Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Life In the Pissant Swamp: Don't Take No Plug Nickels and Don't Try to Give Students Extra Sympathy and Empathy...

There are a zillion stories in the Pissant Swamp.
This is just one of them.

Once upon a time I created a magical and romantic vision of college teaching. I came to believe that because I still had an intellectual's and a student's mentality, that I, should I ever become a college teacher, could have this wonderful relationship with those who I might have the opportunity to teach. Well I became a college teacher though, by the 1980s, it was largely against my better judgement. By that time I had grown more than disillusioned with academia and had, by that point, came to understand what the ivy tower really was, a provincial place dominated by pettiness, Machiavellianism, political correctness, cocktail activism, and a variety of other sillinesses I saw during graduate school. By the 1990s I had also grown disillusioned with students. This semester has reminded me why I had become so cynical about students in the first place and why I came to believe that one shouldn't try to be too sympathetic with students because that sympathy will be repaid many times over with sophistry, anger, threats, and whinging on a soap opera scale.

I remember that day in the 1980s--it was an Introductory Cultural Anthropology class--on which I discovered something about students I had not known previously or even imagined about students. It was in the 1980s that I had a student come to my office hours and cry because she had received a 16 out of 20 on an assignment that was one-fifth of here total grade. Well things haven't changed in the pissant swamp because this year I had a student do the exact same thing as that student some thirty years before, I had a student cry about his grade on a paper that once again was one-fifth of his grade once again.

For some reason I wanted to travel back in time and try to be less cynical about students. This semester despite what my syllabus said I did not follow through on my policy of not accepting late papers. This cynic, apparently, still has a hard time having such a negative impact on a students educational life. I allowed students to do extra credit papers in order to raise their participation score. I allowed students to go to any one of three of my final exam dates.

So what did I get from admittedly a minority of students in return for what I thought was sympathy and empathy? I got myself much more work but no more pay, which is meagre at MicroMegaStateUniversity. I got bit in the arse. I got in the vicinity of ten students hand their last assignment in late. I had around 6 students who handed it in wrong. I got a student who did his first three Blackboard assignments right but got his fourth assignment wrong on Blackboard. When given late points he went to my Departmental Chair, threatened to go to the Dean, and claimed that others whom he talked with about his situation said they agreed with him not me. He claimed not to know what "write submission" meant in the Blackboard assignment page. He yelled at me. He screamed at me. He said in effect that my job made me unsympathetic to his, a poor person's, plight. Ironically, I am a part-time teacher partially by choice, and I make a pittance for being a college teacher. I got a student, in other words, who would not take responsibility for his failure to do something the right way on Blackboard and who wanted me to restore points to his grade thereby, in effect, asking for special treatment because he did not ask me to restore the points to other students who did exactly the same thing he did. I got several students who did not participate in class but who still expected a good grade in the participation component of their grade. I got students who again and again did not tell me which of the three classes they were in when they communicated with me via email. I got students who failed to find the classroom in which my Wednesday final took place. I got a student who may have stole one of my exams and who may be planning to give it to the students who have not yet took their finals. In this term and in previous terms I got students who committed plagiarism and a few who continued to do so even after I gave them a free get out of gaol warning the first time around. The plagiarism got so bad that I had to turn the plagiarists in to the student affairs bureaucracy on campus.

My New Year's Resolution this year is to stick to my guns and not accept any late papers, not allow students to do extra credit, and not allow students to come to the final of their choice. Next term I may be next years Ebenezer Scrooge or Mr. Burns if I only have the cojones. Bah humbug.

Any resemblance between this blog post and reality is purely coincidental.

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