Friday, February 27, 2009

The Bitchy Bear of Boston on Bowls, Owls, And The Need to Protect Those Precious Snowflakes Through The Kind of Coddling Any Real Mommy Would Expect.

As is entirely too frequent in all of our lives, I had to confront and sanction a plagiarizing student this week. Keep in mind that this was a lame-ass assignment for a lame-ass class, the sort of class that most donkeys could pass if their parents were capable of writing checks for tuition. This particular assignment required a student to take five--count 'em--five whole digital pictures and required at a maximum--a maximum--of 300 words. Rather than take the digital photos himself, Snowy decided to take images off of Google. And of course, he used the first few images that show up on Google images, as he didn't have enough gumption to scroll. Then, he ripped off text from the web pages to describe the photos. He couldn't manage a whole five sentences for his own captions.

I confronted dear Snowy and his response was: "You didn't say we couldn't take text from websites." He says this, and I start to feel one of the veins in my temple give way. This is a 20 year-old person. Help me, God, please God help not to dope slap him because I am pretty sure that would tip off my colleagues to how I really feel rather than all the student-centered bullcrap I wrote in my teaching statement. This problem here, I guess, is entirely my fault. Instead of feeling...oh, I don't know....something even remotely socially appropriate like shame, Snowy is angry with me.

Suddenly, the weight of the world began to bear down on me much more as I thought of all the many things I have neglected to tell my students not to do. I have never told them not to come to class with a salad bowl on their heads. I have never told them not to spend their entire allowance on cookie sprinkles and pinking shears. I have never, not once, not ever told them not to stand in traffic and not to put out their cigarettes on another human being's head. I've never told them not to use bourbon in a martini. I've never warned them not to write their problem sets in blue eyeshadow. I never told them not to shove their keys in a light socket. Do you see the problem here? Because of me, and my failures as an instructor and, let's face it, as a human being, one of my students, right now, could be posing as a naked taxi driver in Tijuana all because I never told him not to! AIGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGH. There could be another student using nailclippers to trim hedges because I didn't tell her not to. The inefficiency! One of mine could be out there, right now, poking at owls with an umbrella because of my inability to make my expectations clear. Was I raised by wolves? It's like I have no social conscience whatsoever! Here I was, thinking about my own stupid little problems like paying rent and getting tenure, instead of thinking about what they shouldn't do.

So if you ever encounter a naked taxi driver or particularly confused-looking owl, you'll know who to blame.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Prof. Pedro Shares Another Email We'd All Love to Send.

Hello Prof. Pedro,

I have some questions I would like to go over with you before the midterm. Given that the lineup for your office hours will most likely be long, I was wondering if you could set aside, at most, an hour to go over my questions. Wednesday between 11:30am - 4pm works, and anytime on Thursday or Friday. This would be greatly appreciated.

Many Thanks,
Snowy Snowflake.


Hi Snowy.

What do I look like? Fuckin' Phantom of the Opera? Bring your American Express Platinum Card to skip to the Front of the Line? How are you more special, more deserving of my precious time than the huddled masses, your poor peers, camped outside my office?

Speaking of time, it's kind of you to limit your questions to "at most, an hour." Let's see. I've got 360 students this term. There are 168 hours in a week. Do the fuckin' math! How come you didn't show up to the office hours I had over the past 6 weeks? Oh right. Its midterm time. No one shows up for 6 weeks, then everyone shows up, then no one shows up again until final exam time. You guys call it "Just In Time" learning.

What about the hours I already put into digesting the textbook and writing up notes, and screen capturing my lectures so you could watch them anytime day or night? What about the hours proofing and posting the publisher's end-of-chapter question solutions, pulling together the bank of old midterm exams (with solutions!), and the 10,000 questions I've already answered on the Goddamn course discussion board?! Those are hours out of my precious life I'm not getting back anytime soon. One hour spent writing up a "homework helper" document kills more birds than one hour spent with you. "Wednesday between 11:30am - 4pm works." No, it sure as shit doesn't.

I have office hours from 11:00 'til 2:00 (or didn't you read that broadcast message to the class) followed by 1/2 an hour of "prep" (read: go pee, wash hands, and have a quick bite to eat - in that order) before I start teaching at 2:30 and go until 7:00. Take your American Express Plutonium Card and see if you've got enough points to buy yourself a clue. This would be greatly appreciated.

