Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Motor City Mitch Wonders Why Students Can't Just Hand Him a Freaking Paper in Person. (He Likes to Keep the Email Inbox Clear For Chain Letters.)

Receiving student papers in my email inbox, without warning, is my teaching pet peeve. The attachments don't open, I have to truck up to my networked printer three floors above my office, students skip class because they've turned their papers in electronically. The list of grievances goes on.

My syllabus very clearly says, "DO NOT EMAIL ME YOUR ASSIGNMENTS." In fact, I think I'm pretty nice about it. The actual policy is, "I will not accept any e-mailed assignments unless you have made prior arrangements with me. Repeat: I will not give you credit for e-mailed assignments unless I've given you explicit permission to send the assignment." In addition, at the start of each semester (and periodically throughout), I say in class, "DO NOT EMAIL ME YOUR ASSIGNMENTS." And yet rarely a day goes by when I don't receive some sort of homework in my inbox.

Don't get me wrong -- if a true emergency crops up, I will accept your emailed paper. I had a student whose mother died this week. I did not bitch when she sent me her paper without making advanced arrangements. But the kid who has emailed every assignment for the past two weeks, despite my reminders not to (and my not turning his work back when I hand back papers), is not so lucky. "The computer lab doesn't recognize my flash drive" is not an excuse. E-mail it to yourself, son! If my college email account can open your attachment on a college computer, I bet your college email account can open the attachment on a college computer too. Let's call this what it is: Lazy. I'm sorry you don't have a printer, and I'm sorry that you have to skip my class to leave campus early so you can spend the weekend at home with your girlfriend who is still in high school, and I'm sorry it's inconvenient for you that our class meets in the basement and the computer lab is on the third floor. But guess what: None of these things are my problem!

I think my students are under the mistaken impression that the college is made of money and all the professors have printers in their offices. They stare incredulously when they come in for conferences empty-handed and can't print drafts they've emailed themselves, or saved on their little allotment of the campus drive, or transported on their flash drives. (Well, they CAN print, but then they have to walk up three floors to retrieve their document from the networked printer my computer is hooked up to -- which is just as much work as if they'd printed the damn thing in the lab in the first place.) "Wow," they say. "You got it rough. You gotta go way up there every time you print? That suuuuuuucks!"

But do they remember this conversation a few days later? No. No, they do not. Their revised papers (a term I use lightly) still show up in my inbox because they were too lazy to walk up three floors to the computer lab to print before class. Funny how three floors is such a burden to them, but somehow it's not to me...

I have a colleague who only grades the first page of any assignments that aren't stapled. I need to think of an equivalent policy for the emailed assignments, because giving 0s obviously isn't having an impact -- probably because they forget they ever turned anything in, so they don't notice when they don't get anything back.