As I read the many recent academiblog posts about catching plagiarists, excuses for late papers, students missing finals, etc., it becomes clear that coping with the demands of whining students is most difficult at the end of the semester.
How can we manage to maintain our grace and good humor in the face of the small but frustrating batch of students whose last-minute demands and lame excuses and have given us headaches?
This is the topic of my article "Coping with Oy Vey Students," which appeared on Monday in Inside Higher Education. My premise is that we need to find respectful but effective ways of coping with the unreasonable few that cause so much of our frustration as teachers.
I also poke fun of the tactless requests and unbelievable excuses that students concoct. I provide a translation sheet of what a student says and what the professor actually hears.
Usually, students don’t seem to be aware of the off-putting impact of their approach. Some are surprised when we don't believe that they "really didn't mean to plagiarize." The students who make outrageous excuses are often immature and egocentric – but they are rarely hopeless - and I counsel patience, empathy and generosity with our verbalized responses.
Inwardly, of course, we can’t help but roll our eyes and sigh. Oy Vey!
Coping with Oy Vey Students was intended as a light-hearted comment on common frustrations. But my attempts at humor offended several readers. I was labelled by a few as insensitive, unprofessional, anti-Semitic, pessimistic, depressing and a disgrace to my profession. Wow.
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, since trying to be humorous in a p.c. world is always dicey, shrinks are not supposed to be glib, and people with intense responses are the ones most likely to make comments.
Actually, I'd thought I'd been quite mild -- and I chuckle to imagine what the critical readers would think of some of the rants of Dr. Crazy, Professor Bastard, Seeking Solace, A Gentleman's C, Astroprof and many others ;)
On the other hand (and this is why I like the IHE interactive format so much) many commenters (including the highly critical) have great points. Some profs share thoughtful ideas about the difficulties faced by both teachers and students. Some told about elaborate fabrications students used to avoid work. Good management techniques were shared: I especially like the strategy of one professor who said he'd started giving oral make-up exams to students who missed the final and found that such absences dropped by 80%. Excellent idea, at least for some disciplines, right?
Coping with Oy Vey Students was inspired by the many sad but hilarious stories my blogroll comrades have been posting about students' self-destructive gaffes. I even linked to specific posts by Adjunct Kate, Dr. Crazy, Stewgad and New Kid. (Unfortunately, the links to Dr. C's rant on student emails, and New Kid's thoughtful post about class participation, appear to have been messed up by IHE.)
Since y'all have been my muses, I'm especially interested in your feedback and further anecdotes. If you have time to check out the article, I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts and reactions: either here or or at the comments section of IHE.
(BTW New Kid, I thought that your thoughtful response to Mike Sacken was well-put. And isn't Sherman Dorn's comment funny?)