On Student Excuses

First off, for professional dignity, I…sort of feel the need to apologize for the last manic coffee post.  Tea has been returned to work, and I am mostly mentally well again.


But I’m not posting to talk about my crazy this time.  Today’s topic is the student fiction contest of excuse-making.  Well-traversed territory, but worth a few minutes of my time, since I do see them as often as assignments.


If I’m starting out with honesty, I haven’t actually seen as many impressive excuses as some.  Most of the ones I get are the classic “my computer crashed,” “my Email failed,” etc.  But from this mine field of mundane has come my favorite excuse ever.


Here is how this plays out.  Student has failed to hand in some assignment or other.  This is not the first assignment that student has not given me–it has become a pattern.  So, politely, I call student up to the front after the rest of the class has left/stopped acknowledging my existence.


Me: You haven’t handed this in to me.

Student: I’m sorry. I’ve had XYZ going on, and it’s been really hard.

Me: I understand. I too live a real life. I too know that the universe sometimes just takes a crap on your head.

Student: *smiles apologetically, contrite and enjoying our bonding*.

Me: But I say in my syllabus that you need to keep me informed. XYZ are excusable problems, but I must hear about them ahead of time so we can make arrangements.

Student: I understand. I just hate making excuses. So I didn’t say anything.


“I just hate making excuses.”


Translation is either: “I truly am overwhelmed and felt weird burdening you with my problems,” “I didn’t even think about you/the assignment/your late work policy, whether I had legit crap going on or not,” or, most often, “You caught me and now I need a way to sound noble and silent-suffering but really I just didn’t do it and can’t think of a better excuse off the top of my head.”


This has shown up twice now, in two different classes, with two different students.  It amuses the hell out of me, because it is just so ballsy.  It dares me to call them out, to shame them for their toughness and willingness to silently drag their grade into the toilet without involving their teacher, who just doesn’t need to hear about their woes.  And it’s a hard one to fight.  I can’t catch them out in a lie.  The most I can do is just wag the scoldy-finger of shame, tell them they must complain to me more, and send them on their way.


Just once, I wish someone would throw me a good old-fashioned bald-face lie, with a magical disappearing notebook or a paper-inclined house pet.  No one has any respect for the classics anymore.

Morning grumpies

This post is nothing of substance.  If you are feeling intellectual, move on by.  It is merely a post to say that life is unfair.


I lent my loaf of bread to my neighbor (because my apartment building has turned amish), and this morning all I could have desired in life was toast.  Then I got to campus, and the entire first floor smelled like…you guessed it, toast.  Life is cruel and unusual and Tuesday you can stop pretending to be a Monday at any time now.


On the bright side, I have tackled some of the adjuncting insecurity and gone down to the faculty lounge magic land to retrieve coffee.  Necessity is the mother of…getting over myself for the sake of caffeine.  Still haven’t snitched a baked good yet, but I don’t actually know if there were any there.  I had eyes for coffee alone.


Also, if I suddenly drop unconscious on the spot, that sugar packet I used did not contain sugar.  I’m going on good faith that the multitude of packets in the little basket next to the coffee machine are sugar–if someone decided to hide sweetened drugs in there, I am now transporting them in my coffee.


What. Conquering my insecurity meant going in there, not asking someone with functioning eyeballs if what I was using was creamer or powdered meth or something.  I don’t know if meth is already powdered, but that seems beside the point.


Judging by the above post, I need more coffee.  I’m going to go attend to that.  The ducklings are turning in their first papers today, so I may have more legitimate things to talk about later.

Grammar and Fashion Woes

You’ll notice that I left out that comma up there, leaving that title very ambiguous.  Look at me being all teacher-y.

So we covered grammar on Tuesday, or, more importantly, we covered commas.  I think that, if I wasn’t fearing mutiny before, I should be fearing it now.  Take a bunch of 18-year-olds, trap them in a room for an hour and 40 minutes, and ram a bunch of confusing punctuation rules down their throats, and you’re just asking for trouble.  At the end I asked them what about grammar they wanted to learn about in later class periods, and I actually waited for an answer.  After some mutterings, I got the “well, you’re the teacher, we all hate this. So it’s your job to figure out what we’re supposed to learn.”  …okay then.  If y’all want a dictator, then a dictator you shall have (but in retrospect asking the question in the first place was sort of a bad call on my part. They’re like puppies–they want structure, even if they don’t know it).