Many Thanks,
Prof. Pedro.

Monday, February 23, 2009

On the Sundress.

  • I've been a rabid critic of this site from the beginning, but I can't argue with how great Doug from Daytona's post was over the weekend. That was really touching and something any "proffie" can appreciate. Well done to him for writing it, and to you for publishing it.

  • The piece on the sundress was brilliant. Bravo.

  • I loved Daytona Doug's post on the yellow sundress. It highlights so much about the dynamic of professors and students. We forget that these are young people, unschooled in so many ways. It takes wisdom and real caring to help them instead of abusing them. I think Doug is to be commended.

  • I want to thank Doug for telling that story. I am a female graduate student in the Midwest and that story resonated with me in a very personal way. I won't go into details, but that story showed real humanity, something which I've seen too little of in my time as a student.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Doug From Daytona And the Shame of a Sundress.

Your recent discussions about classroom / student nudity generated a real uneasy memory for me, and I thought I'd share it with your readers.

I had been teaching for 2 years when I got my first real-live look at a student's bosom. It was a singular moment in my life, but not in the way you'd probably imagine.

I was 28, single, and the idea of scooping up some of the sorority candy for myself was always a temptation. I'd never had the courage or the bad sense to do it, thank goodness, but it was a titillating notion nonetheless.

On final exam day, in what remains a confusing slice of time, the most gorgeous student in my current class came to my office nearly in tears. She'd finished the final earlier, and had realized that she had likely failed. She had struggled all semester, but had sought help from the tutoring center to stay right on the pass/fail line. But the final had convinced her she was overmatched, and her story tumbled out of her: abusive father, disapproving mother, siblings who thought she was a stuck up bitch because she was going to college, dope-smoking friends, and a boyfriend who liked to fuck her sister as much as possible.

It was all delivered through sobs, and it was extremely uncomfortable. I said the normal platitudes about "let's see how the grade comes out," and "I'm not a counselor, but I can call someone at the college," etc.

And then it happened.

She was stunning, and dressed in a flowered sundress that showed off her figure, her tan, and her youth. She reached to one strap of the dress and lowered it, showing me her breasts. All the while she continued to sob. I felt a sickness in the pit of my stomach about the inhuman people who surrounded this young girl who'd somehow created an environment where this sort of behavior was an option. I felt such shame for many earlier thoughts I'd had about this student, other students, really mere girls who were not yet women, not yet real adults. The scene felt perverted, ugly, sick, and I hated myself for having been attracted to her and any other young girls in my classes in my short career.

I stood up quickly, told her to cover herself, dragged a female colleague from down the hallway to join us, and we finished a very brief and awkward conversation about waiting to see the final grades before anything else.

The young girl sat in front of the two of us, sheepish, still crying, and then left. She failed the final and the class. I saw her name on my class roster for the next semester but she never showed.

I never saw her again on campus, and never found out what happened to her.

I've never forgotten her, though, and am grateful to her for the lesson she taught me. A semester doesn't go by that a double of hers - always 18, always in a yellow sundress - doesn't stroll through my field of vision in a classroom or on campus. And I think of her, and hope that she is well.

Edna With Some Last Thoughts on Ophelia From Oxnard. "We Have Sold Part Of Our Soul."

The kind of burnout you are talking about has nothing to do with teaching online. Anyone who has had to work on no matter what, as in continuing to attend to the job during a family crisis, know how this feels. So in some respects it is likely the combination of grief and the general lack of ability of students to look at an instructor and cut them some slack.

That said- here’s some harsh words from a woman who has been working forever: personal problems are personal problems whether you are teaching or working in a bank or welcoming people to Wal-mart. These days, I teach. I have a great gig. I’m full time. However, I have personal leave that I’m encouraged not to take. I have sick days that no one wants me to use. I have official office hours, but I’m supposed to hang around all day. I have only one class on Friday, but I’m supposed to be there all day and if I leave early on a Friday afternoon, everyone acts like I’m taking a holiday. So it’s not the stingy online college – it’s the reality that when we sign on the bottom line, we have sold part of our soul.

