Methinks the Lady Doth Explain Too Much

At the end of last semester, I posted about an extremely frustrating email exchange I was having with a student, but I didn’t post the exchange itself, as I was concerned about the niceties of using student correspondence in blog posts.  However, I kept the conversation in my drafts folder, suspecting that I would make use of it someday.  I came across it again this weekend.  I have enough distance that I can doctor the student’s messages a little while retaining their essence.  The student’s name has of course been changed, and other identifiers have been eliminated.  My replies are reproduced verbatim.

I wanted to post this now because we have come around to that same time of the semester – the final couple of weeks – and my dread of infuriating student emails is welling up.  However, my perspective on this conversation has changed in so many ways.  In particular, I see my own role and replies entirely differently.  In the moment, I was so furious with and bewildered by the student that I was unable to step back from my own behaviour and evaluate it.  Please read and give me your thoughts: what am I doing wrong here?

Student: Hi,its concerning my topic for the oral I choose to do it on war to stop war in the world are poverty.

Siobhan: Dear Shayla: Your guidelines state that in your oral, you must teach the class a skill that you have.  Is stopping war or poverty a skill that you possess?  Please reread the assignment guidelines.

Student: Goodmorning ,it is concerning toodays class.Since last yesterday,I catch a flue which was catch by my relatives in my household.I woul like to know if i can met with you next week to review what I will be missing in todays class.

Siobhan: Shayla: I’m sorry to hear you are sick.  You are welcome to meet with me during my office hours next week to discuss what you’ve missed.  In the meantime, you still need to give me your topic for your oral presentation, as you will be presenting next Friday; please send me your topic as soon as possible.

Student: Hi,I wanted to know concerning the orall date can i present the wednesday  after?As i missed a class and didnt get to choose my oral date

Siobhan: Shayla: Your oral date and topic were due last week – you were free to email me with your date and topic at any time!  However, as Friday is quite full, I can move you to the next date.  In general, though, not attending class is not an excuse for not taking care of your class responsibilities.  Please send me your oral topic AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, as it is now very late.

Student: My topic is to change poverty  int the world because it sais if there was one thing you had to change what would it be .And thank you for being patient and giving me a chance to do the oral another dtae.

Siobhan:  I believe I already wrote you about that topic: I think you are confusing your argumentative essay with your oral presentation.  Your topic for your oral presentation needs to be to teach the class how to do something that you know how to do well.  It has nothing to do with the topic for your argumentative essay, which is to identify something you would change in the world and explain why.  These are two different assignments.

Student: Hi,its concerning two zero I have.I have a zero on quiz 3 and 4?And concerning the essay and oral,I will see you tomorrow and talk about it ,because I am quite confuse.I will talk to you 5 min before class if that’s okay with you,because after you’re class I have gym and the time of break is just enough for me to get ready.

Siobhan: Shayla: It is not clear to me what your question about the quizzes is.  You have zeros on two quizzes because you were not in class on the days they were given.  If you have a medical note excusing you from the latest quiz, you can bring it to me tomorrow.
As for the oral, I expect you are confused because you have not been in class when we have discussed the guidelines, nor as the other orals have been presented.  I will be happy to talk to you, but the time before class is not the best time; it would have made more sense for you to come see me in my office well before now.  You have missed a great deal of class time, and this is putting your chances for success in this course in jeopardy.

Student: Hi,I wanted to know tomorw can i see u before class in ur office for like 10 mins? or at 330 pm?

[Interval: I yank student out of class to explain again that no, she cannot come to see me in my office ten minutes before class time for any reason. The next class, the student is unprepared to do her oral presentation because she believes that her date is the class AFTER the extended date I agreed to above.]

Student: Hi,its regarding the argumentative essay we have to write my topic is going to be pauverty …Ihave told you that before,but you said it wasnt good but i saw on the paper in class someone chose it

Siobhan: Shayla: I told you (twice) that poverty was not a good topic for your ORAL PRESENTATION.  Poverty is a fine general topic for your paper.  They are two different assignments; I was hoping that by now your confusion about these two assignments would have cleared up!
There is no need for you to tell me the topic for this paper now.  We have done a great deal of work on it in class, most of which you have missed, and I will not be tutoring you about it over email.  I would suggest that you do the best you can with your first draft (which is due on Sunday night) and that you take advantage of the opportunity to come see me in person about making improvements for your final version (due the following week).  I don’t want to get any messages from you about this between now and Sunday – you are on your own!  The guidelines are available in our online classroom.

