And I have never once had students protest to the dean that I grade too easy. And I have lost some time regretting giving a student a grade lower than they deserved. It has weighed on me and I have felt guilty and wished I had just given them that extra little bit. But I have never once handed in the grade sheet and thought, “Fuck, I should have given Meathead Mike a lower grade, that bastard.” That’s not how my mind works. The good sticks with me and gets better as memory does its work, and the bad just fades away into the dark realms of oblivion.

Bottom line, the students I hate, I won’t bump down just because they’re douchebags. They get the grade they get. But for students who show up, do the work, try hard, are open-minded and teachable, make progress, don’t goof off, speak when they have something to say and remain silent when they don’t, ask appropriate questions when they don’t understand… I don’t think it’s so wrong to give them the extra bump (let’s call it participation grade). So I end up bumping the good students up a bit and not bumping the bad students down and, lo and behold… grade inflation. And… well… I like to think I am making some happier summers. At least mine anyway.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Great Non-Surprise Ending. Student Excuse. A New RYS Playlet.

My best student-excuse came *during* the final exam. Stephanie Snowflake handed in her exam paper and pulled me aside while I was invigilating.


SS: "Did you get my email with my essay [due two months ago]?"

Me: "No. You've asked me that every week during class for the last two months, and I've told you each time that I didn't receive it, nor did I receive your fall-term essay [due last October]. As I've said, if I didn't reply to your email, then I didn't get it."

SS: "You're the only person who hasn't been getting my emails."

Me: "Be that as it may, I still didn't receive your paper. Why didn't you bring me a hard copy in class like the other students?"

SS: "Oh, I missed two weeks of class [several months ago]. I had a problem with my cervix. It's all better now."

Me: "Look, here's my netbook; please pull up the essay from your email and save it on my desktop."

SS: "Okay." [Hunts through her email for several minutes.] "Oh, I can't seem to find it."

Me: "Can you get a hard copy into my mailbox by 3pm on Friday? It's your last chance."

SS: "Oh yes!...Oh, I also didn't get an email back from my Philosophy professor. Do you think maybe he didn't get my paper either?"


I never did get that essay. But you probably knew that.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Stella from Sparksburg Offers a Colleague the Magic of Silence Pedagogy.

Dear Professor Tightass:

It has come to my attention that you actually take offense at the crap your students give you. Yes, they’re clueless, lying little shits. But it’s nothing personal. So don’t get all wound up, Professor Tightass. Just don’t put up with their crap, don’t get sucked into their sturm and drang, and (this is the most important part) fail every one of them that needs to be failed.

If you don't answer,
they'll still be there.
So, when some student addresses you in an email as “Yo” instead of “Professor Tightass,” or (GASP!) calls you by your first name, and then asks when the final is even though you’ve announced it ten fucking times and it’s on the syllabus in bold red type, don’t throw a hissy fit and get all Strunk and White on their ass. It makes you look like a pompous jerk. (You ARE a pompous jerk, but it’s best if you don’t let your students find that out.) You showed me that email you sent your “offensive, rude” student, an email in which you cited the “proper” way to address one’s professor, and berated the student for not coming to class.

This only makes me think that in addition to being a pompous jerk, you are a clueless fucking moron. Your email isn’t going to make the student sorry. Because they had shit to do. They had some cute girl they met at the Starbucks to bang, and then they had to write bad poetry about it and post it to their blog. Or they had to make profligate use of their fake ID. Your tirade is not going to improve their attitude. It’s just going to make them think you’re an asshole that never gets laid. (You ARE an asshole that never gets laid, but it’s best if you don’t let your students find that out.)

The first rule of teaching, or at least of teaching in the humanities at a small college, is that most of your students don’t want to come to your class, and they certainly don’t want to do any assigned work. If you haven’t assimilated this by now, you’re one numbskulled fucker. This does not have anything to do with you, save for the fact that you’re getting all pissy about it. Your colleagues are no luckier. You are not a member of a special tribe of professors whose students are actually eager to visit their class. You’re not Mr. Chips or Mr. Holland or that Robin Williams imbecile in Dead Poets Society.

You teach core courses and even the ones you teach in the major are required for the dunderhead education majors. No one would be there if they actually had to. Sure, they might smile and seem happy to be there sometimes. But remember this: if they knew they could secretly get an A and never come to class and never do any work, you would never see any of them. Face that fact and make them work anyway. But never, never never take offense when they don’t care. That way lies madness.

But I do feel your pain, Professor Tightass. So what does one do when a student sends an improperly addressed email asking when the final is? I mean, if one doesn’t want to puke forth a self-important, useless, finger-wagging diatribe, that is. What does one do?

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, that’s what one does. One laughs a little secret laugh, and then surfs the internet for Kate Gosselin or Iron Man 2 or celebrity nipples or whatever it is that floats one’s boat.

Silence—the 21st century student cannot abide it. They will eat their own livers if you don’t immediately tell them what they want to know. Ignore the second email, and the third. The day before the final, write them only this: “The date of the final is listed on your syllabus.” Or not. It’s not your problem if Funky Winkerbean is too dumb to read the fucking syllabus.