Students, snowflakes or otherwise, don’t understand this yet. Life is still up for grabs. Nothing really comes to an end for most of them if, for instance, they don’t finish an assignment. They may, or may not, flunk a class. While it will catch up with them, it is more like a pin prick as compared to having a vein opened when you lose a teaching gig or really get in trouble with a boss. Additionally, the efforts of others is nothing to them. I suspect this has a lot to do with the new idea that students are customers. Considering most of us are trying to keep our institutions afloat during an economic downturn, their rising customer status may be true. It still, in my not so humble opinion, comes back to the harsh reality that most of us are teaching various levels of the Entitlement Generation. Whether they are older EGs or younger EGs doesn’t matter. It’s all about them, everybody owes them, and nothing is important unless they are going to benefit from them immediately. They don’t know what it means to be disappointed, turned down or denied. They don’t value learning or understand why it is necessary.

I really think we ought to be able to hit them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Support for Ophelia.

We've received a number of supportive notes for Ophelia from Oxnard. We've chosen to feature this longer post:

I am sorry to hear about the loss of your mom. My sincere condolences. I'm so sorry to hear that you couldn't take the briefest leave of absence from your online teaching to attend to your mom's hospitalization, hospice stay, death and then funeral. It must have been agonizing to continue online teaching under such stressful circumstances. And I'm so sorry that while you did your best to fulfill your half of the bargain, you students did not fulfill their half of the bargain. I have also taught online and can relate. Your story reminds me that an online professor's unspoken social contract with one's students is tenuous at best.

Those of us who teach online teach naked. The online professor is stripped of the support system that comes with a normal teaching job - namely an office, a computer, internet access, telephone, office supplies, admin support and, last but not least, a community of colleagues. All of that, the support provided as a matter of course to the normal professor, the online professor must somehow provide for him or herself. You have no one to turn to for anything, except yourself. You even have to find a way to pay your own health insurance and fund your 401K. You are teaching without a net, and no-one is there to catch you if you should need some help, as you needed when your mom suddenly got sick. But you tell yourself that teaching this way is going to be OK. An unspoken bargain is thus struck. You will do your job and the students will do the work. When you fulfill your end of the bargain, and they fulfill theirs, things feel alright. You are clothed in the knowledge that, at the least, your efforts are valued by your students, whose questions you thoughtfully answer, and whose papers and tests you carefully grade.

By not doing their work when you -- against all odds! -- did yours, your students exposed the shallow social contract that binds together online professors and students. As you write, "Why should I want to help students -- why did I go out of my way to help them -- if they in turn treat the class like this?" You had already suffered enough indignity in the form of low pay, no benefits, and no support system. The institution who hired you offered you NOTHING when you needed to do something that normal human beings occasionally need to do -- attend to the ill, bury the dead, grieve. The students were all you had left to keep you motivated, and they failed to live up to their part of the bargain. Your grief is entirely understandable.

Ophelia, I am so, so sorry. I wish that we were colleagues who taught under normal circumstances. I would have filled in for you, and you probably would have done the same for me.

I can't offer much by way of comforting words. All I know if that this is not the way its supposed to be.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Kennewick Kennedy Gets a Little Old School Punishment.

Are you not keen enough to realize "super keener" is a derogatory term meaning "grade grubbing snowflaky pain in the ass, distinguished from the others by test scores and little else"?

We already know what you're talking about. That's what makes you a super-keener. You think you have super-keen insight on something that didn't occur to us. Yeah, yeah, the mind is the sexiest organ - we know. We had crushes too you know. You acknowledge that you yourself knew not to send e-mail requests for dates - that's what this issue was about. The direct solicitation - not the thoughts in the young lad's head.

Do you really think a super-keener with a crush would send an e-mail request for a date? No, they wouldn't. Super-keeners are annoying, not stupid. It's apples and oranges, sweetie. Someone keen enough to be turned on by their professor's intellectual achievements won't be confused by "the adult-student/professor relationship." Only a horny moron who thinks his teacher is hot and/or needs to get laid is that dumb. In which case, they don't deserve your apologetic super-keener-food-for-thought consideration. They hate you for ruining the curve, don't waste your time making excuses for them.

Now go back to writing something that will make the professor who wrote you one of those recommendations for grad-school put the letter opener down and live to get hit on one more time.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ophelia From Oxnard on Online Burnout.