[Interval: several face-to-face meetings in which I carefully explain to the student that she needs to read the assignment instructions and my email messages, and COME TO CLASS, if she wants to have a clue what is going on.]

Siobhan: Dear students:  As you know, your final English paper is due by midnight this Friday.  Classes finish on Thursday.  As I explained during our last class, I will be in meetings and other engagements all day on Friday, and so will not be available in my office or by email.  It is therefore essential that you contact me with any questions BEFORE 6 PM ON THURSDAY.  If you contact me by email, it is essential that your question be brief and specific – I cannot review your whole essay for you.  If you have more general questions, please come see me in person during our final class period, when I will hold office hours specifically for your class.  (Note: even if your question is brief, it’s always better to come see me in person if you can.)  I will also be available for regular office hours.

Student: [sent at 11 a.m. Friday]: Hi,I did not get to see you thursday as I was still working on my paper ,I actually even redid another one.I was wondering can you just take a quick look and tell me what version would be best? [attached: two full-length essays]

Siobhan: [sent after the essay deadline has passed]: As I explained in a previous message, and in class, I was not available to answer any questions on Friday.  I hope you submitted your essay on time.  Have a good holiday.

[Interval: final papers are graded.]

Siobhan: Shayla: PLEASE READ THE MESSAGE BELOW SLOWLY, CAREFULLY, AND AT LEAST THREE TIMES.  Please do not contact me asking me to answer questions that have already been answered below.
It is essential that you do your English course again.  You have failed it this time for two main reasons:
1. You missed a lot of class time, and so did not learn the material you needed to learn, and
2. You seem to have a lot of difficulty reading and understanding instructions in English.  This includes both assignment guidelines and email messages.
I have looked over your final paper.  I know you worked hard on it, but it is not a passing paper. It is not properly formatted, your thesis is still not adequately supported, and your organization, especially your conclusion, still needs a lot of work.  However, the main problem is this:
In at least one spot, you have used words directly from a text without presenting them as a quotation.  You have cited the source but you have not paraphrased properly.  (If you look at the “Originality Report” for your paper on Turnitin, you will see this section marked in purple with a number “2” beside it.)
As we discussed in class, using quotations properly was a major part of your task on this paper.  Using them improperly is a serious problem, and the usual result is that you get a zero on the paper and a letter goes into your permanent file saying that you have plagiarized.  However, I do not think that you deliberately plagiarized here – I believe that because you missed so much in-class time, you did not know how to do this properly.  I am therefore not going to put a letter in file; instead, I will consider this optional paper “not submitted” and will give you the same grade for your final version as you received on your original version.
I hope that next semester you will make an effort to attend all classes and to give more careful attention to the instructions you are given.

Student: [message 1]: Hi,I wanted to know what version of the assignemt u read because I have send about 4 assignment making a mistake only 1 is the gudd version the latest one.

Student: [message 2]: Hi,I just reviewed my essay and I do not see where I did plagirasim I went on turnitin and recheck with my text in front of me .Is there a possibbility of me scanning the text I have and show you.

[Interval: Siobhan writes several long, detailed, patient, tooth-gritting messages and deletes them all, settling on this:]

Siobhan: Shayla: I am truly surprised that you continue to send me messages.  Obviously, a plagiarized sentence is not the only reason that you failed this course, and the fact that you will not accept responsibility for this is extremely frustrating for me, as it is taking time away from all the other papers I need to grade – this is not fair to the students who invested a lot of time and effort throughout the whole  semester.  I will be at the college this afternoon at 4:30 for a meeting; I can meet with you briefly before that.  I am not happy about this.  There is not need for you to scan or bring anything.  Please let me know if you can come to my office at 4:00.

[Student is never heard from again.]

Image by Ambroz


44 responses

  1. Siobohan, I have 3 thoughts I’d like to share with you.

    1. PRICELESS… I thought I was patient!

    2. How old is this child?

    3. You’re not doing anything wrong. Some people, even students, act in bad faith.

  2. You are truly virtuous! I would not have had the patience you had. All that emailing and rechecking what you’ve written before sending, argh… if you were a lawyer imagine how much you’d be able to charge her for your time!

