Thursday, July 29, 2010

Does “Dallas” Start with a “D”?

“Yes,” I calmly replied to the student I’ve been tutoring for over two years now. She lives right next to it, but can't spell it. A 23-year-old ESL student who is highly sheltered by her family (and still lives at home), she had just been kicked out of my college’s nursing program after absurdly, astoundingly, getting accepted.

Her basic verbal skills are excellent, and I can understand nearly every word she says, though a bit of her grammar is faulty. Her writing skills, vocabulary, and reading comprehension, on the other hand, are abysmal. Yet here she is, plugging away on her Associate’s degree, having earned about 90 credits (out of 60!) and withdrawing from or failing another 30. Her father pays for it all, so she just keeps hammering away at it, failing, dropping, withdrawing, passing, but never applying for her degree that she "earned" about a year ago.

Clearly, she’s afraid of what she’ll do after graduation, so she continues our mutual torture (as well as my pay). I went through the same prolonged adolescence, too, so maybe she's actually becoming acculturated! Psychologists call it an "adjustment reaction to adulthood," AKA "failure to launch."

Yes, I helped her with the baffling paperwork to get into the nursing program, and to my shock she got accepted as an alternate, complaining about the three months she had to wait, while many wait two and a half years to get in, all the while working crap jobs to make ends meet.

After her acceptance, I started to throw tantrums in private, just ranting and ranting about the absurdity of her being in a program WAY above her head, about her ignorance, her immaturity, her stubbornness, her self-delusion. “She will NEVER, EVER, EVER BE A NURSE!” I would yell to the heavens. I was sure that she wouldn’t last more than a semester, maybe a semester and a half, and I prayed that someone, somehow, would put up a wall and stop this academic zombie. I tried to calm the hell down and have faith that the merciful end was near and that cosmic justice would ensue.

And so it did. The day came, and she told me she was “out of the program,” apparently not wanting to face the shame of telling me that she got booted.

I know her departure wasn't her choice, based on her questions during our tutoring sessions, like “What does ‘cast’ mean?” She has lived here for seven years, went to jr. high and high school here, and is now a U.S. citizen, and she doesn’t know what a cast is? She never encountered that basic information on TV, in high school, in real life, in a conversation, in seven fucking years of American residency? And among a slew of other inadequacies, she also has huge trouble with syringe measurements. Cubic centimeter? Liter? Milliliter? Are they really that different? What's an "increment?" That’s a tad troubling for an aspiring nurse.*

The problems she has have many causes: Her family only speaks their native language in the home (proving that they're not very serious about her education, in my opinion); she’s not very smart; she has horrible organizational skills (though we’ve improved them); she’s awfully coddled and sheltered by her parents, and can’t even find her way around our suburb; and lastly, she’s really lazy. She is, however, very determined, thought that's actually more of a liability than an asset at this point.

She squeaked her way through a two-year degree she doesn’t deserve. She snuck into a nursing program she was 100% unqualified for and then got kicked out. Now, she’s trying to get into a different nursing program to save face. I’m not even sure if she has any idea what nursing really entails, other than having some vague notion that it’s about helping people, and that she likes the sound of that. Her ignorance seriously disturbs me, and I want to give her the benefit of my many regrettable mistakes and wrong turns.

I’ve pondered for a long time about just breaking the news to her, telling her that she’s not nurse material, that she should just take her two-year degree and work at Wal-Mart, but I can’t be that harsh. I’ve urged her to study harder and smarter, suggested that she get a job, and even suggested joining the army if the nursing fantasy doesn’t work out. My friends say that it’s not my job to tell her what she can’t do. I partially disagree with that idealistic horse shit, because if someone doesn’t tell her to quit, she’ll continue on her absurd path and waste her time and her father’s money until the bitter end, which she is already doing. Others would argue that she needs to find her limits on her own, the hard way, and that her failures are all learning experiences that I shouldn’t take away from her.

The cold, brutal fact is that college is NOT for everyone. Would you tell any of your students to just quit, or would you let them wallow in their own failures for years? You could argue that defining hopeless cases is purely subjective, but why can’t you just offer a student your educated opinion about the appropriateness of them being in college? Who the hell would know better than a teacher? Ethically, should you have to wait for them to ask you your opinion before you provide it?

If you were about to fall off of a cliff, or if you were unknowingly drinking poison every day of your life, would you want anyone to tell you?

I sure would, and I'd be pissed off if they didn't tell me.

No cookies for them. No cookies for ANY of them.

*Another illustration of her cerebral wattage: On a multiple-choice exam, with answers "A" through "E," she was directed to circle the letter next to the correct answer. She knew that the correct answer was, for example, "C," but didn't know whether to circle "B" or "D," since they were both NEXT TO the correct answer.

Holy Shit!!! Maybe I could teach there now

Here is an update to the cussing story from Hinds Community College that led me to RYS in the first place. Fan-fucking-tastic!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Anyone else want to cut this bitch?

"April" posted this link to a Salon article in which this whiny bitch explains why, because she is "poor" and can't get a real writing job, she feels justified in writing essays for students who pay her $100. $100! Get that? She's a whore, but not a 25cent whore!

The comments are well-worth reading, apart from that one asshole who said this wouldn't happen to a guy.

Anyway, reading it reminded me of the time one of my colleagues said "I would never write for an essay mill because they don't pay enough". That was almost as funny as the time she asked me for a class activity and then presented it as her own idea in a job interview.

I guess my point is, everyone has ethical standards, even though some people's standards are not so much standards as cash negotiations.

We've all read the stories here about people who got fired for giving too many Fs; if you were in that place, would you grade more leniently? Have you succumbed to pressure to let an athlete pass? Did you give a textbook a gentle review, hoping for more income from that publisher?

Where's your line? Does it move if you are broke?

But some of the beer was alcohol-free!

I have so enjoyed the comments on "99 bottles". EnglishDoc and The_Myth wanted updates, so here you go:

I had Prof. Beer come to the dean's office this afternoon to gather his bottles. The secretaries were in an uproar as another professor was caught stashing water bottles in our fridge. His excuse was: But Prof. Beer used it last week! The secretaries even called the janitor Head of Grounds and Buildings and had him check who is officially allowed to use the kitchen: just us, the computer says. So why are their fancy keys working?

Anyway, when Prof. Beer showed up I ushered him in, and got the case out of my locked closet. "Well," he said. "Just leave it, I don't need it any more." Now that was a fun move! "Oh no, I couldn't keep it here. We do have a non-alcohol policy, you know." "But half of it is alcohol-free!"

