Tag Archives: teacher

Grade Grubbers

I hate grade grubbers more than I hate pedophiles.  Grade grubbers are the pedophiles of the academic world. Is that too extreme? Offensive? (Guess what? I don’t care)

For the blessedly unfamiliar, grade grubbers are self-congratulating, special snowflakes who can’t seem to accept reality at the end of a semester.  As such, they attempt to force their delusions upon me.

They do this at the end of a semester.

After final grades have been submitted.

When I just want to curl up in my heated blanket and pretend they never existed.

They are the lemon juice in a paper cut I forgot I had.  They are the dank, rotten cilantro odor tainting the air after a stink bug has been slain.  They are the e-mails clogging my spam folder (the ones I never get around to deleting), trying to sell me Viagra for the penis I don’t have.

They come to me, obsequious and contrite at first, begging for unwarranted clemency.

I’m a special snowflake. I deserve an A. Please give me an A.

Their e-mails are always subtle and passive aggressive in their attempts to place the blame for their failure squarely upon my shoulders.  Let me give you a sampling:

Dear Professor, (respectful – so far, so good)

I was surprised to see that I ended up with a B in your class.

(Oh really?  Were you surprised?  Because, guess what, reading your final essay was like stubbing my toe a million times and then immediately falling into a pool of lava.  Did Paris Hilton write it for you, or did you just dangle a fish in front of your your cat while it walked across your keyboard for a few minutes?)

After all, I got A’s in all my other classes, and I’ve always been an A student. (Oh fantastic!  I didn’t realize I was consorting with an ***A Student*** here. Wow.   I’ll just go change that grade immediately since, after all, your grade in my class is entirely determined by the grades you receive in your other classes and your ability to demonstrate such robust megalomania.  In fact – why just an A?  Let’s make it an A + + +!)

I even had my mom, who is also a professor here, read over all my papers before I turned them in, and she always said they were good.  (Well since your professor mother [who most certainly must exist because you say she does] thinks you deserve an A, I will certainly change that grade for you.  After all, she’s the professor of this class, right?  Oh she’s not?  Well then I guess she can go fly a kite with all the other moms I don’t care about.)

I’m sure such students are the radioactive fallout leftover from this nuclear shift in parental ideology.


I feel like I earned an A in your class, and since I was only 1 percentage point away, I would be so grateful if you could change my grade to an A.  (Do I even need to comment on this?  Yes, you were only one percentage point away.  Do you know what that means?  IT MEANS YOU WERE A FULL 1 PERCENTAGE POINT AWAY FROM EARNING AN A.   But you know what?  Forget that.  Let’s come up with a new system of evaluation based upon what you feel you deserve.)

If I don’t get an A in your class, I won’t be able to [insert sob story here – make the dean’s list, keep my scholarship, play basketball, be an RA, achieve self-actualization, wipe my own ass,  and on and on and on, ad infinitum].  If there’s any extra credit I can do to raise my grade, please let me know. (Oh, your performance in my class might jeopardize your ability to have something you want?  Well then I will definitely change your grade lest you suffer some kind of disappointment in life.  We can’t have that.  It’s probably my fault that you didn’t take advantage of the TWO extra credit opportunities I offered earlier in the semester, but now that the semester is OVER, I would love to go out of my way to assign and grade more work for you.)

I really enjoyed this class this semester, and I thought you were a really good professor! (Oh flattery!  Now we’re resorting to flattery!  Ingenious.  I’ll never see through that. . .)

Sincerely (Really?)

The Worst Person Ever – no really, I’m THE WORST person ever

I even had a student once try to force her final essay into my hand even though she had disappeared from class for about a month without a word, far exceeding the attendance policy and automatically failing her for the course (which I informed her about in an e-mail I sent, also encouraging her to withdraw from the class so her failing grade wouldn’t damage her GPA).

