Wednesday, February 15, 2012

They Just Don't Care

I'm going to rant, and yes, it's password protected because I have a job I want to keep. I feel like this sort of rant belongs behind closed doors because it's not really appropriate to publicly discuss school and student issues. Password protected is not public, so it works for me. Besides, I need to get this out of my head and this is my blog. I can use it however I like. So, I'm going to hash out some of the problems I have with my students here, behind the veil of password protection, and hope that's good enough.

So, my students' first paper was due at 6:00 p.m. on Monday. I had them turn it in electronically, which is something new for many them. I get that, but the students who had me last semester should know how it goes. Sadly, I had a lot of students--mostly those who had me last semester--turn their papers in late. This is a huge issue because one of the learning outcomes for this course, based upon state criteria, is that students should be learning personal responsibility. For me, turning in assignments on time, or facing the consequences for not doing so, is all about personal responsibility. It's also a problem because I told them that if they didn't get their papers in on time, I wouldn't accept them and that they'd make an F.

Sadly, I feel like they're pushing me. I think some of them know that when push comes to shove, I tend to be too nice. And, I am. This time, I accepted their slightly late papers (an hour or two) and told them that next time the deadline was firm. I told them that next time the paper would receive a half a letter grade deduction if it came in on the day it was due, but after the deadline. I hope this inspires them to do what they should be doing, but something makes me doubt it.

Then, today when I mentioned it to them, they collectively informed me that paper #1 was too hard. They said they didn't understand it, or what they were supposed to be doing, but when I asked them what they didn't understand about it, they had no answer. None at all, except to say that "my sister helped me with this and she didn't understand the assignment either!"  Two problems: They shouldn't be getting help from anyone but me or the writing center, and their sisters (etc.) are not in the classroom to hear the explanation.

What makes this worse is that they waited until today to tell me they didn't understand it. They had 5 weeks to tell me if they didn't get it, I asked them repeatedly if they had questions and if they understood the assignment and they always said they had no questions and that they understood it. Now, I have to grade 50 poorly written assignments because they thought it was hard and "didn't know what they were supposed to do." To me, that's BS. They did know what they were supposed to be doing and this assignment was not  hard.

I mean, how hard is this: "Write a paper that overviews your sources by comparing or contrasting the ideas in the articles."  This is not a hard assignment. I assigned them two articles, and I went over them point by point. Then, I told them they had to go out and get two other essays that have the same subject matter as the first two essays we read in class--paranormal and the media. Then, all they had to do was overview the points in their sources by either comparing or contrasting them. This is not hard!

So today, I went over the assignment sheet for assignment #2--which is when they expressed confusion about assignment #1.  I asked them if they understood what they are supposed to be doing and if they had an questions. The assignment is to chose an article from the book (any article), decide whether what the author is saying is true, untrue, or somewhere in between, and then find three sources that support their argument. Another very easy assignment. They all nodded and told me they understood, but one girl I had last semester came off with, "yeah, we get it... for now."  Oh, so they get it as long as it's convenient. They understand now, but later when they're pressing a deadline they're going to be all, "we didn't get it!"

It really is days like this that I hate this job. It's days like this that I wish I was doing anything else. It's days like this that I think--and hope--that I'll never teach again. Today's college students are so irresponsible. They're so entitled. They're so underwhelming. They don't care about learning, they just care about getting by and getting the paper so they can get a better job. They don't give a crap what the learning outcomes are, or what they're supposed to be getting from this, and they don't care whether they make an A or a C as long as they get through it.  Most of all, they don't seem to have any respect for their instructors and professors. They want us to baby them through the process and heaven forbid they should have one somewhat difficult assignment. It's ridiculous. No one babied me this much and I made it through with good grades (for the most part) and a really good education.

What's sad is looking out at my students and realizing that half of them will drop out at some point. Half of them won't finish. They won't be able to hack harder assignments, they won't be able to hack not being babied. Don't they realize the real world isn't like this? No one is going to hold their hands and make sure they go to work every day, or pay their bills on time, or know how to write a memo for their office.

Frustrating doesn't even begin to cover it. I am exhausted with their inability to summon up feeling for school. I'm not their mother. I'm not their babysitter. I have a job to do and I can do it whether they care or not, but I would prefer that they did. It would make everything so much easier for all of us.