Now, even Wikipedia knows that there is still a trace of alcohol in "alcohol-free beer". And I want this thing out. Of. My. Office. Now. "But what can I do with it?" he moans. Uh, take it back for a refund? Take it home? Lug it over to the Chemistry department? Maybe they could use it for some lab having students determine the alcohol level in liquid or whatever they do to torture students over there.

And he thought I was accusing him of leaving dirty dishes in the sink. Oh no, do read my letter more closely. I had expressed surprise that others had keys that worked in our kitchen and noted that this explained the dirty dishes. I asked why they didn't use their faculty kitchen. "Oh, that's one floor up. And our key doesn't fit. Since our keys fit here, we figured we could use it."

I wished him a nice week, saw him and his case to the door, and blasted off a missive on the Use of the Kitchens and requested clarifications. Other Dean has now told me how they organize their kitchen: All professors are able to use the kitchen if they sign up to have their name put on the roster for kitchen duty (cleaning up dirty cups, emptying the dishwasher, wiping the counter). No professor has yet applied. I like this!

Is someone trying to set me up?

I just received the following email asking for permission to enroll in a class with seats left in it (no permission is required). I edited it only to remove any vaguely identifying details:

I just left you a phone message asking if you would accept me as a student in your Fall ______ class, to work with me as a side by side. I need a Professor who has a lot of patients,tolerance,understand of my disabilities. Someone who is willing to work with me hand in hand in other words close and don't mind answering what some may think is ridiculous or dumb questions so forth and so on. I need a very caring,concern,understanding professor with all in tension of understanding me as a student with all my disabilities on hand as well as questions.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Snowflake Correspondence

Yesterday, a few days after I sent emails to students whose courses were cut (as a result of The Idiot's failures) letting them know about other course options and their student status, I received this message:

Prissy Prof,
Sorry that it has taken me so long to respond. If at all possible is there any way we could meet this week after two, that is when I get off work. I have no idea what do with my schedule because I only have 9 credit hours now. I will be checking my email all week to see what we can do. Thanks again for letting me know.


I responded right away with this message:


I can meet with you today [Monday] or Wednesday after 2 to discuss your schedule. First, though, add [class I teach] at 2:00. You need it; it fits your current schedule; and it will get you back to full time. Then we can figure out what other class you may be interested in.

Just let me know what day you prefer.
Prissy Prof

The response I got back from this worried student who was going to check his email all week: the sound of crickets enjoying their evening.

No reply mail; no change in his schedule; not even a "screw you, bitch, for fucking up my life." Not that I'm surprised, of course, just annoyed at how hard I've been working this summer for students who can't be bothered to give a fuck.

Can I get an amen?

Monday, July 26, 2010

iconography (or is it signage?) gone wild...

Apologies if off topic. It is, after all, summertime.

I bought a new pair of cheap shoes at a local big box store.

On the sole of the shoe was this sticker.

To which I say: WTF?

Ideas greatly appreciated.

Summer Term Haiku

your portfolio
in hand, you ask the question:
"you wanted this typed?"

you're in college now.
this seems to be lost on you.
please pull up your pants.

super keener finds
me two semesters later.
no, i won't edit.

heat, humidity;
why are you still here? snowflakes
should melt in summer.

txt bout d final.
plz cn i hv xtension?
i say lol.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Drop the Invisible Sword, and Back Away Slowly!

I know you have them in your classes: video game addicts.

When I was eight, my father got us our first (and only) video game console. Still a new phenomenon back 1978, it was so mind-altering and fascinating in its novelty that a game like Pong, with ¼-inch pixels, was considered the apex of excitement and technology, and would transfix me for hours. Now video games are a whole different story. The video games are so technical, so entrancing, so deep in their narratives, so highly produced, that a massive wave of our youth is getting swept away to la la land, addicted to a wholly pathetic fantasy world of escapism just like a bunch of greasy Heroin junkies.

It seems like a certain set of young people are predisposed to video game addiction, and I see a cross section of them in my classes. More often than not, they live with their parents, probably in the basement, even though they’re over 18. They dress like crap, apparently dragging themselves out of their dark, fetid lairs just long enough to make an appearance in class. They think they’re incredibly brilliant. They have whiny geek voices. They all have an absurd fantasy of starting their own “gaming companies.” They have no jobs, no friends, no social skills, virtually no real-life experience, yet they have invested huge amounts of time and effort to learn immense amounts of esoteric video game trivia—all of it nearly 100% inapplicable to real life.

They are, frankly, complete and utter losers.

One student of mine even wrote a narrative essay about his addiction, and let me tell you, it was damn serious. I could tell that he was coping without his stupid games, but barely, as he’d sit in my class, zombie-like, with his greasy dyed hair and ragged clothes. Another of my students, last semester, had virtually no friends, no social life, and was also a game addict. Creepy. This semester, I have two more. One, a plump female who also likes horseback riding (God, please, please just go ride your fucking horse and get out of the house!) and the other, an impossibly nerdy and pathetic game addict, who contradicts and challenges me in front of my entire Basic Comp class nearly every opportunity he gets, in all of his pseudo-intellectual, freshman-in-community-college wisdom.

Nerds. All of them. Inveterate, pathetic, disturbingly nerdy nerds.

These games are a substitute for social contact, but a substitute that can never satisfy human instincts. And every second, every miserable hour, that they spend looking at these fucking flickering lights on a screen, they will never get back. They are gone forever, and were spent in a completely unproductive pursuit that yielded nothing but an intensification of their pathetic solitude and a reinforcement of their shockingly dysfunctional social skills. What a fucking waste.

The other day, as I sat in my car, relaxing between classes, I peered over the gap in the sun shade on my windshield and spied the pseudo-intellectual wretch who challenges me constantly in class. Apparently, he was waiting for the bus home to his mommy’s and daddy’s house. Recently, when I mentioned during a class discussion that not everything that’s natural, like cyanide, is good, he felt the need to demonstrate his ignorance, with conviction, and told the whole class that “Actually, cyanide is not natural.”

Well, too bad for him, but he was wrong, as he has been every time he challenged me this semester. Fuck him. I was and am furious with him for being such a goddamn pest. But what I saw him doing out in the parking lot actually made me feel some compassion for him (along with a dominant dose of repulsion): he was walking along a median in the parking lot, skillfully practicing a variety of sword techniques with nothing in his hands, muttering to himself (or his invisible foe?) and expressing a variety of emotions on his pathetic, nerdy face, all in broad daylight.

