Thursday, June 30, 2005

Frequently Screamed Sentences

Some of you have asked, with not a little trepadation, what kind of classroom I run. This is part of the syllabus I distributed to my second summer class this morning. I expect at least two of them will report back tomorrow.

“I hate writing.”
And I hate attempting to add in my head, but sometimes we are called upon to suck it up. Even if you are the most brilliant engineer in the world, you must learn to communicate effectively or your work will never see the Nobel Prize.

You would not be in this course if you did not first pass an introductory class. Therefore, I expect you to communicate with clarity and excellent word choice. I will not, however, sling D’s with a vengeance if you are not Shakespeare.

If you and the English language are constantly getting into slap fights, there is an amazing, free-of-charge thing on this campus called the Writing Center. USE IT. The tutors will be sad if you don’t, and there’s nothing worse than a sad writing tutor.

“What th--why is my grade so low?”

Probably because you didn’t follow directions. Few aspects of teaching make me wince more than seeing a student pour a great deal of work and effort into an assignment… an assignment that is not completed to specifications. I highly recommend that you complete all major tasks with the assignment sheet stapled to your face to ensure you are fulfilling each element and expectation. Use it as a checklist.

You are entering an industry in which following directions and attention to detail is vital. Think of me as your future boss or commanding officer, only with better hair.

“No…seriously...why is my grade so low?”
I am always happy to discuss your assessments with you if you have any questions. However, I will not do so until twenty-four hours have passed first. In this time, drink some tea, banish your inner Trump, and read my comments. Be honest with yourself: Did you give this assignment your very best effort and follow directions? If the answer is “yes,” you are more than welcome to come see me, preferably unarmed.

“Hey, look! I completed the assignment here at my desk four seconds before you collected it! I tore it out of my notebook and everything! Here you go!”
All papers must depart the printer in 12 point Times New Roman font; I will not accept them otherwise. More specific parameters will appear on assignment sheets.
And it wasn’t too long ago when I was pulling that Chicago bold 14 point stuff myself. I’m on to you.

“I’ve been slacking for five and a half weeks and am now shocked to discover that I am carrying an F+. Can I get extra credit?”

Welcome to the real world! No.

“Well—can I rewrite my paper, then?”
Rewrites are permitted only if you come to me first for a conference concerning your work. Grade improvements will only manifest if significant, concrete changes are made to address major issues. You may raise your grade as much as ten points. Rewrites are not applicable for late papers.

“But I got A’s in high school.”

Congratulations! I don’t care.

Average work will receive average grades; if all you do is fulfill the bare requirements of your assignments, prepare to live in 75% Land for the next two months.

“My plans for the semester consist of sitting in the very back of the room and leaning against the wall with my eyes closed. Let me know when the dancing girls show up.”

Effort will comprise part of your final grade. Show up, speak up, and exhibit at least some semblance of a pulse.

“But eleven AM is so early in the morning!”

Indeed. Chronic lateness will culminate as absences.

“My roommate’s dog spontaneously combusted all over my hard drive and somebody drove my car into my living room right after my pet iguana was stolen and there was a Saved By the Bell marathon on last night. Also, my collar bone is sticking up out of my upper arm. Is it okay if I turn in my paper late?”

I am a decidedly delightful person, but I am not a moron, nor am I patient with students who ask for special treatment simply because they are juggling full schedules. We all have 1.2 billion things happening in our lives at any given moment. You are paying dearly for your education; you might as well get your money’s worth and apply yourself.

Late turn-ins will receive a reduced grade. A late final paper… well, a late final is no final. Enjoy your 0%.

“I am so mad at you!”
We in the tech industry are not fond of surprises. If you have any issues, problems, or questions, please come to me for a sit-down. I have a lovely office just for this purpose. Kindly do not grouse amongst yourselves and announce your displeasure only on end-of-the-course evaluations when it’s too late for me to help you, administer amendments, or clarify the situation.

My job is to teach you, not fail or frustrate you. My office door is always open when I am “home,” and I consider visits from students an excellent opportunity to work with you one-on-one. Please note that I have candy.

still maintaining some semblance of professionalism...not at

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Abdul Rides Again

I have, in this space, openly discussed my bra size, reflected upon how I might most efficiently accomplish a nice hearty suicide, and referred to the World War II Memorial as, quote, “a tribute to the incontinence of the Greatest Generation.” And I have never…ever... received as much mail as I have on this post.

I am glad to have reached you, my people. Nothing unites the world like the death of a hard drive. The mail has ranged all the way from subject lines like “You FOOL!” to “hey moron.”

Most of you have tried to help. The diagnoses have included a spent compressor, a dropped laptop, an overheated… something, and a feng shui misalignment. One of my students thoughtfully pointed out that some sort of fan might be involved, but as he is currently carrying an F+, I’ll not take his word for it.

But fear not. I’ve already performed the Last Floppy Disk Out of Saigon Scenario on my laptop and transferred the whole world to my work computer. (Because I certainly don’t do any work on THIS one.) We shall see.

Competent Official College Professor UPDATE:
Today I had individual conferences with my students on their final paper, which went extremely well until I followed the first one out into the hall to issue an announcement, letting the door swing shut behind me. Because when you lock yourself out of your own office for the second time in two weeks, what you want to do is save the second occurrence for an audience of EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOUR STUDENTS.

it's still finals week at:

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