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Surely you jest: The professor and the student

Posted by John McIntyre at 8:33 AM | | Comments (3)


Having taught at various colleges and universities in the area, I can assure you that the part of the story you're missing is that said student shows up at office hours for the first time right before the final, with 90% of the grade already in, having gotten Cs on every assignment all semester. And her/his being able to declare a major or keep financial aid depend upon the A in your class. Sigh!

Ah, John. The joke? 8 out of 10. Your performance? 11. At least. :-)

Mine was a student who didn't submit any of the 6 papers he had an opportunity to write, then asked for "one last chance." And yes, I had already completed my grade calculations for the semester when he realized he might be in trouble.... Sigh indeed.

Then there was the semester the college I attended changed the schedule, so the spring semester didn't have as many days between finals and graduation. Most professors panicked.

The fourth time a professor announced the final paper for the semester would be due on the last day of classes and that there would be no final, I was fed up.

All of my course work would be due when classes ended. The end of classes was followed by study week (at least five days for prep for finals) and a week and a half of finals. None of that time would be available for research or writing for any of the courses I was taking.

So after the next class, I asked the fourth professor who had proposed this schedule if I could have an extension on the final paper and hand it in on the first day of finals week, giving him about 12 days to grade the paper. He told me it was impossible.

In fact, he subjected me to a lecture about how I ought to pace my work and get things done in advance, and didn't I have spring break. In vain, I pointed out that I would be doing work in advance for three or four other professors who had pushed back their normal assignment schedules. He was obdurate.

He asked me again point-blank why I wasn't planning on writing all my papers on spring break. I told him, truthfully, that I was having my wisdom teeth out then. Horrified, he gave me an extension. It turned out he was something of a hypochondriac.

He also never graded our first set of papers or gave them back to us until about two weeks after the second paper was due. The second paper was returned during finals week. The third paper was also returned during finals week, but later. So much for the discipline of working ahead.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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