He’s lost. Where the hell are these fucking people going to end up, when they have no social skills and no marketable technical skills and when they just can’t or won’t integrate into our society?

How many of these losers are on your class roster? Just look for the oily hair, the rumpled clothing, and the sickly, pale skin. Do they need professional help? Should video game addiction be in the DSM? Should we give a fuck whatsoever? Or should we just let them self-destruct? Personally, any sympathy I have for them is razed flat by their awful personalities. So here’s what I say…

No cookies for them. No cookies for ANY of them…

Things I love

Late papers on the topic of time management

Plagiarized papers about ethics

Friday, July 23, 2010

Candy from Casa Grande has migrated to CM--time for some Plagiarism Smackdown

To Little Miss Nora Nitwit:

Let's get one thing straight honey: I'm not stupid.

I may not claim the honor of sharpest crayon in the box, but I'm not stupid. You, however, could be easily outsmarted by a cactus.

I can't say I was too surprised to find that your entire first paper was plagiarized (seriously, 82% on turnitin for a 3 page paper? The only thing in that paper that you actually wrote was your name, my name, and the date). You had the poorest attendance grade in the entire class, mainly because you thought that regularly gracing me with your presence 45 minutes into a 1.5 hour class would get you full credit. Guess what? It didn't.

But, unfortunately, I was a softy. I allowed you to resubmit the paper for a maximum grade of D (which I thought was pretty fucking generous). I shouldn't have let you do this in the first place--I should have failed you outright on that paper and given you the zero you so obviously earned. I admit it--I didn't want to deal with your bitching. So I gave you a second (undeserved) chance.

So you submitted a different paper, on a completely different topic. Here's the part that makes you dumber than a cactus: The second paper was EVEN MORE PLAGIARIZED THAN THE FIRST PAPER. 83% on turnitin.

Honey, I get why you plagiarized the first time. You thought you could get away with it, you were too lazy to do your own work, you knew that your own writing sucked more than a supermassive black hole, etc. But seriously, what kind of rock were you raised under that would make you think that, after I detected it the first time, I WOULDN'T DETECT IT THE SECOND TIME?

Perhaps it's time you looked at leaving college and entering the working world. I hear the local McDonald's is hiring.

Enjoy the F,

Candy from Casa Grande

99 bottles of beer on the wall...

As I don't want to be overtaxing your attention, I'll just keep it to the most outstanding event of this past week in the life of Dean Suzy. The beer.

I dragged into the dean's office rather tired, as I was up grading (yes, I have to teach and administer) until the wee hours. My secretary was hopping mad. "People are just so inconsiderate and stupid!" Sure, I'll sign that any hour of the morning. But what's up?

It took a few questions to understand what had transpired. When she went to put her lunch in our locked microkitchen, she discovered that someone had stocked the refrigerator with beer. Lots of beer. So much beer, that there was no room for her lunch.

Now, for many of our fair readers this would be a cause for celebration. But there is a problem here: we are a drug-free and an alcohol-free school. My secretary is a recovering alcoholic. We have another staff member just back from drying out. Not only were the (empty) cases blocking the closets, there was no space for people's lunches. I quickly decided to empty the fridge, lock the beer in my office, and put a note on the fridge: See Suzy about the beer.

I forgot to add "See Dean Suzy about the beer."

Next morning I had a nastygram in my box. From a colleague in another faculty. Addressed to "Mrs. Suzy". Turns out, all the staff keys fit our microkitchen. And he was having a party, he's new and was bringing a case of beer for his new colleagues to enjoy and where did I get off taking his beer and ruining his party for him (really - he sounded just like a snowflake!). I could have put a note on the fridge before he put his beer in it letting him know that was our private fridge. But no, I had to go and ruin his party yadda yadda yadda. I think he missed the bit about me being a professor and a dean when he looked up my email in the staff catalogue.

I replied first thing in the morning stating that I understood that he was upset, but was he aware of Ordinance 27/03 forbidding alcohol and other drugs in the workplace? I explained that we had believed that the kitchen was ours, not the whole school's. We paid for the fridge ourselves and it's for people's lunches. And we have alcoholics who should not be faced with a wall of beer first thing in the morning. Oh, and I noted that he could have put a note with his name on it on his beer, so we could have contacted him. And I cc'd his dean, sweetly offering to put the case in his dean's office so he can pick it up there.

He hasn't said a peep, but my dean colleague (with whom we are in a budget struggle) suggested Mr. Beer and I meet for a coffee and iron out our communication problems..... No way. Monday morning I lug the beer up to their offices.


How to free up your time during office hours

This one was inspired by No Cookies' complaints about his students.

Warning: May result in lower retention.

The H.M.S. Beagle Has a Reserved Parking Spot Outside My School

After four years of toil teaching Basic Comp in my local community college, I have learned vastly more than my students. Most teachers have. We know their natures, their tendencies, their excuses, their foibles. Like you, I see bullshit coming a mile away. Most of us can usually (though not always) tell who is going to succeed and fail based on early observation of their actions. And what is the main indicator of success of failure in college and indeed life in general? FOLLOWING FUCKING DIRECTIONS.

As I was walking through the park after class the other evening, ranting to myself about my students, it all became clear: Nearly all of us are told, from the age we can communicate, what steps to follow in order to live a “good” life. From parents, teachers, PSA’s on TV, church, caring friends, even the Surgeon General and Nancy Reagan, we have all been WARNED. We were told a million times, during most of our lifespan, an immense host of wise, time-tested bits of advice that were intended to make our lives fruitful, happy, and comfortable—all sorts of strategies for living that were intended to help us achieve our life goals:

Don’t smoke. Don’t do drugs. Wear a helmet on a motorcycle or bike. Don’t commit crimes. Do your homework. Don’t stick a fork in an electrical outlet. Don’t carry scissors pointing toward you. Don’t run around the pool. Beware of trampolines. Don’t put food in your nose and ears. Don’t have a child when you’re 12. Be on time for class. Stay in school. Be considerate of others. Eat right. Exercise. Dress decently. Get good grades. Graduate from high school. Don’t be a whore. Work hard. Drive carefully. Get a good job. Be responsible for your actions.

And yet, given a lifetime of wise directions, many people (like my snowflakes) FAIL TO FOLLOW THEM. In my classes, I’ve had students who are felons, young, unwed mothers by the score, former and current druggies and burnouts, absurdly nerdy video game addicts with no friends, countless irresponsible students who can’t turn in their work, and generally just roster after roster comprised of about 70% fuckups.

