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The Terrible Trio

Meetings with the three students who participated in the mini-outburst in class the other night were mixed.

One student was very reasonable, asked me to reconsider the grade on a paper she’d submitted a long time before, and said that she felt the emotional hysterics of the evening before were out of line.

The second student, once she saw that the main reason her grade had tanked, and that a higher grade on her final paper wouldn’t make a difference, acquiesced quickly and left.

The third student, however, decided to make things as uncomfortable as she could. She questioned my grading system for absences and for the blog, tried to reason that by virtue of relatively good grades on submitted homework, and looked for everything else she could criticize while ignoring the fact that she hadn’t worked on a term-long cumulative assignment that she knew very well had been assigned, and which she didn’t even sign up to begin working on until the last month of the course. After being told repeatedly to do so, and ignoring my repeated instructions for weeks on end, she had the gall to complain that she deserved a better grade.

The amusing, aw-cute thing I can add is the story I was told this evening in the office. I heard that the other students in the class all felt quite embarrassed about the outburst, some of them so taken aback that they were discussing how to make it up to me. Even people who aren’t in the class were shocked about the outburst, and discussing how to make it up to me! (The secretary in the department told me that she heard some students she knows discussing the whole situation, in tones of mortification at the disrespect these students showed me.) This goes to show you how downright nice most of the students I teach are, though personally I would prefer they spent the time right now preparing for all their other exams.

There’s another interesting story I can relate about the third student, who I really would prefer never to teach again (though I will try to give her a clean slate if she enrolls in one of my classes again). It seems that in the past, she was a member of the student government, and a favorite student of a previous professor who’s no longer with us. The professor once mentioned in conversation that he tended to give her slightly preferential treatment because, after all, she was doing such hard work in student government. But it turns out that in fact she did a hatchet job in student government, and that one of the professors I work with had to do most of the job for her, in fact. So it seems this student got the benefits of being in student government, without having to do much of the work, and now she thinks that she is entitled to an easy ride through her last year because she is “preparing to get a job”.

That brings to mind how she really didn’t like when I noted that one student already has a job, works at the airport, but that he more than fulfilled the expectations of that assignment by working hard at it through the whole semester. Man, she had nothing to say to that except to take potshots — rather idiotic ones, I might add — at how I evaluate the attendance grade: she figured since there are 48 hours in a semester, each absence should be worth around 2% of the attendance grade, which makes no sense since students get an FA — a failure-by-attendance — for missing a mere 12 hours of class. Oh, and the complaint that citation is not important in an essay, and that it was a mistake — when, in class, after I asked her, “Where’s the citation?” she showed me the Works Cited page, and when I asked again, “Where is the citation in your text? Where does your paraphrase begin and end?” she neither knew what I meant, not could pinpoint the beginning or end of the paraphrase. She claimed that a sentence that ran, “Scientists have recently announced that French fries cause cancer,” as common knowledge, and implied I was being unfair for penalizing her the same way I did other students who failed to use citations properly. She even complained, with tears in her eyes, when I offered to change her grade on the essay to a slightly higher grade, because she knew very well it wouldn’t increase her grade significantly… because it was the simple, straightforward fact she hadn’t done the blogging homework that had dragged her grade from an A to a C+.

Ah well. The hard part is banishing this crap from my mind, and remembering how the other eleven students in the class worked hard, accepted their very fair grades with grace and dignity and respect, and how they felt mortified at this silliness in the class. Drama Princesses flipping because suddenly things aren’t handed to them on a silver platter is not even worth the energy it takes to watch till the end of the outburst. Such a lesson I learn, whilst running about frantically preparing to leave town.

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