Let me preface this by saying that I am tired. Bone-achey, gritty-eyed, pre-carpal-tunnel-syndrome tired. It might have to do with the fact that I stayed up late last night emailing back and forth with Ms. Ashley
(yay!!), and then got up in time for an 8 a.m. meeting (yeah, you heard me--8 a.m., beeyotches), and then met with an adjunct, and then co-moderated a panel discussion, and then answered 30,000 pre-advisement emails, and then "cleaned up" PR issues for a departmental event, and then posted a student meeting schedule, and then discussed the hasty triage draft of a co-written paper that needs to be posted by Thursday and now it's 6:30 p.m. Right, that might be the reason for the tired.
In the midst of this afternoon of sympathizing with hamsters on treadmills, however, I had the distinct pleasure of engaging in one of my favorite activities: negotiating with a student who has totally flaked on her group project and is now trying to salvage her grade at almost literally the last minute. Wheeeeee. I swear I get one of these every semester, and every semester I have to explain why it doesn't work. Strangely, however, this post isn't about that student; we all know this student, and I have nothing new to say about her. I want to talk about the OTHER student: the one who rats her out.
I find myself totally ambivalent toward the rat--or weasel--student, and it's not just because of exhaustion. On the one hand, she's giving me necessary information about the flaky student's non-participation in the project. After all, I'm not invested in letting flaky student get credit for other people's work. At the same time, however, I can't help but notice that the weasel herself spends far more time talking about her home life, her other courses, etc., during group work than she does about the project itself. In fact, 80% of the time that I check in with the group, she's reading the texts that they're working on, while two other students are inputting information and composing drafts. I should also note that this student began the group work complaining about a different
member of her group who was too overbearing, but that she refused to confront because "she's not that type of person" and couldn't I just work it out for her and the other two people? Now that there is a new enemy, however, she's apparently willing to look past her original target's personality quirks and focus on the flaky student. Good thing she didn't confront the first group member!
Obviously, part of my ambivalence here comes from un-positive interactions with this student herself, and they're getting in the way of thinking about how I should react to necessary tattling. I've been circumspect about revealing my negotiations with the flaky student--FERPA, you know--but philosophically, how should I react? Do we want to encourage students to be honest about the work that other group members do? Should they instead just "Sack up" as the Fug girls say, and deal, since that's a more real-world scenario? And even as I try to position this particular weasel as the exception, I have to wonder if her pyschology isn't, in some ways, indicative of those who feel compelled to tell on their classmates. Are they refusing to take responsibility for their own participation, even as they harshly judge others?
Oh, how I hate the politics of group work. If only I weren't so committed to the possible results...
Labels: grading; peda-dema-goguery