Category Archives: Teaching

8 Things Your College Professor Won’t Tell You

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As a college instructor, I have developed a vast network of other instructors and professors from community colleges and universities; also, I love reading those Reader’s Digest lists such as “10 Things Your (insert profession here) Won’t Tell You.”

So, I decided recently to take an anonymous poll (Thank goodness for SurveyMonkey!) of my friends and trusted colleagues in order to create my own “10 8 Things” list. I wanted the juiciest, most scandalous tidbits, and they delivered — so much so that I didn’t feel comfortable posting some.

Here are the results:

 

1. Bribes are more effective than you might think.

One professor told me, “I had a female student who never showed up to class or did the homework. Toward the end of the semester, she decided to visit friends in San Diego. I was so ready to fail her… until she came back and presented me with a souvenir: a combination snow globe and letter opener. It was pretty cool. Because of that, I ended up passing her with a C.”

2. We will pass you to get rid of you.

Some students are just pains in the butt. “If a student is constantly challenging her grades throughout the semester or taking up office hours every week to ask for extra credit, I pass them even if they deserve a D. I don’t want to risk the chance of having the same student the following semester,” mentioned one history instructor.

3.  Male professors give special attention to females.

About 80% of male professors who responded said that they favor female students to male students (duh). One instructor stated, “If a male student asks me if he can make up an online quiz, I will refer him to the rules in the syllabus [that say ‘no’]. If a female student asks me the same question, I will more than likely say yes.”

So, young ladies, turn on that charm the next time you need something. You’ll likely get what you want.

4. We can and will find loopholes to make your lives miserable.

Just like (allegedly) a cop can find an obscure infraction if he wants to give you a ticket, professors can find ways to penalize students they, um… just plain ol’ don’t like. Ms. R in Oklahoma wrote, “When there’s a student who rubs me the wrong way, I create homework assignments that I know he won’t complete. Little by little, these small scores add up to where he ends up failing the course.”

Quite a few instructors, including this one, give five-point pop quizzes at the very beginning of class to penalize habitually tardy students. Because we can.

5. Online classes are easy because we generally don’t care.

Many professors teach extra-service courses online to supplement their modest income. Thus, the online course becomes low priority in addition to their regular course loads. One colleague had this to say: “I teach online at a different college. I assign two research papers and one exam, none of which I actually grade. I give out A’s and B’s randomly.”

Another professor teaches online every summer for extra cash. This past July, he “graded” (i.e. skimmed through) the assignments while sitting at an outdoor café in Italy.

Oh, and the real reason online instructors don’t immediately reply to your emails? “We just don’t give a d**n.”

6. If you offend our views, we will ‘not like you.’

Students: Don’t openly voice your religious or political views in class. Yes, it’s a free country, but the professor is the dictator in his/her own class. “One time a minority student told all of us [in class] that she hated anyone who was dumb enough to vote for [George W.] Bush,” said one professor in Texas. He applied #4 above and gave the young woman a D for the course.

Reason? The professor was a closet Republican.

Sure, you’re entitled to your opinion; you might end up on the professor’s naughty list, though.

7. We know if you’re a good student or just a kiss-up.

We college and university instructors/professors are not stupid. We can tell the difference between a hard-working overachiever and a teacher’s-pet-over-complementing-manipulator.

If you’re the latter, we might even play along.

You just might be in for a surprise when final grades are posted.

8. We don’t like grading any more than you like studying.

Most of the time, our departments force us to include final projects and term papers in our syllabi so that all of the course sections are in sync. Therefore, we have to devote lots of time to grading students’ work (imagine that).

A psychology instructor in California said that a student will earn a failing grade on a term paper only if he/she turns nothing in. “I count the number of papers turned in and the number of students I have, then go from there.”

Another professor: “I usually give students full credit if they merely attempt the final project in English literature. This includes pages of meaningless fluff. Actually, I don’t even know it’s fluff half the time because I don’t read the whole things.”

 

Happy Finals!

~t

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A Terrible Day for Two of Us

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“Why are you here? Just go. Change to another class.”

“He won’t even let us go to the bathroom.”

“Your writing is boring. It puts me to sleep.”

“If you leave early again, I’ll call the police.”

“You have no chance in here. I will fail you.”

