Generally, I LIKE my students: since it’s winter quarter, and I teach the composition sequence, I’ve worked with about 20 of my 80+ students in previous classes, so the relationships we’ve developed are strong, with trust and respect on both sides, and that usually makes the class atmosphere one where students feel relaxed enough to listen, as well as safe enough to try something new and possibly not do so well the first time. I’ve worked hard over the last 20 years to create such an environment, whether or not I have “repeat” students. I try to establish high expectations, but also to offer as many opportunities for “practice” of writing skills and “testing” of ideas before they are graded at the end of a formal essay (they have the option of revising 2 of the 3 formal essays).
Of course, some students thrive in such an environment, while others don’t see what a potential pit it can be until it’s too late and they have 2 essays to revise into at least passing essays at the same time they are trying to draft the one essay they cannot revise. Those students are now in full panic mode. And the e-mails are flooding in.
Two e-mails as illustration. This one blames the Internet and illness, not uncommon of course, but it’s that last line that amuses me. [Note: D. has missed over 3 weeks of classes]
Dear Mrs. Em (Note: I beg them not to call me “Mrs” which makes me think of my 3rd grade teacher):
This is D. Again, I was sorry to not be present today for class i had a previous engagement with work that couldn’t be rescheduled. I tried to email in my Essay 2 along with the Annotated Bibliography this morning, but due to complications with the Internet it wasn’t functioning till now. I had a sinus infection the last two weeks, and am now better, but do not want to come across as a flake. I have been studying, and printing off the assignments from blackboard, and have completed Essay 2 along with the Annotated Bibliography, as both should be attached. Whether or not the attachments work, i will come in tomorrow during your office hours with the folder and the papers due, and to talk about the material in classes i have missed. Once more i am sorry if this is a hassle or inconvenience for you, it has been for me.
But at least the student is taking control of his “flakiness”. The following e-mail exchange was the most annoying for me this week, and not because of the way it’s written-frankly, that doesn’t bother me. It’s the lying that bothers me.
- E-mail #1, Tuesday: sorry I wasn’t in class today I’ve been feeling really bad and resting all day but heres my essay thankyou.
[Note: the student was in the writing lab all morning working with a tutor for help on the essay he did not hand in during the afternoon class, but e-mailed to me at 10:30pm that night. This student doesn’t realize that the tutors send reports to the instructors.]
- E-mail #2, Thursday: Hi Annie so I have this big event aa work today and I rreally need to be there so i was wondering if we were doing anything in class today that id miss? Thankyou
- My Response to e-mail #2: Oh, of course you won’t miss a thing. I never do anything in class.
[Note: Ok, I’m in a lousy mood today, and I couldn’t help myself. But early in the term, I do post this poem in Blackboard as entertainment for students.]
- His response to my response: Sorry whatI meant was am I going to miss any in class work and if so, how can I make it up? Can I meet with you in your office hours or with another student to go over it? Thankyou.
Then, I get this e-mail from his girlfriend:
- I won’t be able to make it to class today, I just found out I have a doctor’s appointment today at 2:15. I don’t know if you’ll be grading us on turning in a practice thesis or not. But I just thought I’d send in e-mail letting you know. Well, my rough draft thesis is: Although advocates for euthanasia have some good points, I don’t think that euthanasia is the answer for terminally ill patients. Okay thank you!
- [Note: I DID not write back with a bad joke about her possible terminal illness since she had a sudden doc appt]
Both Twiddledee (who chose to write on abortion) and Twiddledum (the anti-euthanasia girl) both chose topics from the PLEASE DO NOT CHOOSE THESE TOTALLY OVERDONE AND BORING TO YOUR INSTRUCTOR TOPICS list.
Consider this my last venting for a while. I wouldn’t want to overindulge. Besides, I’ve spent the evening meeting with my advanced composition students discussing their researched essay drafts. It’s been delightful! Let’s see: one student reminded me that I had her mother in one of my classes 8 years ago (oy!), and that she used to play basketball with my stepdaughter; and another student said I reminded him of Cutty on the TV show House. I’m taking that as a compliment.