There are certain aspects of the undergrad mentality that I just don’t understand. Some of these were certainly also true when I was an undergrad over a decade ago, but I didn’t understand typical undergrad quirks then, either. I mean things like:
- Doing one’s hair and makeup, then donning sweats for class
- Viewing class as an annoying interruption of one’s social life, and thus attending as few sessions as possible
- Starting papers the night before the due date, then expecting to earn an A
- Expecting professors to respond positively to greetingless, rambling email messages
- Expecting professors to like being called by their first names, even when they’ve introduced themselves as “Doctor” or “Professor,” and so forth.
This list was topped this week. I had an unprecedented interaction with an undergrad student who clearly just doesn’t get it.
I’d already had run-ins with this student (who will hereafter be referred to as “Super-Student” or SS), who has struggled in class but rarely attends. A couple of weeks ago, when I met with SS privately for a make-up exam (which SS demanded, not requested, an hour before the exam was scheduled to occur), SS told me to my face “I don’t see the point of the latter 3/4 of your class, as it’s not relevant to my major.” SS then continued on to say “The fact that your class is at 5 p.m. makes it so hard for me to concentrate on the material… It’s just hard for me to stay awake and make myself come to lectures because it’s Thursday night and it already feels like the weekend.” I responded with something along the lines of “This is no longer the case once you leave college and are functioning in the adult world.”
SS’s response: “What, Wednesday already feels like the weekend?”
My response: Stunned silence. Uh, grown-ups typically work on Friday!!!
Earlier this week my students completed course evals at the start of class. Per the standard operating procedure at my university, my grad assistant adminstered them and I waited outside in the hallway until she was finished. About 10 minutes after the start of class, a thin trickle of students starts filing out of the lecture hall, and I heard my grad assistant announce “You’re still having class once we’re done with evals.” A minute or so later, SS left the room with a friend, and I caught just the tail end of hu’s sentence. SS said “… and those in-class activities are just so stupid!”
SS obviously hadn’t seen me standing in the hallway, and this was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. I had to call hu on it, and replied “So, they are stupid, huh?”
Look of panic crosses SS’s face. A few seconds later, hu and friend had reached me in the hallway and SS started back-pedaling. “Well, I mean, just your homework assignments are stupid. I don’t mean you’re stupid. You’re kind of cool. But it’s dumb that we have to be in class to get the points for the assignments.”
I repeated the same line I’ve always used for these assignments, which is “In-class assignments are included in the grade because I’m rewarding good behavior. Requiring students to be in class in order to get or do the assignment encourages students to be responsible by rewarding them for regular attendance.I don’t allow make-ups because they’re a pain and having a make-up option allows students to be irresponsible.”
SS didn’t respond to this, although hu did look a bit sheepish. All hu said next was “Can I take our final early? It’s a total pain for me that it’s scheduled for Saturday of exams week. I know you didn’t pick the time, but I really need to be gone by then because my family is leaving for our spring vacation that day.”
I kid you not. Apparently somebody didn’t bother to check the exam schedule before the family booked their plane tickets. How irresponsible can one person be, even at age 19?
I didn’t say this, but could only think “Thank you for making final grade calculations just a little bit easier. I am now certain that if your points are on the borderline between letter grades, I won’t even need to consider rounding up.”
I’m letting SS take the exam 4 days early, mostly because I want to wash my hands of this situation. My only consolation is that I just posted the study guide yesterday, so SS will have far less time to prep for the exam than my more responsible students.
Thank goodness summer is coming! I need a break from so many irresponsible children!