Wednesday, February 7, 2007

I think I made someone cry today

Ah, the joys of being a teacher.

I make my students come and see me for 2 10-minute conferences each quarter. It's pretty painless; I try to schedule them in conjunction with returning a paper so that I can explain their grade and you know...they won't act up in class and shit.

Yeah, that's happened to me before. My first year as a TA I had this guy who wrote a terrible paper: it was filled with all of this stuff about his girlfriend and how this piece of classical music I assigned reminds him of her. It was just bizarre. So I gave him a C. You know, not because his paper was off-topic and didn't follow the prompt. No, not because of that. Nope, I gave him a C because I'm a BITCH.

I made a big mistake that quarter, a mistake I had committed in previous quarters but I'd had no problems and was therefore not realizing the error of my ways: I handed back their papers at the beginning of class. See, when I was a spritely college student I loved getting my papers back and reading all the comments. Not because I was a nerd, but because I had worked hard and wanted to see what the prof thought of my work. Anyway, I hated waiting until the end of class for my papers, so I thought I'd spare any of my nerdy students this same angst.

I hand the papers back and commence class and I realize this guy is reading a newspaper in the middle of class. And it wasn't that paper-on-the-desk not really obvious paper-reading. Oh no, he was fully reading it like he was at his fucking breakfast table with a cup of coffee. Okay, whatever. I can handle that shit--if you don't want to listen, your loss not mine. About 10 minutes later, he stands up and walks to the front of the room, looks at me and says, "I have to go the bathroom." And walks out the door. Okay...you just disrupted class to let everyone know that you have to piss? At the end of class, he came up to me and proceeded to enter my personal space...that 2.5 feet of space which only my husband and friends may enter (and, unfortunately, strangers on public transportation). Yeah, he entered my space. And he proceeded to yell at me. He was so INDIGNANT! HOW EVER COULD I HAVE GIVEN HIM A C?!? This fool did not realize that I am not a woman easily cowed. He didn't realize that when students yell at me, I get more stubborn, not less. I eventually had to tell him that we would talk about it later. He stopped coming to class after that. The best part of the story is that he sent an email to the prof (my friend) at the end of the quarter about how he was so busy and just really wanted an incomplete. Full of flowery bullshit. But, since I had apprised my friend of the situation 5 weeks earlier, he failed. **evil laugh**

Anyway, the point is that I think I made someone cry today. I had conferences and this one girl had written a paper seriously lacking in analysis. She was also missing a variety of documents necessary to her portfolio (and helpful to her grade) because she chose not to come to class the days we worked on said documents. Thus, she got a C on her paper. She had been very talkative and whatnot at the beginning, but as soon as I told her the grade, she shut down. Big time. And looked really pissed. I feel bad and that totally irritates me because I'm not the one who didn't spend enough time on my paper.

My whole philosophy, which I've revealed to my students, is that I don't care if they don't come to class or do what I've asked them to do. As long as they understand the repercussions and consequences of their actions, that's fine. Part of this understanding includes that they cannot complain about the grades they receive. I still feel bad. Oh well.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Teaching's a bitch, ain't it? You've heard all 10 of my rants, so I'll spare you having to read any one of them.

I will say that there is a sense of entitlement that happens to be more prevalent at some universities than others.

On the upside, most of the students I run into (several years later) seem to feel they deserved the grade they got (whatever that may have been). Hopefully she'll get there too. I think a lot of time the disappointment, anger and crying is really more about not wanting to acknowledge one's own failures. It certainly was for me, most of the time.