I teach online, for a mainly online university. For the most part, I enjoy it -- I like getting to teach in my jammies, most of my students are older and more mature, and I have a lot of flexibility.

However, I recently came up against one of the big pitfalls of teaching online, and I am left feeling frustrated and burned out.

Two weeks ago, I received The Call. My mother, 1500 miles away, had been taken to the ER, and it didn't look good. This was a Sunday, so I contacted the school, knowing I wouldn't hear from them until the next day. In the meantime, I had no choice -- I had to grade.

The next day, I received my official answer: There's no way to get a sub. Either I give the class to someone else completely, or I just work through it. Given that I need my paycheck, and I do enjoy the work and would want to return to the class (it was half-way over), I decided to just keep working. But I felt quite frustrated at such a system -- surely there has to be a better way to help online instructors who are experiencing a family emergency?

In the meantime, I had to make arrangements to fly out to see Mom. I did let me students know something was up, though I didn't give them any details. And to their credit, quite a few offered good wishes, prayers, and vibes.

While my mother was dying at the hospice, I went into the family room to use their computers to get some work done. The day after she died, I spent hours (8 or 10) going through her apartment, then came back to the hotel to spend another 3 or 4 hours grading and answering student questions.

When I got home from her funeral (I read "Death Be Not Proud" of course), I was back online, taking care of class stuff.

Now I am home, and trying to get caught up with my work. But my students make it difficult. I find it hard to answer questions that seem to me quite trivial -- if I had less control or more alcohol, all of my answers would read, "Who cares, my mom just died?"

What takes the cake, what has burned me to a crisp is this: They had a huge assignment -- 10% of their grade -- due this weekend, a week after my mom's funeral. I reminded them about it several times, wrote some helpful hints (by hints, I mean answers), did everything I could to make it easy on them (and me). And yet I get the same excuses, the same late papers. One student hadn't turned it in because they hadn't time to answer questions because they'd been busy shoveling snow. And another didn't turn it in because they'd forgotten where the file was saved. And others just didn't turn it in at all.

And I think to myself, "I should care, why?" Why should I care about any of this? Why should I want to help students -- why did I go out of my way to help them -- if they in turn treat the class like this? I spent so much energy trying to get my work done, and students can't even bother to remember where they saved their files?

I don't know what to think. I need my job; I can't quit. I used to enjoy teaching, even though I've had my share of snowflakes. But now, nothing. Maybe it's just grief talking, but I don't even care if I care again.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Ignorance IS Easier." We Always Knew It.

I teach the U.S. history survey, and my students are reading Howard Zinn as one of their texts. They were asked the following question as part of their homework on a Zinn reading:

"Why were workers attracted to socialism? Why did businessmen find it threatening? What did it threaten?"

I got this response: "I really do not understand what socialism entirely. The word seems to be thrown around in literature and politics that I really cannot grasp what it's supposed to mean. So to save myself the agony of doing hours of reading, I'm not going to answer this question. Sorry."

Part of me applauds the student's refreshing honesty while the rest of his classmates simply pretend to give a shit while handing in BS answers. But the rest of me dies a little more inside as I struggle to stay excited about teaching students like this.

First, his assertion that the answer would take hours of reading is crap -- the answer was easily found in the chapter they were supposed to have read, and his classmates answered it fairly easily.

But what if I had asked a question that required outside knowledge? Oh, the agony of "hours of reading!" Heaven forbid I ask such a thing!

OMG, I might have to READ stuff...that's HARD...and takes up the time I could be using to play Guitar Hero or mess around on Facebook!!!! :(

The thing that most gets me is that the student identifies socialism as something he's heard a lot about and doesn't understand completely, but probably should. But instead of finding out just what it is and why people are talking about it, he's decided that ignorance is easier. Ah, yes -- a big lesson of college.

Ignorance IS easier, my friend, so drink it in. And I'm sure your future boss will appreciate your desire to only do the easy tasks because the rest of your job is too hard. See how that goes, 'kay? In the meantime, I'm not going to put myself through the hours of agony reading your papers and assignments. I'll just give them an F. "Sorry."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ewan from Evansville On Gradflakes, Gossip, and Humanity.

