Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How Stupid Do They Think I Am?

I try not to be suspicious. I try to think the best of my student. I generally like all of them.

Then, there are the exceptions.

Two sets of students turned in the same exact assignments as each other. That is, I have two different papers, each handed in two times, with four different authors. The real punchline here is that a significant chunk of the paper had to do with opinion and personal experience.

Another student, from a team taught class last semester, wants a retroactive W because he received an F. He gave no reason and told me that the other professor said it was o.k.

Do the first four (or at least two of the first four) think that I won't notice the exact same paper being turned in? Does the last student not think I will consult the other professor?

We won't get into the five or ten who come to me begging for deadline extensions because, as they reveal in their excuses, their other classes and their jobs and their family and their whatever else are all more important than my class. Or the one who came to me a month after the mid-term to ask "when is the mid-term?"

I just want to shriek in frustration! These are the times when I feel profoundly disrespected.

Actually, I want to create some kind of film or program that goes something to the effect of this:

Student says: "I have work, and paper in other classes, and I have to take care of x,y, and z."

Student probably means: "I'm really busy, I've done all I can to manage my time and still must come to you to ask for some consideration."

Teacher hears: "Your class is unimportant to me, you should accept that, and give me what I'm asking for."

Teacher knows: "You and every other student at this school, and not a few of the faculty and staff."

Meanwhile, I have to deal with 2-4 cheaters. I will do what I usually do, which is to allow them to be contrite and give them the opportunity to re-do the paper. Which means that I will have to grade up to the very last minute before grades are due. As for the other guy, I'll know what to do when the other instructor gets back to me. She has even more stress than I, being chair of the English and AELP sections.

This is the worst time of the semester -- so close, and yet so far from relief, wishing I could find the backbone to be a coldhearted bitch, yet not having the energy to be one, and wondering if I'm just spinning my wheels for nine months out of the year. It's a hazard of the profession.


Pfeng said...

It's amazing to me when students cheat on essays. On math problems, there's a single objective answer and so your teacher is unlikely to notice if you outright copy another student (unless you both make a unique mistake). But when you're writing paragraph after paragraph, how can you possibly think unoriginality won't be noticed?

But, the one who came to me a month after the mid-term to ask "when is the mid-term?" -- how do you keep from laughing at questions like that?

Digger said...

You are much kinder than I. Essays where students just don't know how to paraphrase = graded down and students referred to writing center (some actually go...). Essays blatantly lifted from elsewhere = failure of assignment. I am so frustrated with this that I'm about to change my policy to blatantly lifted papers = failure of assignment and entry in student file of academic dishonesty. They know dang well they cheated. And my class is probably not the first time they've done it, but professors seem to rarely follow-up with permanent consequences. I guess that makes me a bitch. I hope it makes them better, honest students.

Fortunately, I have a supportive Chair, even though I'm "only" an adjunct. And what Pfeng said... how do they not think we'll notice?

Clio Bluestocking said...

Pfeng, fortunatly, the mid-term student was an online student because my reflexive reaction was to laugh and shake my heads. After I explained the situation, he was still perplexed. The heck of it is, he generally does good work.

Digger, I engage in this little dance with them wherein I confront them, they apologize or say that they didn't know or whatever. I give them the benefit of the doubt, and give them a second chance with a penalty. I should turn them in because, most of the time (not all, but most) they know that they did wrong. So, I'm enabling them.

My chair has been supportive, as has my dean; but they have been trained to just make the problem go away since they have had a run of deans of students (we are currently between one of those, with the new one showing up in the fall), who handles this, who would tell them to do exactly what I do. Or punish the student in some other humiliating way that did not involve an infraction on their record. So, whereas I think I'm wimping out, they are releived that I'm taking care of the problem at the bottom level before it gets bigger and more fruitless.

dykewife said...

many sympathies. i don't like to ask for extensions though i have on occasion. i don't do it because i'm busy with other classes, or that my home or work life interferes but because depression makes it hard to not only get motivated and do things, but sometimes it's paralysing. but i don't like to rely on extensions because it is too easy to let the depression rule my life.

cheaters suck. up here, if you're caught cheating there's only one avenue, formal disciplinary review, though there are a couple of profs who will deal with things informally and give 0s instead of the review. they're not supposed to do that though.

Bavardess - said...

Oh, good grief! I can't believe the level of entitlement and disrespect these students are displaying. I can understand situations where an extension might legitimately be needed, but your willingness to give the cheaters a second chance is impressive. I'd be sorely tempted to administer the proverbial kick up the ass and be done with it.

Heather Munro Prescott said...

Why make more work for yourself? I would fail the plagiarizers for the course. When they ask why, tell them you have kept copies of the plagiarized papers and will report them if they file a grade appeal. Maybe your new Dean of Students will have some integrity on this.

Clio Bluestocking said...

Wow! You all are tough! I like that.

I want to put up another post to elaborate on this because I think something else is going on with these two students that complicates matters. My response to them doesn't help with the complication either, and might enable it. At the same time, I'm not sure that punitive measures would address the root cause here either, although punitive measure may come closer to discovering that cause.


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