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Friday, December 19, 2014

I'm glad I came

I've been here since about noon. I grant you, I spent some time chatting with Kristin (OK, bitching about students with Kristin); I wrote a letter of recommendation for my lovely student from Fiction Writing--and I wrote a few e-mails (more about those in a minute). But mostly, I've been grading papers and crunching final numbers--and it's now almost 7. If I'd tried to get it all done on Monday--even if Advisement were utterly empty--I wouldn't have had time and would have had to take papers and paperwork with me on the plane, then express mail it back. I've done that before, and it is invariably a disaster. But now, it really is all over but the shouting. The papers and stories have been read and graded. The marks have been entered on the paper sheets that (idiotically) we still have to keep and submit to the Registrar. All that remains is for me to enter final grades into Banner, which I will do on Monday.

As for Miss Attitude, I had to explain to her twice why she was failing the class, despite "all the work" she did. (As a point of comparison, I'd be very interested to see what she thinks it looks like to not do the work....) At the end of the second explanation, I said I would engage in no further discussion and reminded her that I'm actually doing her a favor to allow her to withdraw--so she knew her options. There was a pause in the rapid-fire exchange of e-mails, then she wrote to ask me where to come to get the withdrawal done. And indeed, she showed up at my office right when she said she'd be there with the form in hand. I just checked on Banner, and she is officially withdrawn from the course, as is the Young Intellectual. So, that's that.

I also had to engage in a rather annoying e-mail exchange with a student from the second 101 session. I've not talked about him: sweet kid, very quiet--but in his final paper, he was not careful about using quotation marks and citations in his work. I warned him in his first version that he was guilty of plagiarism and needed to fix it (as it clearly wasn't intentional: he'd attached the sources to the paper, so he wasn't trying to pretend he hadn't used them). Today, I looked at the Turnitin report for his final paper--and he still hadn't fixed the plagiarism. Even though it's what I call "accidental" plagiarism, it still means he got a zero on that assignment--especially as he'd had the chance to fix it. He'd fail the class anyway for plagiarism on the final paper, but even if I didn't enforce that policy, the zero for the assignment dropped his grade to a 48. Of course he e-mailed back and said that he'd fixed all the plagiarism. (Um, apparently not, as you can see if you look at the report I sent you.) And how could he fail the whole class over one paper? (Well, because that one paper is worth 30% of your final grade and you weren't exactly getting A's on everything else--and in any event, my plagiarism policy says that even one instance of plagiarism can result in failure from the course.)

I haven't heard any further argument from him, thank god. I did say that he really isn't ready to move on to the next level until he can avoid plagiarism entirely, but of course at the moment that doesn't matter to him: he's just indignant and wounded that he's not going to pass. Ah well.

And after some serious thought, I decided I did, in fact, want to respond to the self-evaluation of Little Miss Arrogant. I don't recall if I mentioned last night when I posted that she also said that she "learned a lot" from the class--despite the paragraph where she made it abundantly clear that she hadn't even tried to learn anything. Below is what I wrote to her: some of it I took verbatim from what I wrote in last night's post, but I added a bit, as you'll see:

"In response to your self-evaluation, I think if we’re honest, we’d agree that in fact you didn’t learn anything of substance in this class and that your writing did not actually improve. This is partially because you were absent or late more than half the class meetings, but it has more to do with the fact that, as you clearly state in your self-evaluation, you felt, and feel, the class offered nothing valuable for you to learn.
  "If you stay always within what is already comfortable for you, you will not, in fact, do your best writing—as you’ll never do what is necessary to advance. The only way for anyone to improve in any area is to be challenged, to try things that are new, to take risks. It might be that my methods ultimately would not be useful for you, but you can’t know whether they would work for you or not because you did not try them.
    "In fact, you don’t know what your best writing is yet. You only know what you can do using high school methods—and producing good quality high-school level papers.
   "In my experience, the resistance to change that I see in your self-evaluation indicates someone who is not ready for college and will not benefit from the experience. Of course, it is possible that you will be able to find a kind of success without ever taking a risk or trying anything new. That would be a shame, as you would be cutting yourself off from rich and rewarding possibilities, but if that is how you want to proceed, I hope it gets you what you want out of life."

I sincerely doubt she'll "hear" what I'm saying, but I feel better for having said it. It's the last "teaching moment" I'm likely to have with her, and I wanted to take that opportunity, though it probably is futile. I have now officially done everything I can possibly do for that particular young woman, and I hereby am brushing her away like so much lint.

Or I wish I could. All these little icky interactions are going to cling to me for a while; the best I've managed over my years teaching is to get over them a little more quickly, but they still rankle. Fucking little ingrates (which, according to, means "A lower class of human being, possessing a low I.Q, with a higher ability to irritate and generally piss you the fuck off").

But, as I said, ah well.

Meanwhile, my files and bookshelves are in utter chaos, and there is a box filled with old student papers under my desk that I really should clean out (I won't even mention what's in the file cabinets: how many years do I have to hold on to this stuff?)--but I sincerely doubt I will do anything about any of it in 2014. I'm simply relieved that I am heading into my weekend knowing that I have done everything I can think of to make Monday as easy and stress-free as I can. And that's about as good as it gets right about now.

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