I should have known this girl was a soul-sucking black hole of a bitch the first day of class when I innocently pronounced her name, Sajah, like this –> Say-juh (like Asia, but with an S).  She snotted back, “Um, hello? It’s pronounced Suh-jay-uh.”  I wanted to snot back, “No. It’s not.  You’re missing some letters.  Were they stolen?  Perhaps you could borrow some from Emmaleeighh over there, since she’s not even using half the letters in her name.”

Anyway, after I stood my ground and refused to take this girl’s final essay she left it, along with a note, in my mailbox.  The note read “Teachers like you are the reason students like me don’t succeed.”

Am I?  Um, thanks, I guess.



C is for Christmas and Cookies and Cocaine and Crazy

Greetings scant blog readers!  I hope you didn’t think I was dead, because that would be disturbing – just imagining some dead person out there, lying in her apartment, having her face gnawed off by her cat. . .

Here’s the thing – Christmas makes me a little crazy.  By that, I mean I love it.  I’m a cynical bitch about most things in life, but when the holidays come around I turn into this thing:

I know. It’s disturbing.

A manic, sugar-guzzling, ho-ho-ho-ing Martha Stewart reject.  Christmas music plays constantly in my mind – the anthem of my mania.  I scrawl out massive ‘to-do’ lists with the fervency of a cartoon super villain creating a blueprint for world domination.

I think to some extent I believe that if I bake enough, craft enough, stare at twinkly lights enough, wrap enough and listen to “Jingle Bell Rock” enough, I will usher in an era of world peace that will bring even Kim Jong Un to his knees and all will behold my saintly glory.

You see – I make a lot of homemade gifts because I’m an adjunct; thus, I am poor.  (P.S. This is cute when you’re a kid making fruit loop sombreros, but it’s just kind of pathetic when you’re a full-grown, real-life adult with a master’s degree – it’s like when your senile Aunt Bethany regifts her cat or when your husband catches you eating a spoonful of peanut butter and chocolate icing for dinner).

I can’t just make things easy for myself either and say, “Hey, I know – I’ll just make some chocolate chip cookies for everyone.  All I have to do is triple this recipe, bake em up, box em and be done!  Easy!”  Au contraire.  For some reason, I go absolutely batshit and feel the need to

Truffles and peanut butter cups and cookies shaped like snowmen! Biscotti! Banana Bread! Palmiers!  I must bake them all!

And while I bake them, I must taste them!  Taste them all!

This all sounds perfectly feasible when I make out that to-do list at the beginning of the season, but as Christmas draws nearer, I crumble into a ball of sugary panic and desperation as I sacrifice sleep to dip pretzels in melted chocolate and seriously consider developing a mild cocaine addiction:

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I didn’t leave myself any time for blogging or writing or anything except rocking back and forth in a hyperglycemic frenzy, really.  I barely managed to make it through my last few weeks of classes without serving arsenic-laced petit-fours to my students whose last batch of essays were utterly abysmal.  I’m talking ‘clearly didn’t even read the essay when finished because paragraph three ends in the middle of an unfinished sentence’ abysmal. I’m talking ‘inventing new words like lessable – yes, lessable’ abysmal.  Perhaps this was my fault, consumed as I was by my sugar-peddling bacchanal.

(Pssst. Sometimes I really don’t think I’m cut out to be a teacher.)

Anyway – I’m back, and as I noted last week my New Year’s Resolution is ‘leave the dishes.’  I will try to cultivate an attitude of relaxation and tranquility.  I will try not to sweat the small stuff.

Unfortunately, I also registered to take the GRE in March, so this should be a fun few months!  Yes, I finally decided to apply to doctoral programs, because clearly I need more education debt in my life.  I’d love to say that I’m taking this step because I value knowledge and personal growth, but really, I just want a job that pays me enough to move out of the hood (where ‘fireworks or gunshots?’ is a regular topic of discussion over dinners of Ramen noodles and depression), and it seems a PhD might be required for this.

