Thursday, May 14, 2009

Whacky student time

As the semester winds down, I thought we could tell stories about our students. Here's an example: I have this student who, for a borderline legitimate reason, didn't take the midterm for a long time. Then he says to me, "would it be OK if I didn't take the exam at all, and just take the final, and have it count twice?" I never had a request like that before, and have no idea why he thought I'd go for it. Anyways, I said no.

What whacky things are your students doing in a last-ditch effort to save their grades?

--Mr. Zero

13 comments:

zombie said...

Not so much wacky as lame, but I had a student who whined to me all semester about how he was having personal problems that were keeping him from performing well. I told him that if I saw a dramatic improvement later in the semester, I'd weight his later work more heavily than his earlier work. He got a consistent C all semester. Then made an appointment to see me at the end of the semester (in front of the whole class), and failed to show up for it. This did not endear him to me, as I drove all the way to campus for that one appointment, waited half an hour for his lame ass, thus wasting 1.5 hours of my time, plus gas and tolls. Never contacted me again, didn't say anything when he took the final (which I am about to grade...)
Some people you just gotta wonder how high and how often...

Anonymous said...

I had a student come only to the first class and then nothing for the rest of the semester, none of the assignments, and didn't respond to my emails. *After* finals period was over and the grades submitted, she emailed asking whether she could make up all of the work and get credit for the course. I pointed out that, even if it were logistically possible, which it wasn't, she really hadn't taken the class in any important sense.

Christopher Pynes said...

An actual e-mail from a student last semester minus his name:

I have a question for you! (actually its multiple questions)

Have you written the final exam yet?
if no...
Can i write the final for you?
if yes...
Can i see the final and make a study guide for the class?

Heres my logic behind this, if I see the final, or make the final i will do much better on it, than i would normally, and i really want a good grade, so you should totally let me either make a study guide using the final or make the final itself.

Alright.. Think it over!

Peace!

I gave him the change to write the final exam with 10 conditions he had to satisfy. He submitted his exam of 100 questions, but only satisfied 5 of the 10 requirements and then failed my final. Oh, and I gave a study guide too.

His exam was hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Last semester, a student in the class I TAed complained that she had received a D. She emailed the professor and me with some complicated calculations explaining why she should have had a B. She had gotten Bs and Cs on the tests, but never did any of the homework, which counted for quite alot, thus the D. I reported this to the professor, who copied me on an email asking her why she didn't do any of the homework. She replied tactlessly to both of us that she didn't think the homework had much to do with the lectures and wasn't useful (!) In her prior grade calculations, she had simply omitted the homework portion, as if it didn't apply to her (and made simple mathematical errors besides, which was amusing). Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

1. Student riding up in elevator sees the prof that I'm TA-ing for and announces that she was coming to complain about her final grade because she simply would not accept the B+ she received. Prof informs her that he's coming to see me to give me the final exams to grade. She still comes to complain about the not then determined final grade and prof then comes to tell me that he'd be very disappointed if she did not receive less than a B for the course.

2. Student plagiarizes a paper on Hume by cutting and pasting passages from Hume. This included the missing shade of blue passage, one that few of us have ever noticed. Prof, 'You cheated'. Student, 'I did?' Prof, 'You copied Hume in your paper on Hume.' Student 'I did?' Prof, 'You used the word 'betwixt' and spell 'color' with a 'u''. Student, 'I did?' (Each I did was quieter and more dejected than the previous one.)

Those were from grad school, these are from this semester.

3. Student shows up for first test and fails. Student not seen or heard from again until the day after the final where he tells me that he needs to take the second exam and hand in all of his papers. Student fails second exam and still hasn't handed me a paper. I inform him that he must get me papers within the week because the grades are due. I tell him that students in his position are often disposed to try to cut corners and that before he did that he should be sure that his work is his own. I see him the next morning. Student, 'When I write my paper, can you check to see if it is plagiarized before I hand it in for a grade'. I tell him that the best way to check to see if the paper is plagiarized is for him to see if he wrote it on his own. I haven't seen him since.

4. Student for a contemporary moral problems course misses most of the class and instead of giving me a 5 page paper addressing a reading on abortion, stem cell research, or euthanasia hands me 15 pages on Hume's arguments on miracles and how the arguments have no force because of the conception of probability Hume works with. I can't track down the original paper but the student swears it is his work and that it should be given a grade because religion is related to some contemporary moral problems or something. I tell him to rewrite it and give him an incomplete so that he can. About 10 months later he contacts me to say that he can't find the original prompt for the paper so he thinks I should just give him a B+ for the course although the only material I have is a paper that he received no credit for and a test that he received a D on.

Oh, and I had to talk to someone's mother about failing him for plagiarism. That was painful. He copied passages from another girl's paper, dropped the good stuff from her work, and didn't check the grammar or spelling in spite of the fact that she is not a native English speaker. He confessed pretty quickly when I asked him what scientific evidence there was for the claim that "abortions are causing pain on a fetus". The conversation with his mother was painful (don't I feel terrible about the horrible consequences her son would have to suffer if he failed the course for cheating). The only bright spot was when it became clear that he had lied to his mother about why he was failing. I think that softened up her 'But my son would never lie' stance.

Josh said...

Christopher,

I would love to see that exam. I'm imagining the possibilities now...

jhdeleuzian said...

To Christopher Pynes - that's a very funny story. I'm curious as to what the student's exam looked like.

I am an graduating undergraduate going into a Ph. D. program this fall. Bizarre flakiness is not all that uncommon amongst my peers. Even though they cannot pull it off at school, I think that that strategic "cut every corner" mentality might benefit them in the long run - much to your dismay.

Dr. Killjoy said...

Just a word of advice, many universities do not allow a student's grade to be discussed with anyone but the student, so the only thing that you should ever, ever, ever say to parents is the following: "I'm sorry, I cannot discuss this matter with you. You should contact [Dean Blah] instead." Repeat until they hang up. Universities actually pay people to handle parents, and guess what, we aren't on that payroll, so pass them on like they have the fucking plague.

Anonymous said...

A friend caught a student plagiarizing this week. The student, excusing himself, said: "Oh, but, it's my *sister* who wrote this paper, and *she* *accidentally* plagiarized". Golden.

Platowe said...

Christ! Anon 12:39--you deserve your own reality show on cable!

Anonymous said...

To Dr. Killjoy's point. I have found the following line to work great. "I cannot talk to you about your child's grade, but you can talk to my manager if you like." Then you pass them off to your chair or dean or whoever deals with them.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Killjoy,

Good point. I knew that because my grad adviser had mentioned it. It was lucky because a friend who also TA'd for him had the misfortune of catching a kid for plagiarism who happened to be some big mucker in Nebraska's legal community. He tried to get my friend to discuss his son's paper probably knowing full well that he'd have his ass if he slipped but somehow my friend kept his cool. Anyway, it felt sort of good to say 'Well, as much as I'd love to talk to you about your son, FERPA forbids it and I'll need a signed note from your son giving authorization'. Unfortunately, that note appeared in my box a couple days later and the dreaded call was on.

Christopher Pynes said...

Josh and jhdeleuzian,

I don't have an electronic copy or I would put it up. I told him he had to bring me a hard copy in person and we would review it together.

About 70% of the questions were directly out of my notes or from quizzes. He was only allowed to use 10.

The best part was when I explained to him why some of his answer were wrong. I think he had 9 wrong answers.

Very funny stuff. I recommend allowing students to try this kind of thing. They really appreciate how hard it is when they are done.