Friday, April 20, 2007

What Were They Thinking

Here's a couple of those little experiences that teachers love so much. First, I gave a test yesterday. One student finished the test and left after about 25 minutes, then returned 20 minutes after that. Here's a transcript of the conversation that followed.

Student: "Was there a question on the test about Freud's stages?"

Me: "Yes."

Student: "I talked to some of the other students and I don't think I answered that one."

Me: "Sorry."

Student: "Well, can I see my test to see if I did?"

Me: "OK."

Student (after seeing that her answer for the question was left blank.) "See, I didn't answer this one."

Me: "Sorry."

Student: "Well is there anything I can do? I know the answer?"

Me: "Well I can't let you answer it now. The only reason you realized you didn't answer it was because you talked to other students who finished the test."

Student: "But I promise I know it."

Me: "You realize that I can't let people leave a test, talk to other students who have finished the same test, then come back in and answer questions they left blank?"

Student: "I guess."

Me: "Sorry."

Second experience: About a month ago a student who had graduated several years earlier emailed me to ask for a letter of recommendation for graduate school. After looking over her records I found that she'd had only one class with me, barely passed it with the lowest "C" possible, missed nearly a quarter of the class periods, failed to hand in anything on time, and that her transcript showed that she'd performed about the same way in most of her other classes. I wrote back to say that I was sorry but that "I really cannot write a positive letter for you." I told her to try some of her music professors from here since her grades were better in those classes. I heard nothing back until a phone mail message yesterday: "Dr. Gramlich, I'm sending you that recommendation form for me that we talked about. Please fill it out for me."


Sphinx Ink said...

What gall. To expect not only to look at a test after turning it in, but also to get a chance to amend it...and the one whom you clearly told "no" regarding the recommendation, sending you the recommendation form anyway? Incomprehensible. What were they thinking, indeed!

RK Sterling said...

Sorry, I had to laugh. I can already foresee my daughter's college years...
(Assuming she gets there, of course)

This morning's example:

"Mom, can I use your credit card to put more minutes on my phone?"



"Because, you skipped school yesterday, you're failing most of your classes, you haven't done anything I've asked you to do for weeks, and you run out of minutes because you keep texting people even though I've told you not to."

"What's skipping school go to do with my phone? Can I use the debit card then?"

Charles Gramlich said...

Sphinx,when she started asking me this I felt like I'd fallen off the edge of the world into surreal land.

Kate, exactly. And both of these are funny, in a worrisome sort of way.

Donnetta said...

And what part of "no" is it that you don't understand?

I'm laughing. My hubby has taught at a few universities. He teaches psychology. He invariably has a student like this. Stories that are unbelievable.

As sphinx ink said, "What were they thinking..."


JR's Thumbprints said...

If a person can't take a hint regarding a recommendation, that's when you slam them. You may want to check into the legal ramifications first.

Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

Ah....the student mind. I have been thinking of teaching at the college level, thinking of leaving behind the world of alternative education. I've always pictured college as a place where the students are all eager, well prepared, and thoughtful. In my fantasy world, they can't wait to expand their minds and their approach to their studies is thorough and marked by explosions of awareness and discovery. sigh.

Don't say anything...let me have my fantasy, Charles.

Clifford said...

I was teaching sixth grade and had a minor emergency I had to take care of. I took my students to the library, where they were to take a test while I was away. As all good teachers, I recommended they be on their best behavior while I was gone.

When I returned, one of the students blurted out, "Mr. Brooks, Ayisha didn't finish all of her questions!" Maybe I wasn't in the best of moods because I gave her an F for looking at her neighbor's paper (and tattling -- this was sixth grade for crying out loud).

There's an old saying about common sense not being all that common.


Erik Donald France said...

Man, doesn't tha suck? I hate it when students are "sick" on test days, because it means that I have to make variations on the same test. It's obviously calculated on their part but they think themselves clever. Or, they want an extra day to study. Either way, it's depressing. And after doing college letters for years, I applaud your decision not to write for the former lousy student. Now you can always send a cryptic one telling the truth, if she insists that you send one. Personally, I'd "just say no" -- again.

Lucas Pederson said...

I'd tell both those kids to stick their ignorance right up their...well, nevermind, too profane. That's proabably why I'm not a teacher.
Seriously though, why can't they take no for an answer? Well, maybe their worried about their futures, but isn't a tad late for that now? Especially with the young woman who wanted you to send her a recomandation. Wow. Either she's really brave or really thick headed. I won't comment one whcih one I think she is...:-) Great post!

Steve Malley said...

The adult world is a fine place, if you can handle one hard truth:

No special treatment. None.

The job market, romance, viral molecules and the laws of physics as they apply to autmobiles, all do not care what your excuse is. 'Rewards' and 'punishments' are just different words for results out here. And weasling out of results you don't like is not an option.

I have not yet spawned and do not educate, so my perspective might be a bit off, but it seems to me that the current emphasis on self esteem is robbing the youngsters of valuable time to learn responsibility and consequences while they're still in that sheltered childhood environment...

Sidney said...

Man the great thing about blogs is it gives you the "mile in someone else's moccasins" view.

I'd never thought about all of the things professors go through just in giving a test.

I always had a healthy amount of fear and tried to do things right when I was in school, but there's certainly another side.

Spider Girl said...

Er, if at fist you don't succeed try, try, try again?

Spider Girl said...

at first, I mean. :)

Unknown said...

As a prof myself, I've encountered the same silliness Charles describes, but most of my students haven't been like that. What's annoying is that those who are silly take so much of your mental energy.

One has to learn to say NO quickly and unambiguously, so you have time and good will to give to the good students who work with you instead of draining you.

Emily Toth

Danny Tagalog said...