So on I walked, and do you know what I concluded? Some of you will hate me for saying it: The fuckups were all warned, for their entire lives, how to live and not live, and they never listened. SO FUCK THEM ALL. I have no sympathy for them, and I sure as hell won’t go out of my way for them, especially when there are still some good students who DO follow directions and are dead serious about their educations. Teachers have limited amounts of time and energy. Should we spend it—in futility—on the least likely to succeed? Hell no.

Yes, some had all sorts of negative messages and psychosocial disadvantages competing with the messages of wisdom. But I don’t care. If they can’t or won’t FOLLOW DIRECTIONS that are insistently and constantly repeated to them, year after year, then Darwin will win the day, as he should. These fuckups DESERVE to be where they end up, because it’s the Law of Nature. Social stratification exists for a REASON, just like oil and water naturally separate. Survival of the Fittest, Natural Selection, whatever you want to call it, will put them right where they belong—flipping my delicious burger at Carl’s Jr., or greeting me as I enter Wal-Mart.

No cookies for them. No cookies for ANY of them…

Thursday, July 22, 2010

smackdown for my sub

Dear Sub:

When taking assignments from someone who actually trusted you and has the power to get you future adjunct work, if not tenure track at some point, please keep the following in mind:

1. You're being paid to do a set amount of work which you agreed to. That means you should actually do it or let me know if there was some reason you couldn't/didn't. I even arranged extra pay for you so that you'd have time to finish the grading but not have to teach the new units that started on those days. Coming back to an extra week's worth of work I didn't expect is not going to earn you any brownie points for the next round of hiring.

2. When I asked you to do this, you knew which classes you'd be teaching. I realize your specialty is basket weaving, but you knew going in that you'd have to teach both a class in basket weaving AND one in Kool-Aid stirring. Just because you don't like to teach Kool-Aid stirring doesn't mean you get to spend less time on that one. I have spent most of tonight trying to fix that class since it is now incredibly backed up. If you didn't want to teach Kool-Aid stirring, I'm sure I could have found someone else eager for the work.

3. You don't get to make up rules about assignments. I now have an incredible number of students confused and pissed off because you told them in a not-very-nice way that papers had to have Super-Secret Feature X on them. That's not listed in any of the conventional guides, nor is it in my guidelines. I am not going to go back and adjust all those grades because frankly, I don't have the time now (see #1 above). But the damage is done, so now I have to calm all these snowflakes out of apoplexy over the possibility of other Super-Secret Features which might reach out and devour their assignment points.

Shit happens when you sub. I didn't expect everything to be perfect, but I did expect you to finish the list of things I left, work the number of hours you're being paid for, and keep my students on track. I know adjunct work pays jack, and sub work is not much better. I also know that you practically salivated on my desk when I offered you the chance to do this. I just didn't realize at the time that drool wasn't the only thing I was going to have to clean up at the end of this experience.

This week in the Ivory Basement

An old-fashioned smack-down for the week that was.

Dear afternoon class: Given the “Key Terms” list at the end of every chapter and the glossary at the end of the book, please explain to me how it is that over half the class failed the vocabulary quiz this week? Do any of you even open that book?

Dear Talkative Timmy: You’ve annoyed me all summer with your non-stop chatter about who-knows-what while I’m trying to lecture. But still, how is it possible that last week you gave us a relatively well-prepared oral presentation over Islam, then proceeded to fail miserably the vocabulary quiz over Islam? You included mosques in your presentation, but could not remember what a minaret is? WTF?

Dear Bedridden Beatrice: Yes, I know you really were sick. I don’t need to read your medical records.

The “No makeup quizzes” statement on the syllabus could not be more prominent. So I’m certain your daddy was shocked when the dean did not share his outrage at my denying you a makeup quiz for the day you missed. It’s a good thing you found a way to let him know before class was even over.

Hey, does he know that you rarely stay for the whole class, and routinely slip out at the break? Good thing I take roll twice every day. Perhaps you can have him call the dean to complain about that. -- Oh, and you have an A so far, even with the zero. So please just STFU.

Dear Lazy Lucy, and Laura, and Larry, and Luther, etc.: Copying entries from Wikipedia and does not count as writing a critical response paper.

Nor does copying paragraphs from your textbook count as answering critical reading questions. If I wanted to know what the author thinks, I would ask her to write it down for me. Oh wait. She already did.

And finally,

Dear Plagiarizing Paul: Yes. You failed my class last fall. Why, you ask? You plagiarized (75% on your research paper. And you didn’t turn in any of your response essays.

Yes, you did well on the midterm, final, and quizzes. But you should make a habit of noting how much things are worth. When you get zeroes on 45% of the coursework, it is very difficult to earn a passing grade in the course.

You’ll take it again in the fall? Good. But is it really necessary to take it with me again? Really? Oh I cannot wait.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Saga of Snowflake's "Study Abroad" Experience

This will be a multi-part series of texts and e-mails (letters, postcards, and telephone calls don't seem to exist these days) sent and received by our dear Snowflake whom we shall call Dani (because "Danielle" is just not cool enough).

Part 1

March 2010

Dear Daddy,
I went to the study abroad meeting 2day! 50 of us showed up. 2 peeps, i can't believe it, actually want to go away for a WHOLE year! Why would they want to miss Football Saturdays? The Christmas parties!? And another spring break down in the Keys?
AND they have to learn a new language! omg! One wants to go to Russia! Isn't that where they have secret police who kill people? Instead, I am going to be smart and sign up for a 3 week course with Proffie M in Brazil to study apes! And no, I don't need to learn Portuguese. He said that if I already took some Spanish, in which you remember I did in high school (And got an A!), I would be okay! =) I'll need $5,000, plus $1,000 for a first class seat upgrade (no way in hell I'm going to sit in the economy for 17 hours) and maybe a few more hundred dollars for those nights out...


Your Princess Dani

Dear Dani,

Honey, people do want to go away for a whole year to experience new things. You may not be tired of partying in the Keys but they are. As for learning foreign languages, I think it's really a wonderful thing to have these days, honey. Maybe you can pick up Portuguese when you're there? Who knows, maybe employers will be impressed that you spent time in Brazil! Not everyone does.