I didn’t have to take the GRE for my master’s degree (my writing samples were enough because I’m so clearly awesome), but now it must be done.

As I cracked open the math section of my study book for the first time, I was greeted with a veritable melee of terms that I have, for years,  carefully sequestered in the corner of my mind reserved for cockroaches and speculums and all things unpleasant:  FOIL, permutations, functions, quadratic equations, exponents.  Integer?  That means number, right? Right?  Oh dear God, what does it mean?!?

Here’s how I imagine all English majors encountering algebra and geometry for the first time years after graduating:

In other words,

Any advice?

“Rudy Wins the Sportsball Game” by Chad McFrat

I graded 40 rough drafts in one day.  Do you know how much grading that is?  It takes me roughly 15 – 20 minutes to grade a rough draft, so my day clocked in at around 12 hours of grading.  Just grading.  That doesn’t count the planning and class prep I threw in for good measure.  Fellow English teachers/professors out there, I’m sure you feel my pain.  Remember the ‘This is your brain on drugs’ commercials from the 80’s?

(So are they saying that if I do drugs, my brain will become delicious?  That’s my question.)

By the end of the day, my brain felt, not like the fried egg in the commercial, but like an egg that had been whipped into oblivion by a carving fork and then cooked for a few hours into a shriveled, rubbery, burnt oblivion.

Any questions?

If I have to read one more narrative about sports, I’m going to decapitate myself and dribble my own head down a basketball court.  Confession: I hate sports.  It’s not that I don’t understand the merit of sports.  It’s not that I don’t understand how people could like sports.  I just can’t like sports.  I’ve tried.  I was born into a family of sports junkies.  I married into a family of sports addicts.  Trust me, for the sake of my own sanity, I have tried.  I. Just. Can’t.  It’s like trying to force myself to enjoy mayonnaise or ranch dressing.  I understand that people like these condiments (“It’s cool!” “It’s creamy!” “It makes my sandwich moist and delicious!” they cry), but in my opinion, mayonnaise is the repulsive, hellfire mucus of Satan himself

No. No. Nooooonono. Never.  Blargh.  Blech. Ew. Ugh.

and ranch dressing is the pus secreting from his festering wounds .

I watched this SNL skit about a ranch-dressing focus group once.  Once.  As amusing as I find Melissa McCarthy, I would rather change 300 blown-out baby diapers than ever watch it again.   It just confirmed my suspicions.  Ranch dressing is vile.

Here it is. Watch if you dare. It’s your funeral.

It’s as if someone dug through medical waste to find garbage bags filled with the fat sucked out during a liposuction procedure and stuck it in a jar.  Spread THAT on your sandwich.

For me, sports are the entertainment version of this – creamy, liposuction, fatty condiment on a screen that makes my stomach want to crawl out of my throat and run away. There’s nothing that makes me cringe more than accidentally eating a bite of mayonnaise or ranch dressing except for sports sounds in the background of my life.

Ugh.  What kind of monster made this video?  I could only get through 20 seconds of it.

So, when 75% of the narrative drafts I had to grade were about sports trials and tribulations, I thought I actually might start having a House level seizure (that turns out NOT to be lupus).  It was like reading really poorly-written Rudy fan-fiction.  Do you remember Rudy?

No, not the adorable, precocious Cosby kid who always knew just how to put Kenny in his place.

THIS Rudy.

Remember baby Sean Astin overcoming the odds to become a football hero?  At the end of the movie, everyone chants, “Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!” and he’s hoisted onto the shoulders of his teammates, victorious.

I remember Rudy quite vividly because, for some reason, every health class I took from jr. high to high school was taught by some sportsball coach who hung up posters bearing “inspirational” slogans like, “Pain is weakness leaving your body!” and forced us to watch Rudy  and Hoosiers on a constant loop.

