Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I finished grading last week's blogs last night. One of them was so far above what one of my students' usual writing skill has been to that point that I e-mailed said student, telling them that I couldn't prove it, but was certain that the post wasn't their work. I told them that they wouldn't be receiving credit, but that I wouldn't fail them for the whole class.

I just got an e-mail response from that student. They told me that it was their work, that it was a paper that they'd written in the past for a different class. They told me (not in these terms, but with the same meaning) that they were capable of doing much better work than they'd done for my class, and that they'd been blowing my class off.

Then they said that they planned to pick it up with my class to finish out the semester with a better grade than they've currently got.

Good luck. I'm not inclined to grade this person's work as easily as I have been, and I am not an easy grader. They've aced one paper out of three so far, and are barely average. I am not giving a grade above an average unless the paper is absolutely perfect—no grammar errors, no standout problems in focus, organization, development, or tone/style. This person is going to have to write professional level work from here on out to get an above average, much less an excellent from me.

I do not remember giving any class less than my best, when I was a student. It didn't matter if I hated the professor (four times that I can think of), or if I hated the material (much more often), or if I simply didn't understand it despite trying my hardest, I never gave less than my best effort. I do not comprehend the mindset that says "I don't want to do this, it's not related to my major, so I'm just not gonna bother."

I don't understand that mindset. I really don't understand why that student admitted that they didn't give a rat's ass about my class to me in an e-mail. I mean, I teach composition. I know they don't care about/like my class. Most of them try anyway.

I hate giving a student a failing grade. I hate it. I have never wanted to give a student a failing grade for actually failing to do the work, much less a failing grade for attitude.

I want to fail this child so hard they bounce all the way out of my university. Their attitude is, in my opinion, almost as bad as plagiarism, because of the image they set up of themselves as a failure when they could easily have been writing papers and blog posts more readable than most modern novelists' work.


  1. I don't understand that mindset either. We get a fair number of students that I know are smart and are capable but they're just lazy. And it frustrates the hell out of me.

    Honestly, I think a lot of college students don't appreciate how good they have it in college. I miss being a student some times: to be able to just go and learn and work without too many other distractions.

    Also: "a paper that they'd written in the past for a different class"

    That would be an automatic F in my class. I do not permit students to "double dip" on projects. I do allow students to build on past work, but they have to do new research and collect new data - they can't just hand in some thing they did for someone else last semester.

  2. Who in their right mind would tell somebody that? I mean, it's basically the equivalent of saying "I haven't been taking you seriously, but I'm thinking about doing so in the future."

    Is that something one learns from Dale Carnegie's lesser-known work, How To Lose Friends And Alienate People?

  3. Ricki--had it been a paper repurposed to be turned in as a paper...well, it wouldn't have fit anything but the research paper, and said student would have had to re-trace all of their work to get full credit for the paper. As it is, they posted it as a blog post, which I don't mind. It was a really good paper, and I don't blame them for wanting to show it off.

    Tam, you'd be surprised how many students tell us that in a face-to-face class. I expect it in a face-to-face class. The students enrolled in an online class are typically better students, more focused and driven--they have to be to be willing to pay an extra $35/credit hour technology fee.

    It seems, more and more, that not only do students not appreciate not only permission but the expectation to focus on their studies, they're only here because they're expected to be, either by their parents or society at large. They don't want to be here. They want the degree so they can immediately start earning six figures per year when they get that magic paper.

    We need to fix things so that these students go from high school to work for about five to ten years before they're allowed to apply for entrance to any university.

  4. I should probably do another blogpost on what I think it might take to fix education in this country, but suffice it to say, here are a few points:

    1. Any student who cannot read at a third-grade level doesn't get to graduate from the third grade.

    2. End compulsory education. If kids don't want to be there, fine. They can try to find work (once they hit 16) with whatever knowledge they have accrued. I would set the "age of minimum leaving" at 10 or so, rather than the current 16.

    (However, there would also be an option to allow "older" students back into school, after they dug ditches for a while or something and got sick of it)

    3. Similarly, any student being disruptive or a major bully: they're gone. Out. Expelled. Their parents can try to find alternative schooling for them. And no more of this "my little angel couldn't POSSIBLY be disruptive in class" crap.

    4. Apprenticeships and other forms of vocational based education should be promoted for those who don't really want to be in college.

    5. Make high school more rigorous, especially for the students who do intend to go to college. I'm sick of doing basic vocab and basic math (like how to compute an average) lessons to 20 year old college kids.

  5. ricki,

    Now that's a plan!

  6. Someone brought up recently, and I can't remember where, that we have developed a cargo cult mentality in American society.

    At some point in the postwar years, it was noted that Home Ownership and a College Degree were two hallmarks of a productive, stable citizen. Ergo, if we can just get everybody to buy a house and go to college...

  7. I can understand student doing something like that. I always prioritized my time & effort in classes. Just like I do for work and everyday life.

    Not to mention there were times when a friend passed away. Or a friend needed my help. Remember telling one prof ahead of time that I wouldn't be in a class because a friend needed my help.

    The prof didn't understand at all. Asked which was more important to my future. That made me feel a lot better about cutting class, since that friend was a lot more important than any class.


Sorry, folks. A hundred plus spam comments in an hour equals moderation, so until further notice...you're gonna have to wait for your comments to be approved before they show up.