Here's the deal. I do value studying abroad and I understand your need to stay with your friends at the U. I remember those good days when I studied in Spain and backpacked all over Europe with my buddies. $5,000 is a lot of money. But if we make it your 21st birthday present, it's a deal. As for the seat upgrade, let me check my miles. What airline would you fly on? And as for spending money, I doubt that you would really need that much as I imagine that there won't be a lot of clubs in the Amazon. But I'll get you an AMEX just in case one of those monkeys swipes your wallet and you'll get a new card within hours.



(To be continued...with an e-mail to Proffie M reagrding logistics)

Summer viewing

So, apparently, someone called "Frontline" made a documentary on how for-profit online colleges are ass-raping us all. Sounds intriguing, no?

There's an appropriately bitchy review on Pajiba, which assumes no one watched it when it aired on PBS, in May, when we were all busy marking finals. It also informs us colonials not in USistan that you can get the movie on something called "Netflix instant", which sounds awesome, if only it existed in my armpit of the Empire.

Any Diploma-millers among our frequent followers?

Vidshizzle like a scholar, scholar.

Holy crap. Who knew Mormons had a sense of humor? I didn't realize funny shiat fit into the BYU Honor Code. Go, Cougars!

Snowflakes: they endure into the dog days

Outside of my adjunct duties, I have a full-time job at a big public agency.

Each summer we bring in many summer interns, and pay them decently (unlike some of our counterpart agencies, who have them work for free). I get to select about a dozen of the many dozens we host, and then make sure my dozen has meaningful work to do in the offices that agree to take them in. We have far more high quality applicants from great schools than we could ever hope to select. Even the ones that aren't in great schools are often hyperachievers whose drive and focus makes up for the deficiencies at the schools they attend. The best performers can parley this experience into a job offer in their hands as they head back for their senior years. Which can make for a pretty final two semesters.

But one fooled us this summer. Even with a stellar academic record, this summer snowflake is a total slacker. Thinks what we do is stupid and has said so almost those exact words. Fair enough. We appreciate the opportunity to figure out we're not right for each other. Better 12 weeks of misery before graduation than x years afterward.

We're a big place and have more than the average bear's share of administrative burdens. One thing we ask is that they submit for review any resumes that want to address their association with us for review (a policy even us full time employees are subject to). This is actually a legal issue for our protection (and, whether they appreciate it or not, it protects them too as their resumes later circulate through the online job hunting ether).

I discuss the review requirement on their first day. We created a wiki page with a link the to the office that does the review. When the procedures changed two weeks after they arrived, and I sent them an email about that (to pile on to the email they all got separately from the review office...and a series of announcements on our daily news intranet page).

Do I even have to tell you what this driven, hyperachievement-oriented slacker sent me last week?
  • email subject line: question (yeah, I'll file this with the dozens of emails I have from self-absorbed millennials containing "no subject", "help" or "hey" subject lines)
  • email attachment file name: resume.doc (yeah, like I don't have dozen of those, too)
And the text of the summertime special request:
-"what is it I need to do for a resume again?"

Poof. I'm immediately transported from big-public-agency-and Dean's-list student workplace bliss to community college classroom, when a student who was in high school 12 weeks earlier has just asked me about something featured prominently in the syllabus...more than once.

It hasn't been under 80 here in a month...but the snowflakes endure. And next year at this time, this precocious one will be inflicting this on the workplace....or be established as a gradflake.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Student evaluation rundown. Or, I'm not listening to the crazy ones. La la la la la!

Picky Historian asked to hear everyone's favorite "WTF?" moments on evals. I have to say, my student comments run a very strange gamut.

I get my share of "WTF? Are you in junior high, with a crush on me?" comments:
I get some "Okaaaay, I get that's a compliment--but oh shit, WTF is the admin going to think of that?!?" comments:
  • "Feminist Snark 101 is the best class I ever had. It's not even like work. It's like therapy."
I get some "OK, I guess I'm flattered, but WTF--didn't you learn anything in this class?" comments:
  • "I love the way she dresses. I wish we could go shopping together! {Smilely face} {heart} {smiley face}"
Then I get the "WTF, you biatch! You're just retaliating against me for catching you plagiarizing" comments:
  • "OMG this woman is RACIST and I hope she never teaches here ever again!!!!!"
....Would someone please remind me why student evaluations count towards tenure and promotion again???

What are your favorite responses on evaluations?

What are your favorite student complaints? For the earnest among us, I am not talking about the well-chosen AND merited critiques that help us grow as teachers. I mean the genuine asshattery and WTF? momemnts.

Of mine, some brilliant comments stand out.

"The prof is clearly biased; she spent way too much time on women and not enough on real history." (Even after your jaw hits the floor about women's actions not constituting "real" history, beware: this was an eval in a course entitled "Premodern Women".)

"I don't get why historians have to talk about argument and I don't want to write papers in class or outside of class. I just want to learn the facts."

"My other prof at (insert local tech college) never cared if I missed class. Picky Historian got all bent out of shape because I missed two classes." (In a course that meets 1x / week, dear, that's 1/4 of the entire class.)

"I have five children and I can't possibly read a whole book and then write a paper about it. Picky Historian needs to remember that we have lives." (The book in question is a standard monograph used in many undergraduate classes, and is a mindbogglingly huge 162 pages of text.)

What are your "favorite" WTF????? moments in evaluations?

Monday, July 19, 2010

This post written entirely by Beaker Ben

But that's not true for academic papers. After working my students to the bone, annoying my collaborators with missed deadlines and generally being a pain in the ass, I like to share the glory of publication.

Here are my top ten reasons to add somebody as a co-author:

10. Undergrad washing the glassware and not break anything important
9. Owner of scientific instrument you need to use, who is paid only in co-authorships and citations
8. IT guy checking the log of websites you visited with your office computer
7. Student you are dating (hey, it’s cheaper than roses)
6. Foreign grad student doing all the work
5. Another student translating so that you can understand the results
4. Academic spouse, as payment for listening to you bitch about this project
3. Colleague finding out you are dating student from Reason #7
2. A real dick in your field who would rip the paper apart if he was the reviewer but is happy to get a piece of the action
1. Holden MaGroin, just because it would be funny to see in print

Performance-linked budget

Hey, I could start a regular column, "Dean Suzy's Day" and maybe be as good as Beaker Ben or Midcareer Mike (or did we lose him?) some day!

Dean Suzy's day began with an unsuccessful attempt to get the computing center guys to explain how it happened that the learning management system was offline for 13 hours over the weekend if they guarantee 24/7 uptime. Everyone's on vacation, but apparently the janitor knew enough to reboot the machine.

Professor M congratulated her in the lunch line on her election and mentioned that his pet project for making porcupines pettable will be needing additional cash soon. Oh really, how fascinating!