    • I agree with CortlandWriter. I could not detect that either party knew what the other was talking about. The teacher is “right,” if one looks at this as a court case, because she knows what she assigned, knows she has been clear, uses fluent, “correct” written English, answers in full detail to the points she understands from the student, has limits/guidelines/rules/routines that are clearly stated and enforced. The teacher is always “right,” because she has the power of the grade.

      However, I miss the attitude of service practiced in commerce oriented toward the bottom-line: “The customer is always right.” This whole exchange might have been shortened and resulted in creative work by the student if the teacher had taken 15 minutes to LISTEN to the student actively, doing the paraphrased but closely faithful restating of what she hears the student say, a few sentences at a time. The student is making an effort, expresses a high ideal, but is terribly confused. Maybe she will never be able to understand a syllabus or do an assignment by the guidelines. But she has a desire to express herself. In response, the teacher should desire to release her potential, even though she may produce an “F” paper and not show up in class much of the time. Give the student a gift: Listen to her, affirm what you hear of her motivation, thank her even if she turns in something flawed, late, and barely intelligible.

      Maybe because I teach special education students and see students’ emotional selves as clearly as their performing selves, my view is that you won’t ever get them to write “A” papers, but you can give them respect for their efforts. I start with the assumption that some students can’t master “school,” but they shouldn’t go through life feeling like inferior people because of that. Shame is a seriously debilitating emotion. I see a teacher trying to preserve a self-righteous correctness and happy to live in a universe far removed from this student. However non-functional this student’s universe actually is and seems to the teacher, it’s where the girl lives. Both teacher and student show admirable persistence, and I’m not sure who is the most confused. Still, she writes! She has something to say, and she wants to engage. Affirm that impulse and see where she takes the energy of your approval. I’m surprised the student hasn’t dropped the class or dropped out, period, with all the negative feedback piled on her.

      • You can only give respect for efforts if people are actually MAKING efforts. And it is often the case, especially at this level, that some students are making very little effort indeed, and then expecting the teacher to bend over backwards and completely flout the instructions and devalue the work of other students who ARE making the effort.

        Support and listening are essential to good teaching, but setting clear limits is just as much so! We don’t do any favours to students WHO ARE NOT DISABLED by encouraging them to do as little as they possibly can!

      • What perplexes me about education is the conflict between the teacher with the “power to grade” and many students who bring with them the “consumer is right” mindset. In my experience teaching, I had students who would test my “rules” to the limits and others who would follow those rules without question. It was a struggle to stay open to both types of students and know best how to reign them in or push them out of their comfort zone as needed. I feel most teachers who have a desire to connect with students and help them grow intellectually struggle with balancing the need to be rigid (so the lesson one imparts is not lost after repeated bending by the teacher) with the need to be nurturing of a student’s unique perspective/approach/limitations. Students come to teachers at such various levels of development… it is difficult to feel like one is being effective if one sits in either camp (rigid vs. fully flexible) entirely. Unfortunately this tension can lead to regret or questioning after a matter is handled. I think everyone has a point here (Karen, Janinkansas,…) and I think the writer of this post did the best possible given the situation. I agree especially with Janinkansas – restating how you are hearing the student can do wonders for communication.

      • Listening to students is a lot easier if, for instance, they come see you during your office hours or come to class. Not so effective when they aren’t there. If they are standing in front of you, then you can judge by their reaction if they understood, and try a different way to explain if they didn’t. If, on the other hand, they send you brief e-mails spaced several days apart, you have to be a mind reader to know if they’re understanding you or not.

    • I agree with CortlandWriter. I could not detect that either party knew what the other was talking about. The teacher is “right,” if one looks at this as a court case, because she knows what she assigned, knows she has been clear, uses fluent, “correct” written English, answers in full detail to the points she understands from the student, has limits/guidelines/rules/routines that are clearly stated and enforced. Besides, the teacher has the power of the grade.