And cop a clue, Professor Tightass. It ain’t about you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Candy From Casa Grande Captures that Last Minute Grading Angst. And Then Goes Old School With It.

L: I gave you full points on that small extra credit assignment without reading most of it, just because seeing you spell neuroimaging as "Nero imaging" five times in the first paragraph was about to push me over the edge--however, it's not as bad as T, who spelled neuroscience as "neourscine." Thank you both for making me want to run right for for my emergency bottle of Riesling.

A: Sending an extremely rude, entitled email asking if 1.) grades have been posted and then letting me know that 2.) if they have, and you actually got a 0, you really don't think you deserve one and 3.) you demand an explanation---is not the best way to play it, considering grades have NOT yet been posted (the papers haven't even been graded yet), nor are you in any position to make demands. But guess whose paper is going to fall under the most intense scrutiny when it IS graded?

Z: This sentence fragment was taken from one of your essays: "I am spectacle on how reliably it is." No possible excuse could justify this excerpt. God help you.

D: It's "whether or not", NOT "weather or not."

J, E, R, & K: It is listed in the syllabus that the final is non-cumulative. It's states on the course website that the final is non-cumulative. The professor stated in class the first day that the final is non-cumulative. The professor stated the last day of class that the final is non-cumulative. My fellow TA's and I stated in our review session that the final is non-cumulative. But guess what question each one of you desperately emailed me to ask? Yeah, fuck all y'all.

H: Yes, copying and pasting fully 90% of your paper directly from the article does not count as "your" work, but guess what?! It DOES count as a 0 in the gradebook. And no, the fact that you cited the article as a source in your bibliography doesn't change a damn thing.

B: Your writing is so incredibly nonsensical, you might as well have just taken a piece of paper, squatted over it, taken a dump, and handed that in. I'm honestly not sure I could have told the difference.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vashna Reveals Why Colleges That Stoop and Bow Eventually Suck Balls. (She'd Never Say Balls - She's Nice. But We Added "Balls" Because It's Such a Fun Word.)

It’s funny, we often talk about how the students are can’t read, write, and/or think, or about how students are lazy and expect everything to be done/explained for them, but we pretty much discuss this in-house (and anonymously on RYS). But what happens when the word gets out? We don’t really mention that much. But occasionally it DOES happen.

There is a city, somewhere in the US, with this really large employer, G Company. G Company isn’t a very well-run company; largely due to the fact that it’s a REALLY BIG company. But it’s also due to the fact that many of G Company’s hires are based on nepotism, and MOST of G Company’s promotions and raises are based on tenure. G Company doesn’t really care much for performance; they don’t really have a lot of competition.

Working for G Company is CAKE, decent pay, great bennies, and they really can’t fire you (they don’t care about performance, remember!) To work for G Company is the goal of most of the residents of this city. Occasionally G Company may want an employee to have some academic letters by their name, but that’s just for appearances.

And that’s where Letter U comes in! Letter U provides the letters one needs to move forward in G Company. Letter U used to be a fine school. But since its founding, things have changed…. a few academic standards have dropped. But it’s cool though, because the #1 goal is to provide letters (not knowledge) for people who work for G Company: Bachelor’s, Master’s, even PhD’s. You want your letters, come and get’em!

Ever thing is easy-peasy, kosher, copacetic. G Company sends it current employees to Letter U. Letter U sends it’s grads to G Company. It’s symbiotic love fest!

But there are some problems…

  • G Company isn’t the only employer in the city; and
  • Not every student is eventually hired by (or is currently employed at) G Company.

These other companies in the city don't drink the “performance doesn’t matter” Kool-Aid. They want people with degrees to be able to do degree-level work. No ifs, ands, or buts.

And these other employers know that Letter U, quite frankly, SUCKS. Some of the students could not read their way out of a box. They cannot write a professional email, much less a report. AND PLEASE DO NOT EVEN MENTION DATA ANALYSIS!!! Data = Numbers = Kryptonite to a Letter U grad.

And the secret is OUT. Letter U students were sent into the world lacking degree-related skills. The students were hired by employers with expectations that were NOT met. It happened too often and too long. Now the employers have come to know what to expect from a Letter U grad. As a result, these companies do not hire from Letter U. Or if they do, they do not hire Letter U students for the jobs that there degrees should entail. To many Letter U grads (undergraduate AND GRADUATE) are working as Administrative Assistants.

Because Letter U has history, the students aren’t always aware of the Letter U’s current reputation among other employers (although some of the alumni are, and they are NOT happy.) So the students don’t realize that their degree that isn’t going to get them as far as they may think (unless they work for Company G.) Because education IS an investment, and an EXPENSIVE investment, I think it’s a damn shame when it doesn’t enhance a student’s career options.

I used to think that a University was defined by its instructors, its programs, and/or its mission. But I’ve come to the realization that a University is actually defined by its GRADUATES. And every time we pass someone that doesn’t deserve to pass, or we graduate someone that doesn’t have the skills and knowledge expected for the degree we GAVE them, we weaken the reputation of ALL of our graduates. And we do a LONG-TERM, and expensive, disservice to those students who have actually earned their grades and their degree.