Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Burnt Chrome brings the smack

I am in WTF mode right now. End-of-semester grading in huge [electronic] piles. Last big essay for two sections came in on Sunday night, and planning to start them tomorrow with a goal of 10 per day til they're done. Then exams and

The backstory:
Johnny is reasonably bright but hasn't worked very hard in my class and has blown off the peer workshop sessions (which are worth points). He came to see me for the mandatory conference for the last essay with a story about girlfriend/job problems, 19 credits, blah blah, and no draft. His 15 source annotated bibliography had 8 short annotations, so that was an F. He submitted his essay in the LMS at 10:25 pm the night it was due (by 11:00 pm), which makes him 3rd from last to be graded (I grade in the order students turn things in, so the keeners get their feedback first and they stay happy).

As I was working my way through the last execrable lit essays today , this pops into my inbox:

portfolios for two other courses.
Hi, Johnny Snowflake from HAM 102, was curious if I'm going to end up passing your class or not. If you could grade my stuff soon so I know whether or not I'm going to have to take it again in the summer to graduate it would be appreciated. Thanks, Johnny

And because I have tenure, I was able to send this in response:

Johnny: I do not know whether or not you will pass. You currently have ***/***points, which is 66%. A passing C out of *** points is ***.**

I understand that you are worried because your circumstances led you to make poor choices, but please also understand that asking me to put you ahead of the rest of your classmates is a bit rude. Your work will be graded in the order it was received, and your final grade will be turned in before the May 27th deadline, and that’s all I can promise.


Does this happen to anyone else?

When I think back to my undergrad days, I simply cannot imagine sending a missive like this--even if I could have (email wasn't a thing in the Dark Ages). Nor can I imagine the equivalent--going to a prof's office to ask to be graded first.

Not only that--the idea that his bad choices somehow are now my emergency--just boggles my mind. I have been wading through poorly written prose all day, and that was just the last goddamned straw.

Burnt Chrome is fucking burnt.


  1. Of COURSE their bad choices are your emergency. And of COURSE they are divorced from reality.

    Yes, I see this every semester. My favorite was a student who submitted 2 out of 12 assignments (though he did passing work on the exams). This same student had talked to me three weeks previously asking could he turn in all his missing work over the next month (finishing AFTER the end of the semester) because he had focused on his research project, because a successful UG research project was really important for his grad school application.
    No, I told him. Well, he wanted to know, how could he pass, then? Repressing the "invent a time machine" comment, I told him mildly that I didn't see how it was possible.
    Then post-semester: Because the LMS showed him as passing everything he DID turn in, he emailed me shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you, that I posted an F for his grade; - look as his LMS grades (5 out of 15 required), they were all well above passing! This was surely a mistake, he hoped I would promptly fix this gross error! ASAP!
    The REALLY funny thing? His name rhymes with "flake"

    1. Maybe he thought that not seeing how it was possible meant that it was possible but you just couldn't figure out a way.

  2. I had a bad student who cc'ed the dean on an email like this to try to make me turn his poor choices into my emergency. Fortunately the dean supported me.

  3. I have never been asked to grade their stuff first, but I get piles of emails asking me for extra credit. The "I'll do anything to pass" emails. Sorry, but that ship sailed months ago.

    1. I've had a student tell me, "I'd sell my soul" to maintain his eligibility for his sports team. I told him not to say that, because what if I could collect?

      (I do teach science, but I don't dabble in sorcery. But then, this student wouldn't have known the difference.)

      At the time, he was phoning me in my hotel room at a conference over 1000 miles from campus. Now you know why, during breaks, I now leave only the number for my office voice mail. I'm not a cardiac surgeon or an arms-control negotiator: very few student problems are that urgent.

  4. This kid could benefit from a stint in the military. Every time I have a WTF response like yours here, I worry that Jean Twenge is right: narcissism is really getting out of hand.

    For me, the killer is that it probably doesn't even occur to him that he's being rude. Indeed: he likely regards your (completely appropriate, IMO) response as rude.

    I avoid this particular problem by always returning work to students all at the same time, and in class. If any students want to know their grades early, this is what I tell them:

    "I'm sorry, but I'll return graded papers in class on (date). I am now reading a large stack of (papers), and it's important that I read every word, so that the grading is fair. If I give information about your grade to you before it's available for everyone in the class, someone might say it was unfair."

    So far, this has worked well.

  5. Update:Johnny did the rewrite that was available to all students, and managed to scrape up a passing C. What's sad is that he was capable of getting an A.