June 27, 2009

Clues to the Clueless #19

Posted in clues to the clueless, student stories tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 12:50 am by profart

Hint: When you are emailing your professor, it is a good idea to maintain the same decorum you would show when standing in the professor’s office.

Perhaps I really do have an unusually commanding presence in a classroom, I don’t know. Here are some things I get in email that I never get from a student standing in front of me (real emails, slightly modified for privacy):

“This is a really hard class. We have to do stuff every single week. Art, I have a job and three kids and this isn’t my only class. This is the most reading I have to do for any class I’ve ever taken here! You should think about your students!”

I just wrote about this kind of student, and how it annoys me no end, because the majority of my students have jobs, kids, lives, and guess what? The majority of them not only do their work and do it on time, they do it without complaining about it to me in rude, inappropriately casual emails.

“I have to work on participation tonight, so will go back through all of this help you sent me that I asked for when I get a chance and send you a response. We’ve been in class for almost four weeks now, but I just noticed you have given me C’s all along this year. Wow!! What a slap in the face! If you only knew how much time I have been putting into your exercises and discussions! Well I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s my work not meeting your expectations, I guess. I will keep doing my best and if C’s are the reward, so be it. I’ve been on this earth 50 years and lived through a lot. This will have to be one of those times it appears.”

I wrote a rather lengthy announcement about how discussions worked and what to do if you were unhappy with your grade after I graded Week 1. I put it up every year after grading Week 1 so everybody can see the advice and tips for improving their grade. In a nutshell, I tell them to participate more and provide constructive analysis in their posts, just as I instructed them to do in the orientation and syllabus. Really, it isn’t hard.

“I really hate the way you worded question 5 on our assignment this week. You gave us the definition, and then all the choices for the word looked so much alike. I got it wrong because I read the answers wrong. Why do you have to be such a bitch? You could at least give partial credit.”

Yes, they really used the word “bitch.” And yes, the answers were similar-looking. But that doesn’t change the fact that a hipshot posture shifting weight to one foot and creating an s-curve to the body is “contrapposto”, not “contradiction.”

“I am finally getting my financial aid and should have the textbook shortly. Can I please make up the assignments I missed?”

Sent to me at the end of the third week of class. Note the word “shortly”… meaning that it isn’t in hand yet.

“I don’t like to make excuses for myself, but I have been bombarded this week with one event after another. I’ve taken online courses before and consider myself familiar with the environment. I understand that due dates are put in place for timely completion and that you do not accept late work. I submitted my discussion for week two just before contacting you tonight. I understand it was due last night at midnight and it is now considered late. This is my third time taking this course. I didn’t withdraw correctly the first time I took this and received a “D” for the course. Later I signed up for it again, but had more serious issues and withdrew. So this is my third (and final!) time! I’m retaking the course to boost my GPA. I have a complete respect for the arts and plan to pursue a career in some form art- possibly teaching. Well, I will spare you my entire life story and understand if you cannot accept my post, but just wanted to explain my reasons for the late submission. This should be the only conflicts with the course.”

Yeah, I was your professor both previous rounds. Just to keep my readers from being in suspense, I did cave and take her late postings, it was a particularly good life story that included a genuine medical issue. But it’s funny that I don’t get these in person from people intending to pursue a career in art. I’m still not sure why the previous two failures to complete the course had any relevance at all.

“Hey Ms. Art I was curious to what books I would need for Art History One and Two. I haven’t seen anything on blackboard about it. I can’t go to the bookstore because I’m not in town Thanks”

Try the online bookstore. It’s an online class.

“Most professors provide ISBN numbers for their textbooks, and I left your class because I can tell your demeanor. I hope I spelled it right since you achieved your doctorate degree, but you are the ONLY teacher that dfoesnt give isbn numbers. By the way, last semester the bookstore told me all my books were $587, I got them all for under 120 from amazon. You cant fault a student for finding a better and less expensive way. You can fault a teacher who doesnt want to work with her students. Good luck again Dr.”

This was after an email exchange at the end of the first week of class (when the textbook should have already been purchased!), in which the student asked me for the ISBN, and I referred them to the online bookstore, which lists the ISBN in the entry for the textbook, instead of trying hunt my instructor’s copy down to try to fish up the ISBN for the student edition, which I don’t have. Oh, and I asked; none of my colleagues include ISBN numbers, either (if you do, then I think that’s a good thing). They expect students who want to use a source other than the bookstore (and yes, we’re aware Amazon often has textbooks at a discount) to just hop on and check the ISBN number being used by the bookstore. Silly us, expecting our students to be able to do simple online research, especially for an online class.

Corollary: If these emails are showing the same decorum you would use in a professor’s office, you need to grow up (I don’t care how old you are now) and get some manners and professionalism, because not every professor is as professional as I am about having outside influences to your grade.

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