Sunday, May 20, 2007

An Apology to Professors and TAs Everywhere

(Inspired when Addy N. directed me to Rate Your Students, my most recent source of blog-crack)

Please - PLEASE - know that there are students out there who agree with you. Who hate the lazy, grade-grubbing, plagiarizing, Daddy-dialing little bastards who populate our classes. We want to learn. We want to be good students. We want to be respected as intellectual beings. Heck, we want to do good work and want you to like us. When those things happen your job is easier and our grade just might be shinier. Everybody wins!

I apologize for the kids who plagiarize and then act like they don't know what it means. Isn't that an eight-grade vocabulary word? I apologize for the guy in the front row who asks pompous tangential questions in a painfully loud voice just to prove How Smart He Is to his peers. I apologize for the Little Grade Grubbers who ask why they got a 58 instead of a 60 on their exam, or the PreMed Grade Grubbers who gulp and sob over a 98 vs. 100 discrepancy when you are already a generous grader. I especially apologize for the Beastly Grade Grubbers who call in Mommy, Daddy, the Dean, Daddy the Dean, or all of the above, in an attempt to prove to you, by sheer display of Other Grown-Ups, that you're being unfair. I can't really apologize for the kids who forget their pencils, their paper, or their pants, or who answer their cell phones during class, as this level of rudeness really is beyond my comprehension. I simply wish for your sakes that they disappear.

I apologize for department chairs who base your worth on the evaluations of bitter D students who just wish you'd inflate their grades a little more because really, who does it hurt? I apologize for the favoritism shown to professors who can't teach for crap but hand out A's at the drop of a hat. I apologize for any persons in power who treat a university like a business and think that "the customer is always right" when in fact "the customer" is a spoiled dumbass who thinks that their tuition is seriously paying your salary. And the powers-that-be believe them.

But hey, this isn't all because we, the decent students, feel badly for you, our dear professors. We're the self-centered know-it-all spawn of the baby boomers, after all - we apologize because we hate the awful students too. When Johnny Moneybags the Third needs a two-week extension on his paper draft because his business-major self has had a stressful Greek Week at the frat, it hurts us all. Their 20-bullshit-excuses-per-week dilute the one situation per year that some of us really do need a break on. My idea throughout undergrad had been to never EVER ask for an extension unless it was a ridiculous level of emergency, precisely because I figured that when I finally needed help, the professor would know it wasn't "just another excuse". With someone as stubborn as me, this wasn't the best policy.* I eventually figured out that most of my professors are not ogres with hearts of stone - provided I don't pull an "i need an extension plz its rly important" stunt every week, they'll look at my past record and help me out if it's reasonable**).

I TA'd a couple times. Fortunately, since I was an undergrad TA in a class of relatively smart kids, they knew enough to take most of their bitching over my head. I didn't get much more than a few "wait, do we get our lab books graded THIS week? I forget" emails, and a couple exciting excuses for missed labs (personal favorite: "I fell in the river and my roommate was in the shower with her boyfriend so I couldn't shower and had to go to Health Services because I came down with pneumonia." #1 - was "with her boyfriend" really a necessary detail? #2 - ostensibly you could have emailed me while waiting for said shower sex to conclude. #3 - kid, if you fell in the local river you'd have a lot more than pneumonia to worry about). I know I would lose it if I had to put up with a lot of the crap students fling at their teachers.

And finally, I personally apologize for any time when I might have BEEN that student - emailing about something I could have answered by looking at the syllabus, writing a grumpy evaluation because I thought I should have done better in the class, or maybe asking a question just because I wanted to prove to you that I was Listening, Attentive, and Smart. I hope you took off and bitched about me as you rightfully should have, and I hope that I have learned from my mistakes!

Elli The Student

*What I learned: don't sit through a two-hour exam instead of going to Health Services for a UTI. You will fail. You will wind up in the hospital. This does not make you smart or dedicated or a good student. This makes you a dumbass kid who isn't taking care of themselves properly.
**the worst example of "oh god my professor's going to kill me" in recent memory came from a kid in my officemate's lab section, who called him, from the hospital, after being run over by a car, to explain that he could finish prelab assignment in his hospital but wouldn't be making it to lab the next day as he was in traction but he would try to get the prelab faxed to our office sometime the next day and he was so so sorry for the inconvenience and if they wouldn't accept it late he'd understand that his grade would have to suffer and of course he would provide the university with the necessary hospital information and when should he try to make up the missed which point my officemate cut him off and started hollering "For the love of god, forget the damn prelab. Rest, get better, turn it in whenever, and we'll help you reschedule your lab when you're healthy!"

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