I couldn’t believe these false accusations against me. I sat in the HR director’s office with the dean and associate dean; this wasn’t happening. I was just in this office a year ago for some other BS!

“Your students don’t want you back in the class,” the associate dean told me.

I sat there dumbfounded, my backpack and school bag beside me on the floor in the spacious office. The associate dean bum-rushed me as soon as I walked in the door this morning. “We have a meeting with the dean and the HR director in ten minutes. It’s bad. Bring your bags and all your stuff. Leave your gradebook.”

That could only mean one thing: I would not be going back to my office. I would not be coming back to my job. Why? What had I done?

Like the paranoid fool I am, I began frantically thinking about anything illegal that I had done. I hadn’t picked a fight with anyone. I hadn’t molested any students. What did I do that was so bad??

The dean and her associate walked me to the HR building; we walked in single file. I was last. The long walk. I had just watched a documentary the other day about life on death row.

The dean decided to have mercy on me. The next logical step was for me to get a week’s leave without pay — a method that the college uses to get rid of people since termination paperwork is too time consuming. However, she suggested that I receive yet another written warning instead.

Plus, I got pulled from the class. I would now be doing lowly tutoring work with the educated rejects in the writing center who languished away for minimum wage. At least I could keep my other two classes: the ones I actually liked. The one I got pulled from was an ESL class full of rich, spoiled international students lucky enough to make it to a U.S. college. A lot of them had powerful fathers who knew how to pull strings for their kids back home.

I got back to my office. My colleague and good friend, Rebecca, a Spanish professor, was sobbing in the next office as she packed all her books and knick-knacks in boxes. “So today is your last day?” I said.

“Yep.” She fell apart again. I had never seen her pretty blue eyes so red, puffy, and full of tears. Oh, what I wouldn’t do for such a loving soul as Rebecca.

The new dean and her associate don’t like Rebecca for reasons unknown. We don’t know why because Rebecca is one of the most respected, sincere, hardworking faculty members at the college. The new deans are essentially putting her out to pasture at some rinky-dink satellite campus ten miles away.

Rebecca is a good, faithful Methodist. Even though our Christian traditions vary somewhat, we always found common ground on the essentials of the faith.

She was only given one week’s notice about being “shipped down the river.” I wanted desperately to give her some sort of memento. Not a Starbucks mug or anything ordinary and cheesy. All I could think of was my Divine Mercy prayer card that I kept in my wallet.

I didn’t want to see her open my petty gift in the envelope that I made with a piece of printer paper stapled along both sides.

She told me later that it was the most thoughtful gift that she had received in her short time at the college. In my note that I included with the card, I tried to encourage her with Romans 8:28 which says:

God works for the good of those who love Him.

Rebecca probably had no idea what the Divine Mercy chaplet was. It didn’t matter. On the front, underneath the picture of Christ, are these five words:

Jesus, I trust in you.

“At least I’m not the only one having a terrible day,” Rebecca joked between sobs after I told her about my third written warning in two years.

She initiated a hug right before leaving her office for good. I was nervous because Rebecca is very attractive. Anyway, we hugged, and I’m glad we did because she’s my friend and I’ll miss her greatly.

~t


In the Trenches: Teaching Students Who Don’t Seem to Care

They say not to write an email and send it if you’re angry. I think blogging is an exception; most of my posts are fueled by emotion anyway.

No matter how well I start my day — reading and studying Scripture, praying, listening to soothing music — it always seems to go downhill anyway. Today is a case in point.

I took my meds, had my morning cup of coffee, and spent about 15 minutes (all I can afford on weekday mornings) in meditation and reflection after studying a Bible passage. I’ve been wearing my Miraculous Medal recently to remind me that I’m not alone in my daily struggles. The commute went well. I listened to some songs by John Michael Talbot, one of my favorite Christian artists.

But then it was time for class.

This morning I taught developmental English. It’s the last step before students take college-level English, colloquially referred to as “freshman comp.” You would think that developmental students would be motivated by the fact that they’re essentially on their way to beginning their core curriculum studies.

Only two out of my twenty-five students had attempted the homework that was due today. It was an important assignment to help prepare them for a major essay two days from now. Seeing as nobody cared — only about half of the class bought the textbook — I told them I wasn’t going to waste my time discussing something that they weren’t prepared to discuss.

