Monday, April 02, 2007

Spinning Plates

That's the only metaphor I can come up with that accounts for the amounts of student weirdness that I've been involved in over the last two weeks. Really, each of these is deserving of his/her own post, but in the interests of privacy, I'll lump them together. What follows is a chronological list of encounters.

Student A.: We'll call him "Handy." Handy is not in my class, but he's in an adjuncted course that is run by my ACUN. So when a student complains to the adjunct that Handy puts his hands in his pants in class, multiple times? Yup, it's my problem. The question of the hour (or of the past three weeks), of course, is who's job is it to talk to Handy? How do we deal with Handy? What is the best way to provide for Handy's needs (because, as you may have guessed, Handy is not quite as sensitive to appropriate classroom behavior as his classmates are, for medical reasons), and also those of the other students in the class.
Resolution: Call every mother-biting office on campus, and find out that the job falls to me to coordinate the adjunct, the counseling center, the student affairs people, and Handy himself. Ever had a conversation with a student about inappropriate self-exploration during class time? I hadn't either, until last week.

Student B: Whipsmart. Whipsmart is, as her name might suggest, a terrific joy to work with. She's very bright, driven, creative, funny, and a bit Type A and hence overcommitted. We've had many chats over the course of the semester about coursework, her group project for class, etc. All of the bonhomie comes to a crashing halt, however, when I assign a particular novel with a particular set of incidents which trigger a particular set of memories and self-knowledge for Whipsmart. Thus beginneth the week of trying to respond empathetically and maintain boundaries, come up with accomodations while flagellating myself for picking this godforsaken novel. Crap, crap and crap!!
Resolution: Whipsmart read and wrote about (beautifully) secondary criticism on said novel, and didn't come to class. I vow never to teach said novel again.

Student C: Banana. Banana is coming to terms with her ethnic identity for the first time (and yes, I'm using a particular kind of ethnic identity marker there. If you're not familiar with it, it's the Asian American version of the African American term "Oreo." It can be used derogatorily, but in this case, I think the student might appreciate language that speaks to the way she feels about herself. Or you can just tell me I'm a self-hating racist.). This is a process that is difficult for her at a school that is predominantly NOT populated by students of color. It's made particularly difficult by a professor identifying her as the only person of color in her class, and then talking about her in the third person. (As in, "all of us have to ask ourselves this question; except for Banana. But what do we do with Banana in a discussion like this?" Yup.) Banana comes to my office crying, and I initiate several phone calls to find out procedure. I meet with her, with the appropriate person, who tells her that "In the 70's, you were expected to give African Americans the right speak in class." WTF? It just got better from there, and I was a sucky advocate, because A) I couldn't believe what was happening--what do you do when the appointed person has NO IDEA about how race-based oppression works?!! and B)I'd like to get tenure at some point in my life.
Resolution: Balky, but continued email conversation with Banana. I don't think she's done pursuing the question. Good on her. This also means that I may continue to be involved. Stay tuned.

Finally, just today, Student D: Xerox. As I was rushing to finish grading a group project this morning, I found a passage in it that looked suspiciously lovely. It had multiple clauses that were correctly punctuated, the grammar was correct, and it used the word "subsequently." A quick Googling revealed the exact passage in a well-known set of assistance for readers. Sigh. I confronted the student, he said fine, and he's rewriting the section for half-credit on the assignment. Earlier in the week, he had sent me a draft of the next assignment and asked that I'd read it. In his follow up communication today, he asked if I'd still have a chance to do so. In that assignment, he not only copies directly from the previous group assignment (passages written by other students!), he also copies MY EXAMPLE FROM THE ASSIGNMENT SHEET. Verbatim.
Resolution: An email that explains the consequences of plagiarism in no uncertain terms, and a reminder that another example of it and I will fail him for the course.
Suspicion: Like a Xerox machine, Xerox does not understand what copying is. No one would send an assignment to the instructor that copies the instructor's work, with a full working knowledge of plagiarism, right? Right?

Hey! Look! "Like Spinning Plates" is a Radiohead song!!

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Blogger Ashley said...

I am so appalled by all of this in different ways that I don't even know where to start, but I know where I'd like to end, which is by buying Handy a chastity belt and locking him into it during class.

The horror, the horror.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Whaaaa? I do not envy you KFluff!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007 8:00:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

Insanity, right? All of it!! I'm going to call a snow day. In April.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007 9:08:00 PM  

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