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.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Very Slender Thread

Finals week is over. Halle-freakin'-lujah!

Grades are due tomorrow. I am postponing the inevitable because I've already snapped once. I wish I had snapped in a way that was half as witty as this brilliant post, but alas, no.

I don't quite know what my problem is. Chemical imbalance, maybe? I truly felt that this semester was in many ways, my best ever. Not only have I learned what classroom activities work and what classroom activities are guaranteed to be a spectacular failure, I thought I was becoming more patient. Now I know that students cannot string together a sentence, but I no longer feel rage at them. I blame the entire American educational system, which is much easier because no single culprit = no one to plot murder against.

But the last three weeks pushed me. Or I let them push me.

I won't link to a post about this particular student because you'd have to re-read too much angst-laden rambling, but a quick summary: This is the student who told me his aunt didn't send him a check in time for him to buy the textbook and did I have any suggestions as to how he might study for the first midterm? Instead of asking, "This is my problem, how, exactly?" or saying, "Get one of those free T-shirts for filling out a credit card application and sink into debt. It's the American way!" like a dumb-ass, I LENT him an extra copy of the text with the (clearly delusional) belief that he would return it when he got his check from his aunt. No. Actually, he used it the whole damn semester and returned it to me after the final on Friday. This is also the same student who left me a voicemail instructing me to call him between 5:00 and 5:15 because that was the only time slot he had available to discuss with me the fact that he would be too ill to take the midterm the next day.

On one fateful day, toward the end of class he raised his hand. I thought he had a question. Instead he said, "I have an announcement to make." I asked if it was in any way related to class. He said no, it had to do with something his fraternity was sponsoring. Immediately, I had visions of my classroom becoming the "live version" of the Greek community's event website and each subsequent class beginning and ending with announcements about wet T-shirt contests and beer pong and drunken tug-of-war fundraisers for "the children". Shockingly, I had my wits about me enough to ask him to check with me first after class and if I thought it was appropriate, he could announce it the next class. In spite of all these annoyances, do you know what pushed me over the edge? THIS e-mail from him:

did you say that we wasnt doing chapter 18?

In spite of his sleeping through many of my class sessions, he was a very consistent e-mail pal. At least once a week, I could expect an e-mail from him asking me a question that - had he actually been awake in class - he wouldn't have needed to ask me. His e-mails were chock full o' bad grammar, but that's not what drove me battier than usual. It was how every single e-mail contained NO salutation (or salvation, as a very poorly written website on how to write good cover letters read), no sign off, no "Thanks" and never, EVER any "Please." From the first week of the semester, I tried to "role model" appropriate behavior. I kept telling myself that he should probably know how to e-mail politely because future bosses would find his style a bit abrupt and offensive, but what the hell do I know? Because in spite of responding every. Single. Time. like this:

Dear Dudley,

Thank you for your excellent question. You are correct. I do not expect you to read chapter 18 for the final exam. Have a nice week.

See you Friday,

Teacher Lady

Nothing changed. Role modeling appropriate behavior, my ass!

So after dealing with Dudley the scintillating e-conversationalist, I was already teetering on the brink of lunacy.

Then, last week, I got this e-mail:

Hey Teacher Lady,I was wondering if I could take the final early on Wednesday? I have to go home to babysit and if its possible could I take it in the morning? I am not sure if like you can leave it with the geology department and I can go in and take it with someone there... If not that is okay, but please let me know! Thanks! Suzy Center-of-the-Universe.

Here is what I wish I could have written without being strung up by my ankles (by my department chair) in front of the faculty lounge as a warning for all to see:

Hey Suzy,

Hey. Hey you. Hey Suzy. Kind of annoying, isn't it? Clearly, your parents didn't have the intellectual or social capacity that God gave a goat, but for future reference, you don't address your professors, your parents, your pastor, your policeman, your anyone important or anything starting with the letter "p" as "Hey." It is rude and obnoxious and shows that clearly, you were raised by wolves.

The good news is, "You're a winner!" Not a winner in life, but the winner of a very exciting contest called "The lamest excuse I'VE EVER HEARD for wanting to take a final early." The sad part is, you are being punished for being honest. And clueless. And so self-absorbed it takes one's breath away. Had you lied and said your father was having emergency surgery to remove his ingrown toenail, I might have been a tad more understanding.

Thank you for letting it be "okay" for me to give the class the final at the time dictated by the university many, many months ago. I would hate for you to "not" be okay with that. Phew. What a relief! Sure wouldn't want THAT hanging over my head!!!

And finally: Just this fall, my department's secretaries declared a moratorium on administering and proctoring make-up exams for students. They sent out a formal memo detailing all the reasons they would no longer offer "this service," but it boils down to: "Not their job." Since I wouldn't dare ask the administrative support of MY department/college/building to give a make-up exam, I would rather receive a public flogging than ask the department secretary of another department/college/building to do a big fat inconvenient favor for someone she's never seen and doesn't know. But clearly asking people for favors doesn't bother you in the least, so I don't expect you to understand that.

Oh. One more thing, my darling. The shameless use of the word "like" in conversation is the equivalent of hanging a giant billboard that reads, "I'm an idiot" over your head. Using it (the word "like") randomly, like, in e-mail is the equivalent of concluding every e-mail with "I'm an ignorant slut" instead of your signature.

More to come . . . please excuse me while I finish this bottle of wine!!!

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Blogger happychyck said...

Oh! I love these stories. They make me laugh, but they also make me sad. You have every right to unleash your reality on your students, but they probably wouldn't understand.

May 14, 2007 5:57 PM  
Blogger Shanon said...

Dear Teacher Lady,
I'm 'delurking' (I guess that's what it is called) to tell you that I've really enjoyed your blog. I followed a link from Rate Your Students and have since read all of your postings.

I am an instructor at a small Community College. I get the same kinds of e-mails demanding - rather than asking - for accommodations. Like this gem I received last semester:

"S.; I awoke with a temp. of 103. That being the case I will be unable to make it to class; so please don't have a quiz today. I already missed one and I can't afford to miss another one if I want an A in the course. B."

I'm just sorry that we didn't get to the quiz during that class. I would have loved to have seen the look on her face when I went against her wishes and - what could I have been thinking? - gave a quiz when she wasn't there.

Thanks for the laughs!

May 14, 2007 11:08 PM  
Blogger NSB said...

Thanks for the amusing anecdotes. The sad thing is that I know students like yours. It always scares me a bit when they announce that they're pre-med or pre-nursing or pre-pharamacy (although I try to hold onto the hope that they'll be weeded out of the system before having anyone's life in their hands). The pre-ed ones are equally worrisome. I have no intention of having kids anytime soon (ever?) but homeschooling my potential kids never sounded like a good idea until I met some of this country's future educators.

May 15, 2007 3:13 AM  
Blogger Mrs. T said...

I wish you would send the emails you WANT to send.

May 15, 2007 9:39 PM  

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