      However, I miss the attitude of service practiced in businesses oriented toward the bottom-line: “The customer is always right.” This whole exchange might have been shortened and resulted in creative work by the student if the teacher had taken 15 minutes to LISTEN actively in-person to the student, doing the paraphrased but closely faithful restating of what she hears the student say, a few sentences at a time. The student is making an effort, expresses a high ideal, but is terribly confused. Maybe she will never be able to understand a syllabus or do an assignment by the guidelines, but she has a desire to express herself. In response, the teacher’s aim should be to release her potential, even though she may produce an “F” paper and not show up in class much. Give the student a gift: Listen to her, affirm what you hear of her motivation, thank her even if she turns in something flawed, late, and barely intelligible.

      Maybe because I teach special education students (high school), I see students’ emotional selves as clearly as their performing selves. I start with the assumption that you won’t ever get them to write “A” papers, but you can give them respect for their efforts. Some students can’t master “school,” but they shouldn’t go through life feeling like inferior people, burdened with the seriously debilitating emotion of shame. I see a teacher trying to preserve a self-righteous correctness, determined to preserve a universe far removed from this student. However non-functional this student’s universe actually is, and however hopeless it seems to the teacher, it’s where the girl lives. Both teacher and student show admirable persistence. I’m not sure who is the most confused. Still, the girl writes! Both she and the teacher continue unsuccessfully trying to engage. Affirm that impulse and see where she takes the energy of your approval. I’m surprised the student didn’t drop the class or drop out sooner, with such a load of negative feedback piled on her.

      Siobhan, you are a better teacher than I, I’m sure. I put myself more in the category of social worker, coach, mentor, or sometimes only a positive, caring presence. In special education, it’s hard to be a good teacher while wanting to be a therapist. What you and I seem to share is the ability to self-reflect and redefine the teacher-student experience.

      • Your reflection on the author’s experience is unfairly negative, the very thing you got from the interaction outlined in the post. From the detailed review of their communication, it is clear the student was not willing to meet and get clarity on course expectations. If he/she had attended class or met the teacher to get clarity, the results may have been different.

        There is only so much a teacher can do. At some point, the student has to put forth effort and maybe become aware of their responsibility in making success happen.

        I teach alternative HS full-time and community college part-time. I’ve heard this before. Some people do not know how to LISTEN and in this case that was the student. The background noise in students’ heads or their texting cell phones obstructs progress, and ultimately success in school.

        Effort will always lead to success. Apathy and trying to pass with no effort, doesn’t cut it. I will help all students even when they don’t ask for that help. After that, it is ultimately their responsibility. Some just aren’t mature enough, and some may never ‘get it’.

        Teaching is hard, especially for those of us who reflect, trying new ways to reach the struggling student. You can lead a horse to water, …

  3. I have no doubt that, like you said, missing a lot of course material contributed much to this student’s failure. And I imagine a language barrier may have had some small role in her misunderstanding of instructions.

    Regardless of all that, she still seems like the type who expects to be able to pass by putting in minimal effort and making excuses. I remember students like this from when I was at school, and I’ve never had much pity for them. Maybe it’s an issue with their priorities. I’d be willing to bet a fair amount that this girl has the attitude she has because she thinks that English courses aren’t important.

    Hats off to you for keeping your patience as long as you did.

  4. Oh, I have been there. Painfully familiar. I did find myself wondering if the student was capable of understanding your emails. I work with a lot of students with very limited academic vocabulary and poor reading skills, and I suspect you do too! But as others have said, it can be hard to tell when students don’t understand and when they choose not to. You were quite patient and did nothing wrong.

    This is a student who absolutely should have attended every class, as she clearly lacks the skills or the initiative to figure it out on her own. Failing that, she should have met with you in person. (And many of my students also insist that 5 minutes before class is absolutely the only time they can speak with me. If not IN class time, itself!)

    Part of what we teach is how to be a student. I find myself patiently explaining why certain behaviors are inappropriate, feeling like I shouldn’t have to explain, wondering if I’m just being played. Some students do need it all explained. But my patience usually runs out long before the semester does!

  5. I think you did the best that you probably could. I think your title is correct: the lady doth protest too much. I think, obvious issues with written communication aside, ultimately what she wanted was for you to make things easy for her by having no rules, and that she thought she was going to succeed in undermining you into this by being as impossibly baffled as possible. I have seen this tactic before: I had an undergrad in a show not long ago who would consistently not notify me when he was going to be late to rehearsal. The cast had been given the following explicit instructions multiple times: That they MUST call or text me if they were going to be late or absent from rehearsal without a pre-approved conflict. And that they should E-MAIL me conflict dates if they had known, pre-arranged, excusable rehearsal conflicts in advance, rather than calling me with that stuff.