Then she headed to the bowels of the finance department in the hopes of getting some enlightenment. The proposed budget for 2011 shows that although we met our enrollment targets at 101% and have an enormous research money intake, we will be getting 1.5% more money. We've even increased enrollment targets for 2011 by 7%. The slacker faculty, however, that has only 75% enrollment target achievement and zero research, gets to break even, and the snowflake faculty with 82% enrollment and a grubby little bit of research money is getting a 13% increase in funding!!!!

It's really easy, it turns out. This is the new performance-linked budget with magic cookie numbers. Since we can't let the precious slackers have less money than before, we have to adjust the numbers so that our finite budget works out. And the snowflakes are so similar to the slackers that they have to have the same magic number. The only way for this to work is for my faculty and the faculty of the we-publish-a-lots to not be given any extra money for reaching or exceeding our targets.

Now that I understand the scam, what I don't understand is a) why this is called a performance-linked budget if we get punished for performing well and b) what they were smoking when they came up with this and c) did they think I would smile and agree to this?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Student Essay!

I came home tonight to a pile of final essays for a general ed course I teach. Three essays in, I began reading an essay 2/3 complete that began and ended like this:

"I would like to open this essay with a few statements. First, this is a [General Ed] class; this is not Research 101 or English Composition 101. I believe the work that I have submitted over the past few weeks has been graded inaccurately and unfairly. I can understand grading on grammer [sic] and punctuation, but I should not be confused on what class I am currently in. I do not believe it is a [General Ed] Instructors [sic] place to try and teach and correct introduction and conclusion paragraphs. If the correct format, grammer [sic], and punctuation are used, then the only thing that should be graded is the content.
"This essay will not be 4-6 pages long but I believe that I have covered the questions I was asked to cover. [lists paragraph by paragraph what s/he did] Despite the fact I have answered all of the questions I am supposed to, I will get docked points off this essay for errors that should not be graded in a [Gen Ed] class, and I am not talking about the length of the essay."

Oh Precious! Oh, you poor poor child. You complain here about my attempt to teach you basic writing skills and as you do so, you waste your highly important intro and conclusion paragraphs. And you skipped 1/3 of the essay question. And by being just short of the required 3-4 pages, you got a rather generous 78, which drew your overall grade to... 89.49!



In other cases, anyone over 89 would get a friendly bump from me. But Precious? Why should I? I could worry that a student challenge to the grade will result in my being interrogated and all that jazz, but lo! My Dean *just* sent us an email about the problems of artificially inflating grades during summer school. Precious here didn't show at any of my office hours or talk during class or send me a single email during the course. I take copious notes on my papers so I can justify any grade under challenge. Precious is totally, totally screwed.

And I'm totally, totally pleased about it.

Grading Cat

I am a humanities prof with a cat.

While grading, the cat jumped onto my chair and ran across my keyboard.

Cat typed, ccccccccccccccccccccf.

Thanks for saving me the trouble, cat!

To the Technology Department

These are emails that I wrote and (being a responsible type by day) never sent. But here ...

To the Building Manager:

I understand and sympathize with your goal of protecting the new paint on the walls. However, your dictate to post nothing on my wall or door conflicts with the Dean's order to post office hours. She approves my salary, you don't. Accordingly, I am using the framed picture that you permitted as a place to (you guessed it) post office hours and student information. Sincerely, Picky Historian.

To the Technology Department:

Okay, I get it. You want to make sure that I use only approved Microcrap software and install nothing else. Please explain why neither my (Microcrap) netbook and Ubuntu desktop, both equipped with "suspicious even though approved by Lifehacker, PC World, et al" free antivirus software, OO, Firefox, Thunderbird, etc., , have never had a virus, whilst my office machine running your approved software has been infected seventeen ways to Sunday? Yours in greatest annoyance, Picky Historian. PS: nanny nanny boo boo. I got Thunderbird to play nice with the Outlook server, so I don't have to use that POS Outlook Lite.

That professor like totally sux

Darren's post just below this one reminds me of an oh-so-stupid exchange in my class earlier this summer and it amazes me when students try to pit prof against prof. Seriously. I had one in my class foolishly tell me all about how much Professor A sucks and provided me (and the whole class) with a ridiculous list of all the things Dr. A did wrong, her character flaws, her manner of dress. Looking to lure me into a little dept gossip, she asked, "Ugh, do you know her??" The smug was quickly wiped from her face when I said, "Actually, we have dinner together often. We've been friends since you were probably struggling with your ABCs." I wanted to punctuate that last sentence with "You dumb asshole" but I held back.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

grad programs

 Our entire graduate program is taught extra-to-load.  Our classes and supervision are all done on top of our regular schedule.  The idea was that we would gradually change this, somehow under administrative radar, but this hasn't happened of course.  And I find that I vividly resent having to drag more students through a strenuous full-year grad course on top of my regular teaching.  I have never supervised more than one student at a time (it's a small program), so while supervision is work at least it's doable, but my colleagues who are supervising several students, for no credit whatever, are exhausted.  The administration is wholly unsympathetic and won't allow us to do any of the things that would alleviate the workload (like, say, earning a 1 term course reduction for every 5 students supervised, or anything like that).

I honestly don't know why we bother to have a graduate program.  The university wants graduate education in its profile, but the programs are underfunded and under-supported.  The admin wants to have grad programs but it doesn't want to have to pay for one; we're supposed to carry the whole thing ourselves.

There is also - as a separate but compelling issue - the fact that I'm in Humanities, so I am not at all sure where these students are going to get jobs.  Are we doing them any favours by letting them carry on in the first place?  Wouldn't we be doing better to just bow to market forces, close down the grad program, and tell our students the truth, that a Humanities first degree is excellent for broadening their horizons and equipping them to function as citizens of a democracy, but now they'd better go do an MBA or CPA or LlB or MPA or a plumbing certificate, if they were planning to actually earn a living? Because there are not that many jobs, and the ones there are are evaporating as we speak.

The grad students are great to have around.  They are lively, enthusiastic, hard-working, and remind me why I love my field.  So I get a lot out of having the grad program, though perhaps not enough to offset the workload.  But I'm really not sure there's anything in it for them.  Are we doing them a grave disservice by letting them think there is?

The Burden of Graduate Education

This week's email brought an avalanche of requests from grad students. Mr. I. M. Smarterthanyou asked when I would "like to meet" to discuss his dissertation prospectus. It seems that he's on a tight schedule and can't wait for the start of fall classes. He also can't imagine that I don't actually WANT to look at his prospectus again.

