December
20th 2008
So you think you had a bad semester?

Posted under: jobs, students, unhappy endings

Sorry about the light posting and utter inattention these past few days–I picked up my final student papers and exams yesterday, so I’ll be back home at the ranch grading this weekend and frantically manufacturing some Holiday Cheer.  Here’s a little divertissement from our pals at Rate Your Students, the sad and disturbing answers to their “Big Thirsty” question of the week:  how did you ruin YOUR class this semester?  The answers are posted here–check back later this weekend for some more, but here’s a brief excerpt for your entertainment.  Schadenfreudelicious!

  • I slept with two freshmen. No, kidding. But doesn’t that make me leaving a whole set of essays in the Pittsburgh airport seem a lot less terrible?
  • After a hard swim at the college pool, I went into the locker room, took a nice, long shower, and then walked in the buff to the lockers only to find a young woman in front of her locker. Problem is: I am a male. Yes, I had the wrong room
  • .         .        .        .         .         .         .        .        .         .         .

  • On the day grades had to be turned in, I realized that one of my “favorite” students had not turned in a final project. I have no idea how it happened. It’s worth 25% of the grade, and without it she would have gotten a C. With a great project (like her other work) she would have had an A. I don’t remember her turning in a project. I had no way of getting in touch with her. It’s entirely possible she didn’t do it at all. I gave her an A anyway.
  • .         .        .        .         .         .         .        .        .         .         .

  • I gave my notice at my college, thinking that I’d rather not have a job than teach someplace that I hated. Then when the job market went south, I discovered that I’d made a huge mistake. I spent almost no time on my classes, scrambling instead to save a job I’d given back to the Dean. I missed class several times, was late other times, didn’t hold office hours. When I finally negotiated to stay on, I realized it was week 13 and my students had been robbed of nearly a whole semester of my attention.
  • Et vous, mes amis?  What mistakes did you make?  What advice do you have to offer the rest of us?

    15 Comments »

    15 Responses to “So you think you had a bad semester?”

    1. The_Myth on 20 Dec 2008 at 12:04 pm #

      On the day grades had to be turned in, I realized that one of my “favorite” students had not turned in a final project. I have no idea how it happened. It’s worth 25% of the grade, and without it she would have gotten a C. With a great project (like her other work) she would have had an A. I don’t remember her turning in a project. I had no way of getting in touch with her. It’s entirely possible she didn’t do it at all. I gave her an A anyway.

      When I read this on RYS the other day, I was horrified.

      I can see shifting a final grade up by a + or -, but 2 full letters???

      I wonder what everyone else thinks about these sorts of situations. I had to give many a B or C to excellent students who flake out at the end of the semester. I felt sad about it, but the work was assigned for assessment. if it went missing, it generally wasn’t my fault.

      Is this just another example of A’s for everyone?

    2. Historiann on 20 Dec 2008 at 12:40 pm #

      The_Myth, of course it is! It’s worse than walking naked into the wrong locker room, IMHO. That’s just embarassing, with no harm done. Doling out As to “favorites” who don’t do the work makes me wonder how she became a “favorite” in the first place.

    3. GayProf on 20 Dec 2008 at 2:25 pm #

      Except for the locker room bit (which, as you point out, is just about a mistake and social embarrassment), all of these seemed really, really bad. I seriously hope that the two freshman were not in his/her classes.

      For the prof “who just gave her an ‘A’ anyway,” does that college not have e-mail? I find it hard to believe there was no way to follow up with the student. And, yep, even “A” students sometimes stumble at the finish line and end up earning a “C.”

    4. Indyanna on 20 Dec 2008 at 3:06 pm #

      I had a kid who wants to go to grad school, took a couple of days off to take the GREs (aren’t they computerized for quick turnaround?!?), didn’t “realize” there was a paper assignment due between the mid-term and the final, and so didn’t do it, and is now all e-bummed out that the resulting “D” kind of makes it inadvisable to even apply to grad school! I was so dumbfounded I haven’t even tried to respond as yet. It really seems like entropy all over again. We get those holes in the assignment trail all the time: A, B, A, [blank], B, but I’ve never ever interpolated any grade into the gap, much less an A. I try to record the arrival of all assignments at least with a check mark in the book. If missing, expect that students will have kept file copies. Why, in my day…

    5. koshem bos on 20 Dec 2008 at 7:41 pm #

      My apology for not sleeping with any of my female students. Finished entering my grades to the big computer and 10 minutes past and the first complaint arrived.

      Most of the complainers are from students that show ignorance of the topic in exams, didn’t show up for class and were caught cheating (with no way to prove it).

      Other than that dealing with moronic faculty and escaping to the beach home ASAP.

