Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Advice for the day -- erase the blackboard....

I'm going to tell you my own tale of student woe --- just to remind you that, sometimes we proffies actually make a mistake.

About this time of the year, 20 or so years ago, I was a freshman at an R1.

I was in a pretty darned big American Lit class. We had the usual suspects, sweaty undergrads, overworked TAs and a blow-hard, but fascinating professor. It seemed like college to me.

Because I was kind of a smart little cookie, and because I'd had a good high school education that covered much of the material in the class, I was doing well. I was headed for my first college A and knew it.

One day, it snowed and I was a few minutes late to class. It was the first snow, which causes everyone in my home state to lose all ability to drive -- and around the R1, it was even worse.

On the board it said "Final exam, Wednesday, 1:00" -- Dr. Blowhard was lecturing and I took my seat. I wrote down the words on the board, like any good little freshman -- and was relieved to know when the final exam would be.

Fast forward to Wednesday at 1:00. My little freshman self shows up ready for the exam -- only to find another class there.

I panic.

In my panic, I ran into someone from my class -- who asked why I'd missed the final the day before. This person explained the evil that is the final-exam schedule... something they either didn't cover in orientation or I'd somehow missed it... Remember, this is the first quarter for me -- and all my other classes ended with final papers with due dates on the syllabus.

I consult the syllabus looking for the final exam date -- which wasn't there -- but I do find the Blowhard's office. I go over there, only to have Dr. Blowhard not believe my explanation. He told me he thinks I made it up to get extra time.

The final was worth 35% of the total grade -- my A was now a D.

Moral of the story -- don't be a lazy-ass like Dr. Blowhard -- and the prof before him in the room-- ERASE the board.... and realize that it is possible for you to make a mistake.


Bardiac said...

Ugh. What a nightmare!

Recognizing that first term students really can't possibly know all the rules is absolutely necessary, and cutting them just a little slack at times, humane.

Psych Post Doc said...

So did you take the D? I would have thrown a fit.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I didn't even know I could appeal it until it was way too late -- like, maybe 7 years later when the appeals process was explained to me at my BA school...

The fact of the matter is that Dr. Blowhard's attitude all semester was that teaching this class was beneath him, any questions about his lecture should go to the TAs, and that he really shouldn't be interrupted from writing another inane article only he and his mother will ever read.

I suppose, in the end, he helped a whole lot of students -- because I make a point of being clear about finals week schedules and grade appeals. I also try to believe that I could make a mistake and I make sure it is fixed, so that students don't suffer. Really, they do enough to demolish their own grades -- I shouldn't help them.

undine said...

Dr. Blowhard should have given you the benefit of the doubt; it's not as though you had coasted through in slacker glory up to that point.

I hate people who don't erase the board. It's a way of saying "my time is more valuable than your time," and that's on anyone's list of top ten anger-inducing concepts. There was a TA teaching Spanish in the classroom before my class met last semester, and he could never be bothered to erase the board. When I caught his act after he stayed late impressing students one day, I realized that his cool quotient or whatever would be in jeopardy if he erased the board and could understand why he didn't erase it.

I don't have any cool quotient to lose. I erase the board.

mrc-w said...

Oh that is horrible! I'm sorry that happened to you in your first term :(