Another student, who added me to her exam committee a month ago, needs to throw together--overnight--an exam reading list, because she wants to sit for the exam six months earlier than she had initially planned. She can't seem to locate--or plagiarize--the sample exam lists I posted online.

The bane of my existence, Christina Crisismode, sent her weekly "ohmygosh I don't know what I'm doing please help me" message, asking for the umpteenth time for an adjustment to her exam reading list and asking me to administer--and comment on--a series of practice exams. We have been having this same conversation for a year.

My overachieving grad student sent me 6 times as much written material as I had asked him to produce (as if I have time to read it all), and Ms. Lackluster Eagerbeaver invited me to proofread--for the third time--an article she's working on (her citations are still not right and I can't believe that an ABD doesn't know how to use the handbooks).

There was also an email from a student in my fall class, wanting a copy of the syllabus so that she could get a head start on the reading. I told her that the syllabus does not yet exist and that she should spend the rest of her summer doing something else. As a grad student, she should have plenty to do.

My unwritten message to all of them: leave me the hell alone. I've got my own shit to do over the summer. Besides, grad students should be more independent than this. No one held my hand through the process. Is there any way to make graduate education something other than a massive burden for faculty? How do you make grad students behave like grad students?

In One Ear ...

Not five minutes after I posted Earnest Student's grade on the final, I got an email.

Dear Picky Historian,

I am really really disappointed in my grade. I worked really really hard on that paper, and when I saw so many points off for not having an argument I was really annoyed. You never told us we had to have an argument and it was not in the assignment instructions. Please reconsider the grade.

Sincerely, Earnest Student.

Dear Earnest Student,

I am sorry that you are disappointed in your grade. However, the grade will stand. The assignment instructions ask you to defend your assessment of why and how event X happened. That requires having an argument, by definition. Furthermore, every time any student, including you, asked about the paper format, I mentioned "leading with your argument" and "must have an argument." The next class, please do not talk loudly to your classmate or rabbithole on your laptop while I am discussing paper instructions.


Picky Historian.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wedding Woes

Dear Online Ophelia,

Sorry I didn't turn my work in. I had to plan my wedding! Then I got married! Can I turn in all of my work, even though it is a few weeks late and I didn't ask for an extension ahead of time?

--Married Mary

Dear Married Mary,

Congrats! What an exciting time. However, the work cannot be turned in so late. Focus on what is left in this course, and if you have questions, let me know.

And while a wedding can take up a lot of one's time....let me tell you about my wedding. I couldn't get time off from the classroom. So before heading off to the ceremony, I was posting grades. And after the reception, I was answering student questions.

Couldn't get time off for the honeymoon either (well, I could get time off, but that's called, "No class and thus no money for 9 weeks"). So while in the tropics, I duly graded papers, answered questions, &c.

So if you are looking for sympathy, you are barking up the wrong Shakespearean character.

--Online Ophelia

Font You

To the student who said that a text was in a "cool X-files font." That is an electric typewriter. People still use those. In fact, you will find one in the office. You might want to check it out before you embarrass yourself again.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Plagiarism!" the Breakaway Smash Hit from CM: THE MUSICAL

Whenever I catch another plagiarist, the joyous Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah rings in my head.

[etc, etc.... cuz when it came to lyrics, Handel did a lot with a little.]

I knew this jock would cheat on this paper.


The University rules
Oh, consequence; expulsion's next!

And ye shall fail forever and ever.


Cheat of cheats
And thief of words


[with a flourish:] Plagiarissssss--mmmmmm!
p.s. If any of you humanities people are music proffies, I would give you my KINGDOM if you set this to music.* (I'd do it myself, but unfortunately, I can't sing my way out of a paper bag.**)

*Extra credit available for submissions received in vidshizzle format.
**Note: the paper bag is my kingdom. Offer valid for a limited time. Only available in the contiguous 49 states. Sorry, Tennessee!

[Edited 7/17 to add: Ok, I just set up a creative commons license for this, so seriously--have at it!]

Licencia de Creative Commons
Plagiarism! by Dr. Snarky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

a lightbulb for plagiarism?

Motivated Mindy writes an excellent response paper every week and answers my questions with engaging thoughts in class. She comprehends the material in spite of the confusing prose and racist undertones (I can't change the text yet -- it was written by Professor Silverback).

And then, for the final takehome exam, her essays were all over the place. Poorly written, suddenly misspelled. And 1/3 was identical to Cheaty McStinky. Cheaty I can understand: he's a slacker. But Mindy should have known that as the best student in my class, I would notice that her work suddenly took a dive. Why risk the A, even if I didn't catch her?

[When confronted, she explained it wasn't cheating -- it was just research that hadn't yet been put into her own words. Oh Mindy.]

I was familiar with Mindy's style because I had been excited by her work earlier in the semester. She was engaging, one of those few students who caught my attention and gave me pleasure in my job (you know, as opposed to signing off those low Bs and Cs from regurgitating dullards). So I took my time, gave her real feedback to improve her already exciting ideas, reflected on advice I would want if our roles were reversed.

But for the vast majority? Hold my breath for 5 minutes, scribble a few notes to justify a grade, and slap on a number between 75 and 90 (except for clear fails). Because of the tedium that is grading mediocre papers, I don't become familiar enough with my students' writing. But this NYTimes article tells of a prof who begins each course with an in-class writing sample, a thought piece. This piece goes into a file to compare against future papers.

I thought it was a splendid idea. Without being familiar with Mindy's prose, McStinky would have totes gotten away with the ol' cheating. Oh, but wait... now that I've caught him, I'm going to have to stand near him in the department conference room. And McStinky isn't a randomly chosen sobriquet.


Dean Girl

I have a confession to make. I've been an associate dean since I started lurking at RYS. Now I'm dean.

But guess what? My main goal in life is not to make your life miserable. My main goal is to keep this tanker from crashing anywhere. And there are lots of rocks out there.

My budget, for example, is finite. I'd love to give you all raises and new offices and buy you lots of toys. But what do I do when the money runs out?

I know that you bitch about "the administration" and see me as part of that. Sure, we holler at you if you don't get your grades in on time. The students and the registrar are breathing down our necks! And they need their grades soon.

I understand that the erasers are missing and we ran out of blue whiteboard pens. We can't just waltz into Target and get stuff. We have to go through the purchasing channels. We're a public institution, and that's taxpayer money (along with the tuition) we're spending.

