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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Being Nice

I'm a professor. My sister's a doctor.

We both work in professions where sometimes the people we are expected to be the nicest to (students, patients) drive us bat-shit eff-ing crazy.

Of course, you probably could say the same about the people you work with. We fully realize colleagues, clients and bosses can drive one insane. So can children, husbands, wives, parents, neighbors, postal carriers, people you "talk" to on the internet.

I get it. We're not that unique.

But, honestly, some of the stories my sister and I collect during our days at work are worthy of a blog.

This week: My sister had a patient come in and say that the wound on his arm was "from a raccoon." Hmmm...raccoon attacks arm of drug user. OK, we'll go with that. Are you sure it's not due to your needles? Oh, the raccoon? Right-o.

Also this week: My sister had an old alcoholic geezer ask her, "Wondering if you would ever go out with an old fart like me?" Yeah, a married young woman WHO WEARS A WEDDING RING is going to fall for that one. Sorry, you're just not her type.

This week for me: The midterm and the accompanying excuses as to why a) I can't take it, b) you made it too hard and c) it's not fair.

Now, every professor knows that midterms and finals are terribly dangerous times. Grandmothers die. Parents end up in the hospital. Pets get run over. Students come down with the flu. Cars break down. Buses don't run on schedule. Like clockwork. Always at the same time of the term.

There should be a consent form students sign at the beginning of the term, assuring me that they fully realize the dangers they put themselves and their families in by taking my class.

This year, the excuses for not being able to take the exam on time got far more creative. Kidney infections ("it keeps coming back!"), broken ankles ("I can't hobble any farther than my bathroom"), minor surgeries that just HAD to be scheduled the day of the exam ("I'm being put under as I write this...the surgeon couldn't fit me in at any other time"). Damn those surgeons and their schedules! Perhaps most creative, however: "a friend in North Carolina told me at the last minute that she's getting married." RE-ALLY? A friend has an unexpected wedding?

That should be a title for a movie. "Unexpected Wedding" Oh HELL! I'm getting married -- tomorrow! And I just found out about it! I'd better call my friends!

Yeah, right. Did any of then remember my warning on the syllabus that the makeup exam is considerably harder than the original one?

I sent an email to all my students about the dangers of college. How much I feel for them. Their stress levels must be overwhelming. ...Tongue-in-cheek, but pointedly, I told them that I was sick of excuses.

Then I got THE TELEPHONE CALL. Good student (I've had her before) sobs over the phone about how she thought the email was directed at her (it wasn't). It's always one of the good students -- unfortunately, not one of the poorer ones -- who thinks that the professor is angry at them. I calmed her down and I think we're OK.

However, after the exam itself, students came up to me with the usual questions. Are you going to curve it? Well, that depends on what the curve is -- if a lot of people actually did well, then no, I won't. Are you going to toss out any questions? Again, it depends. What can I do for extra credit -- I'm pretty sure I did really bad(ly)! Uh, nothing, but we'll talk privately about that later.

And my favorite, uttered to me at least once a term. "This class is really important to me. I'm really a good student. But this term I was sick/am working 1000 hours a week/had a family emergency and didn't have much time to study. I think you should curve the exam or offer extra credit."

I love the logic -- they admit that they didn't study "much" AND they suggest that any problems on the exam are my fault (hence *I* should adjust the exam or offer compensatory assignments).

Oh, god. Grow. Up.

And don't go to the doctor asking for a date or claiming a raccoon gave you those infected needle marks.

And I'll try to be nice to you in the meantime.

1 comment:

  1. Every time I teach my Freshman Seminar, I tweak the syllabus thinking that I've created an absolutely fool-proof, excuse impervious grading system. And, on paper, it might be bomb-proof, but I always find that the students are able to manipulate my own flaws and uncertainties. "Being nice" can actually be a problem. You can't hold yourself to seeing the system through. :-)


Politeness is always appreciated.