Ah, man. I thought that graduate students like myself were going to dodge the shots being fired in the proffie-snowflake wars, but then those two gradflakes had to show up and ruin everything.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that the grad students in question have never worked in an office--or even retail. Don't they know that finding out dirty secrets about one's co-workers--i.e.,gossip--is one of life's greatest pleasures and one of the only ways to climb the career ladder? Not only does gossiping go a long way toward replacing the novels and TV shows that grad students shouldn't have time to consume as a source of cheap entertainment, it is also, as Bitchy Bear suggests, an early warning system.

The other two scenarios--the partner in the hospital and the usually close-lipped proffie who starts talking about his dying pet--are not"oversharing", dearies. Finding out that a professor's husband/wife/fellow cultist/whatever is in the hospital is a clue that you should a) make sympathetic noises, b) buy and send a sympathy card, and possibly c) volunteer to do something nice, like order flowers or stop whining about conference deadlines. Even in the most cutthroat law firm, you'd at least say "I'm sorry to hear that." Learning that little fact might even explain why the proffie only read the first five hundred pages of your dissertation draft. In the second scenario, you're being let in to the private life of an obviously private person. Sure, a dying pet is not (automatically) in the same league as the wife-in-hospital scenario, but it's clearly meaningful to the proffie, so you should again be sympathetic and humane.

Anyway, gradflakes, I'd like to thank you for confirming the stereotypes that all grad students are self-obsessed, vain, and insular jerks. How else are we supposed to interpret a line of thought that says "What does that mean for me?" is a justifiable response to another human being saying that something bad is happening in his or her life.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Decatur Dana, Who We Hear LOVES Both Her Moniker AND Her Photo, Spills Some Live Energy on A Recent Student Eval.

You prissy, petulant, privileged bastard. You do not even realize your own insipid idiocy. I just received your evaluation (yes, they're anonymous, and yes, we can tell):

This is my 3rd sem here, and Prof Dana is my least favorite teacher ever. She is very demanding and mean. She one time said to us "If you don't do yer work, you maze well stay home." SHE DOES NOT GRADE ON EFFORT! [double underlined for emphasis] She grades on if you write like she tells u 2.

Not only does your evaluation's tone imply that you think you have some kind of special importance to this institution's hiring and firing policies ("What? She's your LEAST FAVORITE? She's outta here!!"), but it presents as a scathing indictment what is actually just evidence that I am doing my fucking job. From your evaluation, one can gather that I: 1) expect students to do the work and contribute to class; 2) do not grade based on that which I cannot know, see, or touch (the ever-elusive "effort"); and 3) teach students about writing and expect them to use these new skills, evaluating them accordingly. So you see, you have just guaranteed that someone knows that I am doing what I should be doing. Thank you. But you are still one ignorant asshole.

I only wish that you would have had the chutzpah to say this to my face. I would have added that you in particular could fuck off, since the only thing you succeeded at during the term was being a constant, disruptive nuisance who made college-level teaching feel like the worst baby-sitting gig ever. You're used to teachers who give you grades for just being the childish, immature brat that you are. How dare anyone suggest that your mere groggy, glass-eyed presence and self-reported "effort" wasn't enough to earn you a pretty little A!?

You don't know why you're in college. You don't want to be in college. You do not have the intellectual ability or the drive to be in college. Please leave. Learn something. Read something. Or just go smoke a bowl in a basement somewhere. But don't walk around acting like you belong where you clearly do not. And by the way, you want to know what three of your classmates listed as the class's main weakness? You.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mitch from the Motor City Writes us From the Learning Ghetto.

"I stand in the ghetto classroom -- 'the guest speaker' -- attempting to lecture on the mystery of the sounds of our words to rows of diffident students....In the face of their empty stares, I try to create enthusiasm. But the girls in the back row turn to watch some boy passing outside. There are flutters of smiles, waves....But only one student seems to be listening....In this room her eyes shine with ambition. She keeps nodding and nodding at all that I say; she even takes notes. And each time I ask a question, she jerks up and down in her desk like a marionette, while her hand waves over the bowed heads of her classmates."

This is the opening to Richard Rodriguez's "The Achievement of Desire." It is also an accurate description of my expository writing classes yesterday, minus the ghetto and the lecture topic and the guest speaker bit. And the windows. Our classroom has no windows.