May I share my day with you?
  • Before I got my laptop hooked up, Prof. A stormed in, insisting that I get curtains for his office.
  • Prof. B saw me come round the corner and insisted I come listen to the dreadful noise. Yes, it's loudest in the toilets. That keeps the duration of the sessions to a minimum, I suppose.
  • Student A's mother called with a long drawn-out request on account of her flake being out of the country.
  • Student B dropped by to brightly tell me that he's requested that Prof. C, a guy who really irritates me, be on his committee with me.
  • Student C wanted to drop her application off and have me mail it to Admissions for her.
  • The secretary went home because she's not feeling well. But since she showed up it doesn't count as a sick day.
  • Student D needed a room to work in, but we have none free.
  • Prof. D had this great idea for doing interviews for admissions. All I have to do is do it for him.
  • Prof. F was mad that we docked his pay for being seriously late with grades. New rules, dude.
  • Prof. G wants money to start a new scholarly journal. I suggested he call it the Journal of Part-Time Research.
  • The Prez is pissed because we don't like the dysfunctional web site his web site editor has designed.
  • The Veep is angry because I dissed one of his pet projects publicly so he is taking random potshots back.
  • I requested statistics from the administration for the umpteenth time, after finally getting the numbers I requested in February.
  • The computer center refuses to set up a system that would make my life easier because they would have to install it and back it up.
  • My administrative assistant edited a policy document thoroughly, using an old version of the document and sent it out without showing it to me first.
  • The alumni lady wants me to come to some beach party and chat with alumni I don't know.
  • I tried to understand the budget for 2011. I gave up and went home.
Smile at your dean tomorrow. Make her day.

Letter to The Idiot

I'm not teaching this summer, so students haven't been able to work my last nerve. Luckily, the idiot I work for has been there to pick up the slack. Below is the letter I would really, really, really like to send to him. Unfortunately, I'm not independently wealthy, so I sort of need this job.

Dear Idiot,

I have put up with you (sometimes quietly and sometimes not) for the past 3 years as you've driven this program into the shitter. Despite begin given 2 new faculty members who brought depth and substance to the program -- as well as its first hints of legitimacy -- you have done your best to piss away the most promising program in the division. Now that you've successfully chased away the other new faculty member and you are unwilling to fight for a replacement, you should expect a mutiny. My cup runneth over with your stupidity, and I cannot bear the thought of having to report to you for 1 more minute.

You fancy yourself quite the teacher. Do you know how many students have complained to me about what a waste of time you and your classes are? You teach the same thing in each of the 4 classes you bother to provide. They are sick of hearing the same lame stories again and again. When they get up and leave in the middle of class -- and don't return -- (yes, they've told me all about it), do you even notice? Of course not because YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT!

Scholarship? No, it isn't a foreign word. It's just something you have no clue about. You've been teaching at Midwestern Miracle University for 6 years, but you haven't written anything, published anything, or probably read anything since you finished your diploma-mill Ph.D. program. Hell, you probably couldn't even find a journal article, much less contribute to one. And, no, Guns and Ammo is not an academic source. You didn't even present a paper until both of your new faculty members -- with combined teaching experience of less than 1 year -- were presenting at national conferences. Oh, right, you still didn't -- you made a student do all the research, create the paper, and then present it. Who knows what you actually did for it other than be sure that your name appeared first on the Power Point slide and program. Good luck finding another student to be your bitch. They've all heard about you now.

We had an extremely promising program that is now going to be gutted because of you. In addition to having the intellectual capacity of a grapefruit, you have absolutely nothing holding your spinal cord in place. I have never met a more clueless, incompetent, lazy buffoon in all my life! I put up with you the first year, stood up against you the second year, and completely ignored you the third year. Do not expect me to remain quiet anymore. Everyone -- except, perhaps, you -- can see what an idiot you are. I hear the sounds of the search committee kicking themselves in the ass on a regular basis for being ignorant enough to hire you in the first place. Oh, how they want you to go away. In fact, most everyone on campus wants you to go away, but you don't get it because YOU'RE A FUCKING IDIOT! I have no idea why they don't fire your ass.

I may not be able to get you discharged from the entire state; however, I will successfully get you removed from your position of authority over me. The school doesn't want to lose the only capable faculty member it has left in this program. I might even be able save some remnants of the program -- no thanks to you.

I hope you've fucked up your own summer at least half as much as you've fucked up mine!

Prissy Prof

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

some suggestions on "getting stuff out the door"

One survey question was "Do you have any techniques for getting stuff out the door?" ( i.e. "getting articles into the mail")?  Here, lightly edited, are a range of your answers to this:

Oh, Snap. CM-on-CM Smackdown! Because it's a Beautiful Night for Feeding Trolls.

Excuse me, folks... I gots me a fire to put out, right over here. [Comments from my bigass firehose are in red.]


it's always best to speak concisely and say what you mean if you have even the slightest doubt about the intellectual capacity of your audience. [True! So I'll be extra careful when addressing you.]

From the context of your post, I can see that you were just using a cutesy, exaggerated term for "dealing with urgent matters." [But I offered no context for my post--just a snippet o' snark. If you understand neither the meanings of common idioms NOR basic vocabulary words, then, wow...conversing with you must be like talking with a brick wall. --Oh, that idiom was too hard for you, too? Sorry.]

Would you accept the phrase "putting out fires" in an English composition assignment about, let's say, Pride and Prejudice? For example, "Darcy occupies himself with putting out fires after Elizabeth tours Derbyshire." [zOMG, sure thing, if my students were writing about Pride and Prejudice and Vampires! hells yeah!!!]

Why not set an example for students? It's hard to enforce the "do as I say, not as I do" rule. But maybe you allow your students to sprinkle their written work with hyperbole and folksy expressions and accept exaggerated metaphoric excuses from late and absent students. [OK, let's be serious. Your argument is that I should speak as I want my students to write. Well, written English and spoken English are two different things. They're...... ohhhh, I see what you did there. Your straw man made me once more forget your dubious intellectual capacity. You just nevermind, dear.]

You may think that whatever you were doing was just as difficult as "putting out fires" but is that really an accurate analogy for what you were doing? Were lives in danger? Was property destroyed by an inferno? [Obviously, you've never been a college professor.]

I am just suggesting you try communicating with more precision and less folksy hyperbolic metaphors. [We're sorry, but we are not accepting unsolicited suggestions at this time. Please try your call again later, or dial an operator for assistance. This is a recording.]