    I called this kid out again and again for refusing to let me know when he was running late to rehearsals, and he kept telling me “but you said not to call or text you.” It didn’t matter how clearly and repeatedly I explained that no, I said that he MUST call or text me if running late. It just didn’t matter. He actually had no intention of being held to any semblance of responsibility for his own failure.

  6. You are a patient woman! I think the main problem here is that the student’s English skills are very poor, plus she seems to be the kind of student that wants to “get by” and claim they didn’t understand because they weren’t in class. Makes for a super frustrating and horrible combination for you as the teacher. I think you handled this beautifully!

  7. I must commend your patience. Wow. I could use some lessons. I felt so bad for you – you tried so hard to give the student a go and try to explain the requirements in so much detail. The fact you even explained it to her face to face (during class) shows how concerned you were.
    It must be hard to deal with the fact Shayla did not respond to your help but you did as much you could (if not more)…

  8. Although I teach English to eighth graders and to sixth, seventh, and eighth ELLs (English Language Learners), I have experienced that kind of discussion with students in my class. I also teach ELL or LEP students. As some of your other commentors have surmised, part of the problem could be limited English, but I believe that most of it is frustration that the student wasn’t handling maturely. You have the patience of a saint. When I get that from my students, I let them tell me what I said. I fashion it like this, “Today is Tuesday. What day is it?” (response correct) “Yes, today is Tuesday. Kandice, what day is it today?” (response incorrect) “No, today is not January. January is a month. What day is it today?” I used this strategy with a kindergarten class in which a third of them were LEP. At a higher level, I also use it with my regular education students when they really want to argue in that “I don’t understand the language you speak” attitude. They know the game. Once the information has been presented to them, I ask the questions, and they tell me what they either know or don’t know.

  9. In my experience, you run into this type of behavior in students who are enrolled because they want to pursue a particular technical or vocational program, and English classes are required, but their English skills are low and they’re not motivated to improve them. These students just hope they can skate by with not much investment in the English class (could be a Math class for a student whose ultimate goal doesn’t require much Math). Or even active avoidance of the English (or Math). Same thing happens in foreign language classes that are required but not seen as relevant by the students. My (counterintuitive) approach would be to be less accomodating of students like this. They need to make their decisions earlier in the semester, so as not to clog up your time that could be more usefully spent helping students who need help but are more conscientious than Shayla is. She is, after all, at least 17 years old, right?

  10. Oh my goodness! This would have driven me crazy! I don’t know how you stayed as patient as you were. It reminds me of a problem I had with a student in my graduate class (you would never have know that this student was also a teacher!). This student/teacher did not feel he should have to take responsibility for any of his actions and wanted to dispute every grade I gave him!

  11. I think you have been extremely patient with this student. It would have been vital for the student to meet with you, but for some reason this meeting never took place? Since none of us commenters know the student, it would be hard to put it on motivation or language barriers.

    I must say, however, that some students just try to talk their way out of everything and anything. This student seems to be focusing on the wrong things, thus setting herself up for failure. Maybe you were just too patient with her?

  12. Thank you all so much for your thoughts and your reassurances. Here’s how I see it, now that I have some distance: the “lady” in the title is me. I have the tendency to explain much, much too much, especially when it comes to written communication. I break things down into minute details, repeat in various ways when understanding fails, and try desperately to find a way to say things that will get through to the student. Early in this correspondance, it became clear that this student was either not reading the messages or not understanding, and so I should have said, “No more emails. Come see me if you want to discuss.” This is the tack I’ve been trying to take for several years now; I’m not sure why I didn’t stick to it here. So I caused myself so much grief, and helped the student not a whit. I found myself veering in this direction with a student again today, caught myself, reined myself in, and wrote, “Come see me.” I’m sure that posting this and receiving your replies helped me do that! Thanks again. This has been truly helpful.

    • I think you have arrived at the ultimate solution. I will do this myself. When they aren’t attending classes, I will simply say “Come see me during my office hours.” That forces the issue and gives the student no “out” that they didn’t understand what you required.