Anyway, most of my students’ essays were along the same lines – “How I overcame the odds to move from JV to Varsity” “How I won the big game” “How I made the team” “How I ate a bucket of mayonnaise.”

You might be thinking, “If you don’t want to read papers about sports, why not just tell them they can’t write about sports or create assignments that choose a topic for them, like a literacy narrative”?  I have done this in the past, but what I find is that most of my students are much more willing to write (and are much better at writing) the first essay if I allow them to choose a topic they like.   My hope is that they will somewhat enjoy writing the first paper so that I can begin, ever so slowly,  to chip away at their prejudices toward writing (which are sundry).     “See?  That wasn’t so bad!  Now let’s do a rhetorical analysis of this speech by Alexander the Great!”  It’s sort of like the college-writing version of this:

Yessss. Yesss. Eat the delicious candy. Haha! It’s strained peas!

So for one paper only, I force myself to metaphorically eat an entire bottle of ranch dressing, cringing and heaving all the way.

Here’s a quote from one student’s essay:       “To quote the great Andy Dick, I was in beast mode.”

First of all,

THIS is Andy Dick.

You know, C-List “comedian” whose ability to annoy is second only to a first-place tie between Carrot Top and Gilbert Gottfried.  He’s best known for mastering the art of sexual harrassment and public urination.  So either my student has a completely mangled definition of “great” or he was thinking of somebody else.  I really hope he was thinking of somebody else.  Also, I’m pretty sure Andy Dick never talked about going into ‘beast mode.’  Please correct me if I’m wrong so that I can adequately judge my student for his choice in role models.

Marshawn Lynch definitely goes into that beast mode.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons I don’t like sports.  Every multi-million dollar sportsball hero I’ve ever seen interviewed sounds like Mr. Lynch and, when asked, “How’d you manage to pull out a win tonight?” says things like “Well, you know, the other team gave it 100%, so I just went out there and gave it my 110%”  a phrase that tops my list of pet peeves as a complete impossibility.

Another student wrote, “I dreamed of becoming a professional athlete ass well” which created some very interesting images in my head as I tried to figure out what a ‘professional athlete ass well’ could be.  DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT do a Google search for ‘ass well.’

One wrote about how the big game was very “nerve raking” which I actually like better than “nerve-racking” I think.  Just imagine a rake scraping across exposed nerve-endings.  That seems much more unpleasant

I think I’ll start using that phrase.  For example – “Reading essays about sports is nerve-raking.”

The end.

74 Steps to Tibet

The first week of the Fall semester has been, in a word, somuthereffingexhaustingiwanttobeinasleepcomaforever.  I’m teaching four classes right in a row (small break for lunch between class 2 and 3).  Also, since they are doing renovations on campus and demolishing the building where I usually teach (you know, the one conveniently located twenty feet away from my office building), I have to hike to Tibet to teach my classes.

Down 63 steps.  Across a busy, four-lane road.  Past a baseball field.  Past a soccer field.  Up 74 steps.  Around the corner.  That is where my building is located.  It is old, weird and one million miles away.  By the time I get there after lugging a twenty pound bag of books in the ninety-degree heat, my dress is soaked and my ballet flats feel like sandpaper shackles.  My students all look super happy to have endured a similar journey.  Let me tell you how thrilling it is to teach an entire class of students who all appear to be suffering from bitchy resting face:

It’s not.  Heat makes people crazy.  Like Squints Palledorous jumping into the deep end scary.

I can’t take it anymore!

Since I’m so exhausted, I give you today’s installment of what I will call ‘Poetic Bus Conversations.’  The woman in question had a voice that reminded me of Wheezy, the penguin from Toy Story

Broken squeaker

Bette Midler as Winnie in Hocus Pocus



and Norma White, wife of Jesco White (you know, the Dancing Outlaw).


She was also sitting right across the aisle from me while all of this was being said.  One foot away from me.

