Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'll Take "Things That Mystify Me" for $200, Alex

I may have mentioned that I have been advised - by more than one person - to "lower my expectations of my students" for my own sanity if nothing else. Although it only took me two years to figure it out, I decided I could do it. And now, believe it or not, I am relatively less flabbergasted day-to-day.

Two years ago? I expected that about 95% of college students would be decent writers, with great writers and horrible writers filling out the tail-ends of the bell curve. Today? I expect that about 45-48 out of 50 students will be fairly incapable of writing a decent, comprehensible paragraph and there will be between 2-5 truly exceptional writers. On these students' papers, I always tell them that the next time they go home they should go visit their high school English teacher and give him/her a big hug. And maybe a bottle of vino. And I am also much calmed by the (very late) realization that if these students can't write, it is honestly not their fault.

Two years ago? I thought that unless some kind of freak accident or unexpected kidnapping was involved, no student would miss an exam. After all, one hundred years ago, when I was a young college gal, you just. didn't. miss. exams. Today? I anticipate at least 2 students will miss every exam, and some will even blow me off or miss the make-up exam. And I will have to accommodate them. And their excuses? Although some will be fairly riveting sagas, like the aunt killed in the freak "scubba diving accident," some are just lame - like, "I got a tattoo last night and I guess it made me feel sick so that's why I missed the midterm."

But. Call me bitchy and mentally unstable crazy, but I still expect students to staple their papers. And yes, believe me, it's in my syllabus. Hell, I even won a contest (although "winning" the Space Cadet contest because you're surrounded by the spaciest people is a dubious win, indeed) on Moobs' site because of my "stapler story."

And yet, here I am again, with another stapler story, and still completely mystified by the apparent stapler shortage that is plaguing our campus.

Yesterday, I returned papers. One student failed to 1.) use a cover sheet, and 2.) staple his paper. Instant deduction of 10 points (5 for each transgression - something about carrying around papers with raggedy-ass rolled-down corners just bugs me). However. This is the new me. This is the Teacher Lady with the appropriately low expectations. So when Skippy came to pick up his paper from the massive pile, I took him aside and said softly, "You know, Skippy, I'm sorry to say, you lost some major points for some really simple things." And honestly? I was hoping for a good story - not just for blog fodder but so I could be appropriately understanding. Tell me something interesting and we can perhaps work something out. You know, the dog really ate your homework. But alas, it was not to be. Here is how the rest of my conversation with Skippy went.

Skippy: Yeah, I knew that would happen.

Me: W-What?

Skippy: I saw the requirement on the syllabus.

Me: I - I don't understand. Did something happen to you? (Note: I have to say that I said this in the most kind, understanding tone of voice I have. And I think it was convincing because people used to tell me that with my penchant for dramatics, I could definitely have a career in the theater.)

Skippy: I just - couldn't find a stapler - anywhere!

And here, ladies and gents is where I was truly mystified. And (dammit!) it did NOT occur to me to ask him where he was looking for a stapler. But he truly appeared to be legitimately vexed, like he couldn't find an address on a street after he had driven up and down it for half an hour.

Me: (Thinking he honestly didn't know, and it wasn't his fault, because who knows? Maybe his family was too poor to own staplers, or maybe his mom always bought them for him and he never realized there was no such thing as the Stapler Fairy) You know, they have them at Target, really cheap! (In case cost was an issue).

Skippy said nothing, just looked at me and shook his head and then walked away sadly, like there were truly no staplers in the world and he didn't want to be the one to burst my bubble.

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Anonymous Fraulein N said...

Wait, is this the same chap who was having trouble finding a stapler before? I hear they're on the endangered species list.

October 12, 2006 8:27 AM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Nope - completely different student. Although, I will say, the only ones who aren't able to find staplers are the male students.

October 12, 2006 9:18 AM  
Blogger The "Mind" said...

I couldn't imagine missing a mid-term, yet I know that we'll have some in my interpersonal communications class that will. Our mid-term is the next two class meetings. We went from a class of 22, to barely a class of 12 (and only 2 have officially dropped the class). Participation is 50% of the grade. One guy sleeps through every class. WTF is going on with the world?

Anyway, our instructor merely asks that we: 1) Do NOT write our journals in pencil; and 2) Do NOT leave the ripped edges of the spiral paper attached because her cat will then eat them. So far, there's been at least one like that each night. What? Is it too hard to cut them off? Apparently whatever force of nature abducted all the staplers on your campus also absconded with the scissors on mine.

October 12, 2006 10:18 AM  
Blogger desiree said...

Frankly, I am more than a little afraid of just what, exactly, he thinks a stapler is. That is the real question. I don't want to imagine what he spent his time searching for, I just want to live in a blissful land free of such conundrums.

October 12, 2006 11:12 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

(Upon reading some of those back entries) My junior year of college, in the last month of school, both my grandmothers and my great-uncle (with whom I was fairly close) passed away and my mother was diagnosed with cancer and needed surgery. By the end I stopped bothering to tell my professors where I was going until after the fact because I figured they wouldn't believe me. Luckily, I was able to complete all but about three of my assignments ahead of time and the other three with minimal delays, though I did have to leave my beginning-of-summer job in order to attend a bunch of funerals.

But: I always staple everything!

October 12, 2006 9:22 PM  
Blogger Veronica Mitchell said...

I was an inveterate non-stapler as an undergraduate. I am so sorry.

My experienced speculation about the scarcity of staplers goes like this: after waiting till the last possible minute to do the assignment, despite knowing and even possibly worrying about it for days or weeks in advance, he was printing the paper at 3 am (or 4 or 5), when the printer broke, or ran out of ink, or there was a queue at the lab or some other devastating delay that he could not possibly have foreseen when he carefully scheduled the last possible four hours to do the assignment, and once that problem was solved, he discovered that the stapler was empty, or that he did not have a stapler, or that his roommate had emptied the stapler making an audition tape for Jackass, and, since the paper was due in twenty minutes, he did not have time to go to Target, or Target was closed, or he had not even a penny of pocket change for a stapler fund because it just did not seem as important as that new body spray that might persuade women to sleep with him.

My undergraduate advisor once told my class that one night he dreamed he lined his students up against the wall and shot us. He said he woke up smiling.

Now that I am an adult, I understand.

October 12, 2006 10:05 PM  
Blogger ricki said...

I get the "I couldn't find a stapler" people either. Usually this is in a class where everyone else either has their papers already stapled - or they pull a mini stapler out of their bag, roll their eyes, and hand it to the clueless student.

Seriously. I am thinking of buying a mess of staplers and attaching them to the desk in every classroom with a chain, like the pens in banks. Because I'm just mystified by "I can't find a stapler" either.

I'm guessing that it's because they do the homework (or whatever) in the ten minutes between classes, and that leaves them no slack time to try and FIND a stapler. (Their grades reflect it, too).

October 14, 2006 11:51 AM  

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