I wanted so badly to say, What are you fools doing here?! This is a community college, meaning it’s easy as hell to get accepted, easy as hell to afford, and the professors here actually care about you, unlike the big universities where you’re just another face in the huge lecture hall.

Get the hell out if you don’t want to be here! Companies always need janitors, and McDonald’s will hire anyone with a pulse. Don’t you care about your future, you idiots?!

But I didn’t say that. Rather, I told them I was very disappointed and that some of them would receive a rude awakening at the end of the semester when I post their grades.

Luckily I took a Xanax this morning along with my other meds because I’ve been struggling again with suicidal ideation. Had I not taken it, who knows where I would be right now. Maybe out of a job. Or in jail.

At the end of class, I gave back the final drafts of the students’ essays from last week. I hate doing this because it stirs up mutiny in the classroom. I can’t make it out of the class after the scheduled end time since everybody wants to know why they scored so low. Um, did it ever occur to you to learn the grammar of your mother tongue?  You expect a passing grade when your supporting paragraphs consist of three sentences each?

Here is an interesting exchange with a student after returning her essay which she had plagiarized:

Student: Hey, why did you give me a zero? (Yes, college students address us as Hey. Lovely, isn’t it?)

Me: Well, because you cut and pasted from the Internet.

Student: But, on my first draft, you told me to add more details.

Me: True. But that doesn’t mean you can steal one-quarter of your essay from WebMD.

Student: But they’re details!

Me: (flabbergasted)

On my way out of the building, I crumpled and threw away progress reports of five students who didn’t bother attending today. It didn’t matter, though. All five were full of zeros.

I found a place to sit under a staircase at the entrance of the building. Afraid that I would explode at the first person I saw, I took some time to cool down.

Sometimes desperate prayers are the most effective. I prayed like crazy not to lose my temper or to kill anyone. (I’m a devout Catholic, but I struggle daily with my illness and sinful nature.)

There is a well-known Christian song called “One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus.” For me, though, it’s more like “One Minute at a Time, Sweet Jesus.”

I am now back in my office, but I don’t feel any better. I wish I had a best friend to talk to right now.

~t

(Photo by Topaz)


Helping Students Beyond the Classroom: A Lady Named Colleen

I’m a college teacher, but sometimes I’m also a counselor for my students. During my office hours, it’s not uncommon for students to come and see me about problems in their personal lives. I am more than happy to give advice or, in most cases, just lend an ear. I trust that the Holy Spirit guides me and gives me the wisdom to help these individuals.

Yesterday morning, as I arrived at my office, one of my students was sitting against the door and crying. She is one of my best students, so I had a feeling it wasn’t grade-related. As she began telling me what was going on, I suddenly felt unqualified. “Are you sure you don’t want to meet with a counselor? The office is just down the hall, and it’s free for students.”

Her answer: “I can’t open up with just anyone. God has led me to you.”

The student, who I will refer to as Colleen, is in a marriage that is quickly spiraling downward. It’s complicated, but the gist is that her husband verbally and physically abuses her, won’t let her drive, and demands that she hand over all of her salary from her part-time food service job.

Colleen is from a country in West Africa, and her husband is American. He has arranged a court date for them to sign divorce papers.

Trusting in the Holy Spirit — since I didn’t get the memo that God was sending Colleen my way — I listened to her and clarified some things. Not really knowing what to say, I referred Colleen to some apartments near campus that were affordable. I’m friends with the coordinator of career services at the college, so I told Colleen where to find the office and to tell them that I sent her.

Lastly, I shared Romans 8: 28 with her: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” There is a reason for everything, I told Colleen. She told me that she believed and trusted that God would work everything out for her. I was humbled by her faith.

When we finished talking, Colleen felt so much better. Tomorrow she is going to court with her husband. When she walks out afterward, she will suddenly be alone in a strange new country with no home, no family, and not quite enough money to make ends meet.

“Thank you for everything!” she told me as she stood up to leave. “You have really helped me.”

“But I really didn’t do much.”

“Oh, you did. You really did.”

Luckily, Colleen will be in my class until the semester ends in December. After that, though, I may not see her again.

Please keep Colleen in your prayers.

~t

(photo by Topaz)