Disclaimer:  I’m going to specify race in the following conversation only because it is relevant to almost everything Crazy White Homeless Lady says.

Crazy White Homeless Lady:  I don’t fuck wit white people no more.  Any fuckin’ cracker try to talk to me, they gonna get a fuckin’ terlet (toilet) in their mouth.

(Polite Elderly Black Gentleman Approaches.  Crazy White Homeless Lady moves to offer her seat)

Lady:  I was gonna give you my seat.

Gentleman:  That’s alright.  I found one.  Thank you.

Lady:  Well I was gonna give it to you cause you sexy.

Gent:  (nervous laughter) Well thank you.

Lady:  Yea, you sexy.  Wanna fuck?


Gent:  No ma’am.  I’m married.

Lady:  Oh that don’t mean nothin’!

Gent:  To me it does!

Lady:  Oh alright, ok, I feel ya.  I don’t mean no disrespect.  For real though.

Gent:  That’s alright.

Lady:  (To another elderly black gentleman)  You sexy too.

Other Gent:  (No response)

Lady:  Oh now you gonna act like you don’t know me?  You knew me this morning when I had my little cootie cat all up on your face!

(Coarse/awkward/nervous laughter from all around)


Lady:  Hey, you got any change?  I gotta get me somethin’ to eat.

Gentleman:  No ma’am, I’m sorry.  I don’t have any money.

Lady:  I feel ya, I feel ya.

White Man Exiting Bus:  I’d give you some change, but I’m a cracker and you don’t fuck with crackers.

Lady: (Really, really loud) That’s right bitch! I don’t want your change!  Keep walking.  I’ll fuckin’ kick your ass into your teeth!  Fuckin’ cracker.

The whole time, I tried to remain as invisible as possible.  It was just one of the many moments in my life that I have wished invisibility cloaks were real.  Also, it was as if my brain was Nancy Kerrigan’s knee and this conversation was Tonya Harding’s hired henchman’s police baton.

Why?  Why?  Why?

Happy September everybody!


Valentines to My Students

I know it’s not Valentine’s Day (a holiday I usually skip altogether anyway), but as my summer classes wind down and I prepare for fall, I’ve been thinking about all the things I wish I could say to my students past and present.  Also, I’m tired, so I’m going to give you shiny things to look at.  So here they are.  Love letters to my students.

To the students who say “I don’t understand why you gave me a bad grade.  I mean, I always got B’s in my last English class” and then refuse to help themselves improve on the premise that am the reason they are not succeeding:

To the arrogant, know-it-all students who let everyone know that they are ‘too good for this class’ by repeatedly questioning any piece of information I provide and, once in a blue moon, actually manage be right about something:

To the students who e-mail me. Constantly.  On my days off.  To ask me questions.  About things that aren’t important or that they should already know.

To the students whose essays are so terrifyingly bad that they are almost unreadable:

To the students who never shut up during class:

To the students who try to undermine my status as the classroom’s foremost authority on English:



To the students who interrupt my precious between-class moments (where I try to shovel some food in my face, do some deep-breathing exercises and massage my twitching eye) to interact with me:

To the students who insist on telling me WAY too much about their personal lives (baby daddies, explosive diarrhea, weird rashes, drug relapses):

To that one snake-nosed, evil she-demon who was openly insubordinate and antagonistic toward me one semester, who gave me panic attacks, who caused me to feel actual hatred for another human being:

Don’t forget I’m a bad muthaf*cka.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I wish I could be a teaching combo of Ron Swanson, April Ludgate, Enid Coleslaw and Samuel L. Jackson.


Turtle Envy

I’m jealous of turtles and hermit crabs.

I think I’ve already established that teaching turns me into a veritable Sonic-the-hedgehog spinning ball of anxiety.  Whenever hermit crabs and turtles feel stressed out, they can retreat into their shells and nobody says boo (except, of course, for that one douche kid that has to jam a stick in there or shake the poor critter until it dies, like this mutant…

However, I think if I turtled up in the middle of my classroom floor, my students might draw some unfair conclusions about my life choices and mental health.