It's interesting that my classes acted this way when they had done this exact reading for today. Or maybe it isn't, since only five students out of thirty-four bothered to read, as far as I can tell.

I am sitting in my office right now. I am too pissed off at my students to read the essays they turned in a few days ago; I'm worried I'll take my frustration out on their grades, which isn't fair --especially since the essay is unrelated to the reading they didn't do.

I want to throttle them, all of them. I want to tell them that yes, expository writing is a general ed requirement and I know they're only in my class because the college says they have to be. I also want to tell them that I have some knowledge to share with them, and since they show up three times a week (like it or not), they may as well get something out of it. I wish there was some way to get through to them that they can only benefit from doing the reading, paying attention in class, and contributing to the conversation. Why bother getting out of bed for an 8:00 class if you're just going to stare at the teacher like a zombie anyway? And that $35,000/year tuition payment? (Well,OK, that figure includes housing...) If you don't read, don't think,and don't participate, you're flushing your loan money (and the future interest!) down the toilet. And why buy that $60 book if you're never going to open it?

"I got bored."

"It was too long."

"The words were too big."

You were bored by the reading? 15 pages was too long? The words were too big? Excuses. This all means, "I'm lazy." I was doing 15-page readings in junior high. I learned how to use a dictionary in second grade. And you were bored? Oh, no, that doesn't fly. Unless you are brain dead, there's plenty to mull over in Rodriguez: race and class, for starters. If you're completely uninterested by race issues and class issues (especially when you go to school in a small, rich, white community just outside of a big, poor, black metropolis) then get out of college. And what about all the other issues in there? Education. Privilege. Culture. Language. Family. Values. Family values.

I swear, if it doesn't involve a football or Britney Spears, there's just no hope. The weird thing is, this is my eighth time teaching this piece. Never before have I had a class react this way. In the past,though, my students were of a different demographic; this is only my first semester teaching expository writing at my new college. Is it something in these kids' backgrounds, which don't really seem that different from my previous students' backgrounds, that make them react so adversely to Rodriguez? Or is it something in the water?

I guess we need to have a talk at the start of our next class about personal responsibility, maturity, being open to new experiences, challenging ourselves, and what it means to be a college student. How absolutely lame. I may have to stick the gun in my mouth when we get to the part about how they're only cheating themselves.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

So, Is Doris a Jerk, Or What? Results from "Take The Test!"

Many folks wanted to comment on Ditzy Doris, but we've settled on these three, which seem to cover most of the responses we saw.

  • Okay, I'll take the test. In the salad bar scene, Doris was being a jerk. It's not her role on campus to correct the etiquette of every student who is impolite. She'd never have time for anything else. It sounds to me like she was annoyed by her day, took it out on some kids, and got called on it. So, yeah, she was a jerk at the salad bar. As for being called "darlin'," well that's a different matter. Women are routinely (and so casually) treated so poorly in the professional world, that I understand her pain there. I'm sure someone will say otherwise, but that man who used the condescending, limiting, and minimizing term for Doris is used to being deferred to, and Doris had every right to be brusque. I'd have turned my back on him and let him deal with the copier himself...he's the jerk in this scenario.

  • I think students at a college or university would do well to see their superiors as their superiors wherever they see them. I'm not fond of all the military uniforms running around campus (are the Crosstown Rivals mounting a siege or something?) but the military offers an apt parallel: when the enlisted pass officers, in uniform, anywhere, it's "sir" or "ma'am." Students can tell most of the time when the person addressing them is a proffie--you address them as you would a student, respectfully, but authoritatively--and they should take the cue and reply accordingly. Why? Because it's a good skill to know. They could end up in your class, and you, being empowered to treat them, within broad boundaries, anyway you want, will use just a tiny bit of that encounter to inform your behavior. Later on, they might say something similar to the CFO--and they'll be fired, or passed over, or just gossiped about, because they don't know their place. Yeah, yeah--we've gotten passed all that, right? Well, when it comes to stuff between institutional equals like gender and race, we have. But when it comes to differences of power--real, legitimate power, based on knowledge and/or authority--students could learn a good lesson in identifying, respecting, and responding appropriately to it. If that jerk Barack is in line behind them, and they fart around, they'd better call him "Mr. President"; to do otherwise is just plain rude. P.S. You can call the president Ben or Rick or Mr. Hotpants if you want to, if he says, "call me Mr. Hotpants," but you, too, would do well not to lose sight of the fact that if he decides he doesn't like your face, you're back to writing posts about how much the job search sucks.