      I also have students sign their syllabus that they understand the requirements of earning credit in this class. I can always go back to that but would prefer they take responsibility for their success. Part of my job.

      Keep on keeping on! I enjoy your post.

    • Siobhan–it reminds me of when my sons were little and tried to argue (ineffectively and irrationally) with me. After falling into this abyss a few times, I learned to say, “Because I said so.”
      There’s no comeback for that (tho I think this particular student WOULD still have responded!). It became a line I used with my 7th grade English students later in life.

      By the time I read, “Hi,its concerning two zero I have.I have a zero on quiz 3 and 4?And concerning the essay and oral,I will see you tomorrow and talk about it ,because I am quite confuse” my eyes became temporarily blinded by all the grammar errors.

      Bless you for your patience. Try “because I said so” next time!

      P.S. Writing (yours) IS therapeutic! You go, girl!

  13. Fascinating…this whole thing. The comments, everything. To me, it was really clear that the student had a serious learning disability of some sort. I could see it in the writing. I’m not sure how this student would EVER pass your class. There’s a comprehension/processing problem, and a writing issue. I believe that the student hasn’t learned how to be accountable in her struggling school years. The only way out of this was to talk face to face, and have the student repeat back to you what they heard, and then send the student away with the talk summarized in writing.
    Here’s the frustrating part. The student could never recap the message from the previous email. It appears like they’re not paying attention or that they’re being manipulative. I suspect it’s a little of both. People with deficits learn to be manipulative to some extent as a coping skill. It’s maddening. Everyone goes around in an endless circle, and in the meantime the student has produced nothing, while the teacher has put in a huge amount of, unfortunately, useless effort. A VERY typical issue in special education.
    The cycle breaker is to break the pattern as soon as possible (like…end of e-mails. Face to face, immediately), and to stop instructing, talking, giving directions, whatever, and put the work/accountability/effort onto the student.
    Teacher: Which assignment is due Feb. 3?
    (get answer, clarify, write down)
    Teacher: Which assignment is due Mar. 30? What are the requirements?
    (get answer, clarify, write down)
    Teacher: Are there any exceptions to my deadlines or requirements?
    (get correct answer: NO)
    Teacher: Please repeat what we discussed. (clarify)
    Teacher: Here is our next meeting time. (write down)
    Teacher: Now, what kind of support/tutors are you using at our school? None? You need some. Here are the contacts. I will also contact these people to let them know you are in need of assistance. (And you would seek out those people to let them know there is a student in serious need. I’m assuming your school has a learning disabilities program. I would also consult the learning support program to see if you are allowed to individualize for challenged students. ie., change/simplify class requirements I wouldn’t blame you in the least for not going this route, though.)

    I’m a special ed. teacher who believes in student accountability, no matter what the issue. I also find it fascinating that the student stopped communicating at that particular email. I think they finally understood what you were saying.
    You’re amazing to accept all this feedback by the way. This was a great lesson for ALL of us. Keep up the outstanding work.

    • Perchance, was this student obsessed with texting, tweeting, or other forms of “social networking” rather than paying attention to your instructions? It seems as though this has become the curse of the modern-day generation, and it’s really a shame. I’m glad I retired in 2007, before all of this nonsense captured the kids’ undivided attention. Good luck…

      • I know that this post (and comment) are almost a year old, so I want to reply to the comment in general.

        “Social networking” is a double edged sword when it comes to learning and communicating. In my opinion it has just as much ability to enrich the learning process as it does to distract from the learning process. In the time it has taken me to read this post and its comments (which are social networking themselves) I have also used Facebook, Twitter, and texting to complete a number of tasks relating to my school work/life. On Facebook I have been able to participate in a discussion regarding the planning of a meeting for my English Course Union (the location of which was changed at the last minute). Also on Facebook I have been able to review a portion of a group project that is due in 3 days, because my group is connected by a facebook group. Twitter has provided me with information about 2 lectures my University is hosting next week that are directly related to my current studies, and using text messages I have invited a friend to both and set up a study session with a classmate.

        Social networking can be very distracting, but it is also an invaluable tool if you know how to use it for your own benefit. I feel like saying that it has become the curse of the modern day generation is too much of a generalization. There have always been, and will always be students that would rather waste time with their friends or hobbies than successfully completing class work for school. It isn’t the fault of social networking, any more than it was the fault of television so many years ago.