Still, sometimes life gives me turtle envy.

For example, I had to make like a Liz Lemon and run away from the Redbox kiosk yesterday because there were youths standing in line behind me and it stressed my shit out.

Like this.

My husband replied, “Just imagine what your life would be like if you had real problems.”  Then, he had a real problem when I pulled out my toothbrush shiv (which I carry for just such occasions) and jammed it into his eye socket.

Anyway, because I’m a teacher, I’m poor, and because I’m poor, I often use the bus to get to work, and because I use the bus, I often arrive at work sweaty and exhausted and shell-shocked (heh) because, as we all know, if there is any situation that will soothe social anxiety it is cramming a nutjob into an enclosed space with fifty other nutjobs who smell of beer and sadness.

This post isn’t strictly about teaching, but it is about why, when I finally get to work on some days, I am already 5,000% over it.

Let me just explain to you some of the exciting opportunities public transportation offers:

1)      The chance to meet exciting new people!

A few weeks ago, I heard a man behind me having a phone conversation.  It sounded something like this:  “Carol, you’ve had a bad year Carol.  I’m sorry Carol.  You’ve had a bad year Carol.  You’ve had a bad year Carol.  Carol, you’re not well Carol.  I’m sorry Carol.”  I thought it was a pretty strange and redundant conversation.  Carol seemed to need a lot of reminders that she’d had a bad year, and I began to think she might be a little crazy.  I started to feel a little annoyed and wished he would call Carol back later rather than forcing everyone on the bus to hear his loud and repetitive conversation – until I stood up to exit the bus and realized the man was not talking into a phone at all.  He was talking to nobody.  Dude was having a Jon Nash (as interpreted by Russell Crowe) level meltdown.

Nothing to see here folks.

He’s got it all figured out.

Then I felt very sad.  I hope he’s ok.  I hope he’s not digging invisible implants out of his arm, or kidnapping some lady who resembles the invisible (or perhaps deceased) Carol.

On a lighter note, one day as I waited for the bus, a young lady was screaming obscenities into her phone, most of which I do not wish to repeat here.  I believe her baby-daddy had cheated on her, and she was letting him know, in no uncertain terms, that she was upset by saying, “Snort the s**t off my a**   ni**a!” over and over, along with “I’m fin-a make you [perform a sex act on me] b***!” (I provided my own version of her words inside the brackets because typing out what she really said made me blush).

I mightn’t have been so bothered by her colorful tirade (after all, I learned some terrific new insults and threats to use in my next altercation – I might not even need to break out the shiv) had there not been a young girl, no older than ten, standing close by.

This might have bothered me even less had the little girl not been her daughter.

Another time, I heard a young lady tell her friend, “I mean, I know I ain’t no bottom bitch but I ain’t no dumb bitch!”  And, according to my extensive research on prostitution from an episode of South Park I watched one time in which Butters inadvertently becomes  a pimp, a bottom bitch is a pimp’s best prostitute.

Do you know what I am saying?

Do you know what I am saying?

Oh, another time a nice senior citizen felt the need to tell me about her colposcopy.  She seemed lonely, so I smiled, nodded and asked general questions in all the right places.  I felt bad for her and nauseated all at the same time (a mixture of pity and nausea peppered with annoyance is pretty much standard operating procedure on the bust most of the time).

Sometimes, I’d really like to get these words tattooed across my face:   “Please, for the love of Shiva, the last thing on Earth I want right now is for you to talk to me, so please, let’s both pretend I’m not even here.”  However, I think that might hurt and would limit my employment opportunities.

2)       The opportunity to savor the exotic fragrances of your city.

Have you ever wondered what it smells like when a man has consumed so much alcohol before noon that he begins to excrete it from his pores?  If you ride the bus, you won’t wonder anymore.