  • Oh, the disrespect...oh the shame of it. I must tell you that there is so much handwringing in academe about what we're called and how we're treated. Seriously, is this what bugs people? Ditzy Doris surely has something more vital to worry about than if she is called a jerk when SHE COMPLETELY FUCKING ACTS LIKE A JERK. So, it's a kid who reveals this to you? So what. I'm 100% behind the notion that Doris is mad at the salad bar kid because down deep she knows she's a jerk. As for the old guy who called her "Darlin'." Please, get over yourself. That's a locution that in my experience is pretty harmless. Now if he did it with a leer and a bulge in his pants - which I'm pretty sure Ditzy Doris would have regaled us with - then it's something else. But I'm 100% behind the notion that it was just an older gentlemen actually trying to be courteous. I know it sounds strange to some, but I'm from Midwest and we used those terms there when I was a kid, too. I'd recommend that anyone who's on Dr. Ditzy's side on this one - because I wouldn't want to presume to call her Doris! - just relax a bit. What we're called shouldn't get in the way of what we really are.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Take This Test! Am I Crazy, Or What?" Maggie From Muncie on Terms of Address, Salad Bar Etiquette, and, Darlin', What to Call Folks.

I spend most days trying to think up new features for RYS. I figure if I do you'll eventually publish one of my fantastic posts!!!! Anyway, while reading one of my favorite academic blogs - and I won't tell you which one - I found myself saying, "This is a world gone mad!"

The situation described and the blogger's response seemed so out of whack with each other that I thought that somebody had to be crazy...either me or the blogger. Now I know I'm aiiiiright, but I still wanted to check.

Okay, said blogger, let's call her Dizzy Doris, recently complained on her blog about being called names. In one case she got called a "jerk" by a student, and once got called "Darlin'" by a professor she didn't know. Okay, context.

Dizzy Doris was waiting in line at the salad bar or whatever, and some students in front of her were taking their own sweet time. Doris was in a hurry because some major literature research had to be done, or her cat had to go to the vet, or whatever, and so she says (in what she admits was an "annoyed" voice to the assembled students): "It's impolite to loiter in front of the salad bar when there are people waiting."

So one of the dears said, "You don't have to be a jerk about it." She didn't know the student, but fixed the perpetrator with her eyes in case he ever should have the misfortune to darken her classroom door.

Take this test! Am I crazy, or is Doris really a jerk?

Obviously I'm a proffie, too, but in the lunch room, walking across campus, doing the stair-climber, I'm just another denizen of Campusville. Is it possible Doris was in full teaching mode in a situation where she should have just waited 9 more seconds for a crack at the crouton bowl?

In the other name calling incident, Doris was doing her business in her department's work room when another professor (one she did not know, and who, presumably, didn't know her) asked her help operating a piece of equipment, copier, Scantron, whatever. He used the term, "Darlin'" as he asked. Okay, he's in his 60s. Doris huffed and puffed, gave a "brusque" response, and then fretted the rest of the day away at the man's impertinence.

Take this test! Am I crazy, or is Doris a jerk on this one, too?

I'm old enough, and from a part of the country where it was common for "Darlin'," and "Honey" to be thrown around, man to woman, woman to woman, even sometimes man to man. Someone who's 60 might conceivably have been using the term in this way, friendly, even a form of "Southern polite" and not as some kind of gender-rich attack on Ditzy Doris.

I happen to be in a new position after 7 years at another school where forms of address were remarkably stilted and professional. (I had one colleague who called me Dr. Maggie whenever any student was within a nautical mile of us!) But at my new college - which I love, thank God - people are pretty informal. Students use first names on proffies who offer the opportunity, and I call the President and Dean: Rick and Ben.

I know some profs are sensitive about being shown a proper amount of respect, whether it's the form of address or whatever, but as I read these 2 stories I just felt that I was missing something. Help me if you can...

And if you don't publish THIS piece, then you're jerks, too... (No, kidding...really, Darlin'.)