I think it went  *mostly* alright though.  They won’t remember anything, except maybe the comma splice, but we have the rest of the semester to work on it.  I was supposed to cover parts of speech today, but considering the restless stirring of the troops, I decided it was time to switch tactics.  We’re sort of in creative writing mode today, with a game included, so hopefully that will go better.

Then again, I’m introducing their first paper today, so I may have already shot myself in the foot.  Like a coward, I am waiting until the class has already begun to send out the assignment sheet.

What, they’re intimidating…

But, to inspire confidence in myself, I did dress the part to be a professor today (yes, this is where we get to the fashion woes).  Bought a new jacket, and it practically has freaking elbow patches.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I own a BLAZER.  I am a MATURE ADULT.

…And, as I very maturely strode across the street to catch the bus to work, I ripped the back stitch out of my pencil skirt.


Lesson learned: one should not stride maturely in a skirt that normally makes it a challenge to climb stairs.

It’s just a sort of decorative split in the lower quarter of the back of the skirt, so it’s not like I’ll be stuck showing my nickers to the college at large, but I feel so much less put together with my flap… flapping.  But here in lies the advantage to being a blind professor: I don’t have to turn my back on them to write on the chalkboard.  So unless some little creep is intentionally staring at my butt, I’m pretty much home free. Win.

Hey, I take my victories where I can get them.  You rip your skirt on the way to work and see what you have left to work with.

Now, off to drink tea and write the rest of this lesson plan, enjoying the fact that it’s like 60 degrees outside, and therefore not a furnace in my office.

Welcome to fall.




Week 1 and still kicking

So, here I am, at the end of the first week.  I’m exhausted and spotted with hummus, but I have truffles and scones, so I think I’m still in the + column at this point.


First weeks are always interesting.  This one started out with a presto-change-o in the school lobby, to get me out of my don’t-break-my-ankle sandals into my look-I’m-an-adult heels.  Not my most dignified first move, but it had to be done.  If any students were watching, my credibility is gone.  But my shoes are super cute, so I’ll cope.


This was followed by not being able to sign onto the network.  School is famous for tech problems, and this one blossomed into an issue that took 3 days to take care of (but it is taken care of now yay).  I love my tech guys.


The first class went… fine.  I kind of have a weird sense of brewing hostility in the classroom, but I’m also rampantly and visibly insecure at the start, so I’ll have to report back on whether hints of mutiny are still in the air.  I got the obligatory “What are you not looking forward to in this class?” “writing,” conversation out of the way (there’s always one), and am now ready to set off on my Dead Poet’s Society mission to make these children fall in love with me and my subject.


Hey, shut up, I am young and naive enough to have impossible dreams.


Some stupid college thing screwed with my scheduling today, so class was only a half hour, so Tuesday’s impressions are still sort of today’s impressions.  Why you wouldn’t send a freaking Email out when classes are only going to be half an hour long, I don’t know…(this is the point where I descend into unintelligible muttering, so move along).


.  Anyway, I haven’t spent enough time in-class, so you guys will have to wait to hear more about the specifics of the week until the specifics…actually exist.


I guess the only weird thing I’m noticing is that one of the guys is, completely without sarcasm, calling me ma’am.  I am not sure how I feel about this.  The only thing I can fathom is that he *is* military, so maybe it’s a thing.  Either way it’s a thing that makes me feel weird, and I kinda wanna ask him not to.


I am not a MA’AM!


But I digress.


Other than those little stories, things have been mostly uneventful.  the only embarrassments of notice are the above-mentioned hummus-spotting (when eating at your desk, be sure to take note if your crackers have a giant hole in the middle), and accidentally requesting access to a student’s google doc with my personal Email address.  Hopefully she is not a troll who will now stalk and harass me all semester because she knows where I really live on the internet.


Okay, this is getting long, and I’m really tired.  Pretending to be an extrovert really takes it out of a girl.  So it’s time for tea and a nap, not sure about the order yet.  I beg your forgiveness and indulgence for the complete lack of coherency in today’s post–see above about fake extroversion being really, really exhausting.  I promise to make sense later.


P.S.: the truffles and scones were a care package from my wonderful mother and  one of my surrogate moms.  I love them always. Getting yummies is still just as exciting when you teach freshmen as it was when you were one, and I am spoiled beyond belief. ❤