Dank bud.


Body odor.

Mickey D’s.


The subtle blending of all these scents will curl delicately around your nose-hairs and induce feelings you’ve never dreamed of (because if you did, you would wake up in a puddle of vomit).

3)      The opportunity to experience unsolicited live entertainment.

One time, a man stood near the entrance to the bus and periodically burst out into loud renditions of this song – but only the chorus.  I was doubly impressed that A) He actually remembered mid-90’s tweeny R&B gem and B) That he was kind enough to serenade the rest of us with it.

He was actually kind of my hero.

Nobody said a word about it.

One day, even though there were two completely vacant benches on either side of me at the bus stop, two young girls, approximately 16 – 17, with babies strapped to their chests, sat down right next to me.  The gentleman accompanying them stood beside the bench and joked around with them.  My thought process:  “Oh man, they’re really close to me.  Too close.  This is making me uncomfortable.   They’re being loud too.  I want to move to that other bench, but if I do that, they might think I’m rude.  I’d better just sit here and pretend to be a mannequin or a corpse.”  When one of the girls laughed at the gentleman for doing something (I have no idea what he did – I was trying way too hard to mentally escape with Gene Wilder into a land of pure imagination – why were they so close to me?) he accused them of disrespecting him.  Then he sang this song, loudly, through a mouth stuffed full with the cheese conies he was eating out of a styrofoam box:

He wasn’t worried about nothing, and he let me know, over and over, for about ten minutes until the bus arrived.

4)      The opportunity to be touched by people.

People will touch you, probably (hopefully) not on purpose, but they will touch you.

Like this:

So, I suppose what I’m saying is – unless you have to, don’t ride the bus.

Well, unless, of course, you can hook up with Ms. Frizzle and take an educational LSD trip on the Magic School Bus.

In an octopus's garden in the shade.  Totally lucid.

Totally lucid.

Because this, unfortunately, is accurate:

I need to invest in an invisibility cloak.

If You Have to Ask

“There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” so the old adage goes.

Here are the top 4 questions students should never ask their teachers (well, at least, not me anyway.  Maybe they can ask these questions of nicer teachers, you know, the kind with wavy, Disney-princess hair and bubbly handwriting and little baskets of potpourri from Crate and Barrel in their bathrooms.)

  1. When is it due?

I have amazing syllabi.  They are freakishly thorough, clearly laid-out and pretty much on par with War and Peace or The Grapes of Wrath.  Seriously.  Civilizations of the future will discover my syllabi and weep that they couldn’t live in the era of my genius.

Really, though, my syllabi are pretty boss and I go over them thoroughly on the first day of class, which is why it really wets my socks (you know the feeling – that FEELING) when students ask this.

Other related questions:  “Do we have anything due today?”  “What did we have to read for class today?”

Dudes, seriously.

If you have ever asked any of these questions, it’s ok, we all make horrible, life-altering mistakes.  But. Dudes. Seriously.

Consider exiling yourself to Ball’s Pyramid



population YOU + a bunch of narsty, baguette-sized stick insects called tree lobsters.

3. Is it ok if. . .?

Here are some examples:

Is it ok if I go print this paper off real fast (usually asked 1 to 5 minutes before class starts)?

How am I supposed to respond to that?  I don’t need to give them permission to go use a printer, do I?  I think what they are really asking is, “Are you going to mark me LATE when I show up LATE for class with my LATE paper because I didn’t plan ahead like my more responsible, not LATE classmates?”

And I think what they want me to say in response is something like, “Sure, buddy, it’s ok.  We’re pals, after all.  I would never penalize you for anything. Ever.  Did King Midas grope you in the stairwell?  Because you are golden, my friend!  You can do whatever you want.  As a matter of fact, don’t even bother turning in the paper.  You get an A++++

Here’s another manifestation of this question:

Is it ok if I didn’t cite my sources OR staple my essay together OR  use any research in this research paper OR do some other component of the assignment clearly listed as a REQUIREMENT?

