Jun 26, 2007

Indifferent, no, bad teachers

Excuse me, but why did some of you folks out there decide to become professors? You know who you are. You don't really care about your students, you think grading papers is boring, and you've basically given up. And since you have tenure you don't really frickin' care about the consequences of your indifference.

One of my Lost Boys just came home and told me he made a "D" in a course he's been studying so hard for - Microbiology. He tried to communicate with you and ask you where he went wrong, but you kept fobbing him off, telling him it was too late to change the grade. It is the end of the course, so this means he will have to make it up at a later date if he wants to graduate. Hey, it's only a course, right? Wrong. You just added another couple of thousand of dollars to his college debt.

If you had even a smidgen of empathy, you would have noticed that his English is not perfect, that he is swaying on his feet from fatigue, and that he is struggling merely to keep up. He will plod away, of course, despite your indifference and animosity. He will take your damned course over because he has no choice.

Have you ever bothered to talk to him? Do you know that he spent twelve years of his short life in a refugee camp, barely existing and subsisting on rice and a few vegetables thrown his way? Do you know he shared a school "room" with other children and that they had one book among them? Do you realize how magnificent he is for persevering and making C's and B's as a pre-med major despite his appalling lack of schooling? Do you know what a frickin' genius he must be?

Have you bothered to help him. Have you shown him a few test taking tips. Have you taken him aside and mentored him in any way? Of course not. You don't care, do you? In fact, you don't even know who I am talking about. When he asked you where he could have done better, you just brushed him aside and told him you would post the grades on your door. You, Prof, are a classic jerk and it's people like you who make cynics of us all.

And my poor Lost Boy, the one who actually once believed that if you work hard and study diligently, rewards will come his way? You've simply managed to prove to him, once again, that life for him will never be better and that people don't really care.

Oh, and in case you wondered, Prof, he wants to become a doctor so he can return to the Sudan and help his brethren in need. Bet you never had a dream like his.


eric3000 said...

That sucks. I hope his other professors are better.

The problem with universities is that they basically force the professors to spend all their time doing research and publishing academic papers. Professors who concentrate on teaching will never get tenure and professors who get tenure have completely forgotten why they are there.

Ms. Place said...

I was married to a Rrof, so I know how a good and caring teacher can make a difference. My ex had trouble getting tenure, which he eventually did, because he did care too much for the students.

I am like a wolverine when someone hurts one of my boys. This post might be intense, but it is heart felt.

Thanks for the comment. :)

ArtfulSub said...


Good for you for trying to help those unfortunates. Hope you sent a similar missive to SEVERAL people at the College.

I've always found it both revealing and revolting that the media maggotry utterly ignored South Sudan where it was armed "muslims" slaughtering unarmed Christians.

It wasn't until the fighting shifted to the West and Darfur with "muslim" on "muslim" bloodshed, that it got any significant attention.

potty mouth princess said...

Oh, this makes me burn big time.

As an oldster returning back to school (JC to get transferrable credits since it's been soooo long since my first stab at it), I'm especially sensitive to how the profs treat their students.

I've been really fortunate to only have one awful chemistry professor, but I'd been forewarned. I needed the class as a pre-req for Organic Chemistry, which I need two semesters, and wanted it done ASAP. I lucked out and got a great prof the next semester. When my FIL died about 3 weeks into the semester, he understood when I missed a quiz and a lab to attend his funeral. During the semester, helping my hapless MIL do things she'd never done before (like balance a checkbook, pay the bills, etc) became a daily task that took even more time away from studies.

This prof didn't give up on me even after I totally bombed the second of four exams. With better time management and a plea for more help from other family members, I got my grade back up to where my 3rd exam was to the point I could earn a B with a great final.

Two days later, my father was hospitilized and he died May 2. Too late to drop completely, I pushed ahead and with the support of this great professor, passed, which at that point, was all I was hoping to do.

The upshot is he only teaches Organic in a fall/spring rotation, which means that I would have gotten one of the shitty profs had I stuck it out with the first shitty prof.

Micro's coming up for me, but not until upper division when I take it geared for the Public Health sector, but I know people who have taken it and it's not an easy class if you have trouble grasping some of the concepts due to a language barrier, or whatnot.

Not everyone has the time or money for tutoring, on or off-campus, and must rely on the lectures and the text (if they have time to read it) for their information. SHAME ON THAT PROFESSOR. I'm so glad even our tenured profs get student reviewed each semester. But I know how some of them keep their jobs (curve anyone?), despite being complete assholes.

Okay, rant over.

Linda Merrill said...

You said: You've simply managed to prove to him, once again, that life for him will never be better and that people don't really care.

My dear Ms. Place, I beg to differ. Your support of these young men is the proof that there are those who do care. One nasty professor, no matter how heinous, can't undo the good that you and those like you do for these boys. We've had a few in my town go through the high school. They do all seem so motivated to get educated to they can go home and make their country better. Always such an inspiration when one or the other has spoken at their high school graduation. And you too are an inspiration!

Ms. Place said...

I did get on my high horse a bit, didn't I, Linda and Art, and thank you PMP for highlighting a truly splendid Prof. I wish my darling Gabriel (his adopted name) had access to such a wonderful professor. But he did not.

I help him as best I can, but what the FRICK do I know about Microbio? And how can I help him in physics or advanced math? I was an Art Major! Our skills are worlds apart.

Be that as it may, I am no saint. I simply do what I can, which is to make a difference one on one. And believe me, my two splendid Sudanese boys give me more than I ever can give them in return. They are the sons of my heart.

Anonymous said...

I can tell you that my biggest problem with my own students is that they choose to come and discuss their grades at the end of the term. That really is too late plus you are in a crowd of other people who waited until the last minute. My office hours are spent generally alone as they are not interested in talking when there is something that can be done about their grades.
One of my courses has 400 students. I really can't seek out each student who needs help and push them to accept it. Many of them can't be bothered to show up for class.
My suggestion is that the Lost Boy contact the prof early in the term to discuss any problems.
I am making changes to a test for a girl who doesn't speak English well because she talked to me after she failed the first test. If she had waited, I would not have been able to do anything.

Ms. Place said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, anon prof, and this is true in many cases.

To be fair, most Profs are great and caring individuals. However, my Lost Boy wanted to discuss the paper. He wasn't asking to have his grade changed; he was asking to be illuminated on where he went wrong. His Prof, instead of making an appointment to see him after he had time to review the paper, brushed him off, saying the papers were at home. There was no offer to help him reflect and analyze at some later date, no desire to help him improve his study skills, or make helpful suggestions.

The school has excellent advisors and tutors, but how can the advisor help if the Prof won't take the time to let my Lost Boy know what skills he needs to strengthen?

Plus, there is a cultural issue. My Lost Boys often don't know they are doing something wrong until it is too late. They don't pick up on the cues and nuances. They also tend to live in the moment.

At the very least, the Prof should have made an appointment to see my young man at a later time. To receive a D after so much work is devastating to someone who has so few resources.

Ms. Place said...

In rereading my post I did state that my lost boy wanted his grade changed, but he didn't. He wanted to know why he got the low grade. Big difference. Ah, sometimes one shouldn't rant in the heat of the moment.

Anonymous said...

Although it may be difficult, if the professor refuses to meet with the lost boy, I would suggest that he try to meet with the department chairperson. If the class is large, there may be a graduate teaching assistant as well.
If the school has an office that is charged with helping foreign students (my university does), he may want to try there as well.
Some profs are just jerks and there is nothing you can do but drop the class and try again.