        Every weapon is also a tool if you know how to use it. The fault is still on the user.

        Furthermore I do not think that from the email correspondance described one could come to the conclusion that being obsessed with texting and twittering was the cause. There are clearly more obvious forces at work that one can see in the evidence provided.

  14. You are a saint! I could not of been so patient – seeing as it’s one of my personal improvement goals each year that I teach. I probably would have lost it after the third email. If there was some award for patience, I’d give it to you- hands down!

  15. 1. I think you are wise to keep your very patient correspondence with this student, because someday, one of these students is going to turn around and try to cause a problem for the teacher, and you may need that backup correspondence. I’d keep it at least two years.

    2. This student SEEMS to have a problem with communicating in English, but DOES seem to be able to communicate clearly WHAT THEY WANT TO SAY. Therefore, I think her English is not as bad as it appears–instead, she may not be BOTHERING to READ your entire messages to them. Also, I think her idea is NOT about figuring out what is required for the course. It is more about promoting her own agenda, and “wearing down the teacher” to agree to it through numerous exchanges of this type.

    3. IF this student (or any others who failed and repeated) showed up in my class again, I would hand them a paper of course syllabus PERSONALLY, and read it OUT LOUD to them while they were standing there. I might even tell them I WON’T ANSWER ANY EMAILS, that if she needs to see me she can come in OFFICE HOURS. Then there is NO EXCUSE. (I might even ask her to sign a paper just as I handed her that paper, and before reading it to her, that she had received it.) Of course this shouldn’t be necessary with someone in a college class, but this is what I would do, nevertheless.

    4. I would ask if my university had a policy about dealing with this sort of student, and if not, I would imagine this is a common problem with other professors. I would ask the department to develop some simple guidelines for dealing with this sort of student so that all professors can feel confident they are handling these students in a way which will “not come back to bite them later.”

  16. My second thought on this student is: why are we handing so many students an educational format that they refuse to cooperate with? I’d love to see an experiment (really big, scientifically validated) to see what would happen if we a) determined what their educational goals were and b) figured out how we could give them the informaiton/skills they need in a format they would not just accept but activly cooperate with; and c) compare that with the usual version of post-secondary education. Because there is something about the way we’re doing it now that results in a huge amount of wasted time, for students and teachers alike.

  17. You’re dead right in what you say about saying ‘come see me’. Once you do that, you’re grand. In that written communication, it looks like you don’t like the student and don’t have time for her. A quantity of time, yes, with all the emailing back and forth; but not a few real moments, which would sort everything, as you acknowledge yourself.

    The other stories you write – telling about your mortgage problems but not giving actual details: better not to give the story at all. It’s a waste of the reader’s time not to have a full story; it’s against the whole point of a story. And you can’t be expected to be disucussing your personal life; and your readers don’t want that, as they’re not likely to know you, so can’t take a personal interest.

    It’s better to leave those stories out or convey them fully, although reworked as fiction. That’s all I can think. There’s no way I’d attend to reading about problems where everything of significance is held back. No way; can’t do it that way. Having one’s cake and eating it.

    • The poor kid. I feel for you, because you have spent a lot of time already dealing with her and will spend more, but I feel for her more. She needs more help than you can give her, and she won’t pass your course without it.

      Is it possible to approach her after the first class (or after whatever class she first attends) and make an appointment for her to see you in your office? It’s pretty clear that she simply does not understand written English. If you could talk to her in person, you could follow 59yearoldwriterdirectoractor’s advice: get her to repeat back the course requirements to demonstrate that she knows them, and get her hooked up with the Disabilities Office.

  18. You showed more patience than i would. Way more. When i read her replies,disregarding the fact that her spelling,even by my standards,make me want to shove a dictionary or few in her face,all i can think of is: HOW CAN SHE BE SO IRRESPONSIBLE AND UNGRATEFUL?!
    Seriously,how old is she? We all have our flaws and we all make mistakes but she is abusing the privilege.
    Of course,this very well could be just an rant of an sleep deprived and caffeine overdosed mind.
    Sincerely yours,Dante

  19. Pingback: Why I decided to become a teacher, despite my introversion | zinemin's random thoughts

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