I’d like to respond, “Sure, it’s OK.  But as payment for this malfeasance, I will require the liver of your firstborn child, fried with some onions and served au jus.



Also, I’m still going to deduct points.”

2. Did I miss anything?  – OR – Did we do anything important when I was absent?

I get these two similar question ALL. THE. TIME. from students returning after absences.  Here’s how I want to respond:

“No, of course not.  In fact, when we realized you weren’t here, the whole class had an hour-long moment of silence in your honor.  We were really too devastated by the absence of your presence to do anything productive.  If you didn’t show up today, we were probably going to hold a candlelight vigil.”

Sometimes I wonder if my students are like peek-a-boo-playing babies who don’t understand object permanence yet – they think that unless they can see the class, it simply fails to continue existing.

Here’s another response I’d like to throw out:

“Nope, not really.  We just had a Candyland marathon and a pizza party with the Olsen Twins.  So I guess you missed the most awesome day ever.  Hope you had fun smoking meth with your uncle’s middle-aged girlfriend and forcing heartworm pills down her pug’s asthmatic throat.”

Or maybe this…

“Nah, we just did some writing bull shit.  None of this stuff really matters anyway.  We’re all going to die, someday, man.  Nothing in the world matters.  Not even this sentence.  Not even this breath.”

Seriously, grow some balls of initiative, read the syllabus and borrow somebody’s notes.  Yes, you missed something.  No, I’m not going to rehash an entire class session’s worth of material in five minutes.  Are you some kind of spoiled celebrity baby named after fruits or airlines or hemorrhoid cream?  Are you under the impression that I will give you everything you want on a “di-a-mond encrusted” (thanks, Kanye West) platter just because you are YOU? (P.S. Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller fame has a kid named Moxie Crimefighter.  I can’t decide if I want to give him windmill high-fives of bad-assery or report him for child abuse).

Hey Stillwells of the student world, don’t make me throw my baseball glove at you.  Because I’ll do it.

  1. Why did you give me [insert grade here]?

Taking the number one spot, we have the all-time, grand-mal-seizure-rage-stroke-inducing question.  “Why did you give me a C?  Why did you give me a B?  I’m an A student, dag nabbit!  I only get A’s!”

I think questions like this stem from the fact that college students now are from a generation raised on participation trophies (Congratulations!  You stood around on the soccer field like the little sack of vacant flesh that you are!  You win!) and teacher-blaming:

school then and now

Nothing is ever their fault.  As long as they try their hardest, they are winners and deserve all of the same rewards and accolades as the people who managed to get it right.

If this kid won that trophy for 'Best Mullet Tie-Dye Combo in History' then this trophy was actually well-deserved.

If this kid won that trophy for ‘Best Mullet Tie-Dye Combo in History (nobody else even try)’ then this trophy was actually well-deserved.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy to explain to students where they succeed and where they fall short, which is why I provide extensive written feedback on every paper (and then a nutshell summary for the lazy).  Of course, nobody ever bothers to read that.  They just ask me why I “gave” them “that grade.”

I want to respond…

“You’re right.  You didn’t earn that C.  I gave it to you.  I gave it to you because I’m an evil, warty crone and you are the messiah.  I get my jollies from crushing your soul like a ripe pimple.  I gave you a C because I super enjoy when students ask me to repeat all the stuff I already painstakingly explained in writing.  These are the moments I cherish.”

You earned a C.  Be accountable.  Read the feedback.  Implement it.  Try to do better next time.  Move on with your life.  I’m sure there’s a game of Candy Crush somewhere with your name on it.  Don’t you have some meth to smoke?  Some skin tags to remove?

I would like to close this post by saying, in the words of Angelica Pickles,

If you have to ask, then you'll never know!

If you have to ask, then you’ll never know!