May 6, 2009
Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
When I went to college, I had a friend who got through college by begging for extensions in all her classes, and whining about her grades. She was well-known on campus. Why? Because it was rare. People just didn’t whine about having to turn work in on time. You didn’t email your professors complaining about your grades. You did your work and got what you earned. That’s the way it was.
Things have changed since I started teaching. I get more emails begging for grades, complaining about grades, and whining about grades. I have had to put into my syllabus policies like “don’t email me about the grade you want. Trying to influence your final grade is cheating, and is against academic honesty policies.” When I was in school, no one had to put that in a syllabus- it was a given. Also, “Completing the minimum requirements at an adequate level will earn you a grade of ‘adequate’, which is a C.” This was common knowledge when I was in school. This is Big News to many of my students now.
Am I crazy? Is it just me? No, the trend has been noticed, even by the New York Times.
This is a hard enough issue if you are permanent, full-time faculty on the tenure-track, or already tenured. For an adjunct, it is far worse. Student evaluations are part of our lives far more, because if we get enough of the “right kind” of complaints, we don’t get hired back. And if you don’t think student a. know what the “right kind” of complaints are and b. won’t use them to get “back at” at professor who has given them a grade lower than what they think they are entitled to, you’re living in Fantasy Land. It takes far fewer of those “right kind” of complaints for an adjunct to be fired (or just not rehired) than it takes to start worrying about a permanent faculty. It is much harder to fire a professor with tenure, after all.
There is now nothing I dread more than seeing that lovely yellow inter-campus mail envelope, the thick one. You know what it is. It’s your copy of the evals.
It only takes one or two bad apples in a class of 30 to really wreck your eval numbers. It only takes a couple of “unfair grader”, “makes degrading comments/responses”, and/or “difficult to contact out of the class” to really wreck your mood- especially when these comments are untrue. However, I do expect students to show up for class. I expect them to have their textbook on the first day of class (and certainly by the end of the first week). I expect them to turn in their work on time. If there is a problem, I expect to be told in a timely manner- not two, three, or eight weeks later. I expect essays to be proofread before they are turned in. I expect reading to be done before the discussion.
Silly me. I thought these things were student responsibilities. I’m tired of getting slammed by spoiled brats who think they should get an A simply because they paid their tuition bill, and take it out on me when they don’t bother to earn or bother to learn.