    6. Deborah on 21 Dec 2008 at 6:45 am #

      I proposed a paper to the major scholarly conference in my field, hoping that the pressure would keep me producing research despite my 12-credit teaching load, supervising, advising, organizing this damned conference etc, etc….and it didn’t. I wrote my paper in two all-nighters and feel like one of my undergrads who put off their work because they have ‘more important’ things to do. I also let my regular exercise schedule lapse and gained 15 pounds. In other semesters I’ve managed to keep a balance and save at least a bit of time for research and for taking care of myself. This semester, though, teaching and service just encroached on everything, and even though my classes were good that feels like it’s not going to be to my benefit in the long term.

    7. Historiann on 21 Dec 2008 at 10:47 am #

      GayProf–I think the punctuation of “No, kidding” means in effect, “No, [I'm only] kidding,” not “No kidding!” as in, “Seriously! I did that!” Call in the Eats, Shoots, and Leaves lady for a consult!

      koshem bos–did you answer those complaints, or do you just delete them? If only your students were more mindful of their performance in your classesds before their final grades were submitted…

      Indyanna, that student of your should get a Darwin Award for eliminating himself from the grad school gene pool. Seriously.

      And Deborah: if it weren’t for all-nighters (or 4 a.m. wakeup calls, in my case), most faculty would never get any research or writing done!

    8. GayProf on 21 Dec 2008 at 11:26 am #

      Thank the goddess. My eyes/brain didn’t register the punctuation, so I did read it as “Seriously — I slept with two freshman.” Silly, GayProf, always thinking the worst.

    9. Indyanna on 21 Dec 2008 at 3:42 pm #

      Yeah, alas, she eliminated herself from the grad pool. The case did seem to have guy-prints all over it, on its fact, based on our demographics at least, but in this instance it turned out to be otherwise.

      I’m trying to parse the second sentence in the first bullet point above, to see if we can also get the confessor off the hook for leaving the essays at PGH, but having no luck. I wonder if they were student essays, or the confessor’s life product, about to be shipped off for one of those narcissistic collections, complete with the obligatory “new introduction?” [Not to say that some such collections are not powerful and valuable; they are...]

    10. Jeremy Young on 22 Dec 2008 at 4:27 am #

      I had the same read as GayProf, until I realized, “Two freshmen?” Then I read it again.

    11. Historiann on 22 Dec 2008 at 7:40 am #

      No, kidding!

    12. Ann Bartow on 22 Dec 2008 at 5:31 pm #

      I spent too much time and energy dealing with the biggest jerk on what is generally a pretty collegial faculty. I failed to take the advice of one of my most astute mentors: “When he talks, watch his lips move and think about something else.”

      Also I did five outside tenure reviews, all for fabulous faculty members at other law schools, which took up most of the time I should have been devoting to scholarship. Hopefully this gave me good karma points, because it sure didn’t do much for my cv.

      And I’ve already screwed up next semester by agreeing to attend too many conferences, lured by the fact that the folks inviting me will cover my travel expenses. Since I have no travel money of my own, none, this made the invitations hard to turn down. But dang, too much of a good thing.

    13. Notorious Ph.D. on 22 Dec 2008 at 10:31 pm #

      I spent September working on tenure file & book MS, with the result that I was on autopilot for almost the whole semester. I barely kept my head above water, until the night before the final, when one of my students sent me an e-mail asking me for the topic for the take-home essay to submit the next day. I wrote him back a curt e-mail explaining that he must have confused the class with another, because there was no take-home essay.

      Then I looked at the syllabus, and discovered that I had told them there that the comprehensive essay for the final would be a take-home… and that “I will announce the topic early in the semester.”

      Crap.

    14. Historiann on 23 Dec 2008 at 5:00 am #

      Oops! Good thing those course evals won’t be in your tenure file, Notorious…

      Ann, I think Karma points do count in the long run, even if they can’t be calculated for your annual salary exercise. (Although I should think that doing 5 outside evaluations suggests that you’re clearly an expert in your field, and that many people are clamoring for your opinions, and that should count for something!)

      In any case, we know that bad behavior is its own punishment, right?

    15. Susan on 23 Dec 2008 at 8:40 am #

      When I made changes in the syllabus, I didn’t remember to make the changes everywhere. So I had one due date for a paper in the beginning of the syllabus, and another one in the schedule of classes.

      I had to give credit to the students who paid attention only to the one at the front of the syllabus, in spite of my policies on late papers. And students who did not even read the syllabus (so didn’t have a good excuse) got a pass for slightly late papers. Sigh.
      The perils of writing a syllabus at the last minute.

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