Thursday, April 20, 2006

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This seems to be I Hate My Students Week in higher education. In the Chronicle, the pseudonymous Thomas Benton writes of "The Seven Deadly Sins of Students," while on the web, Inside Higher Ed features a blog by Anonymous Professor titled, simply, "I Hate My Students." "Benton" hates his students because they fall behind (sloth), grade grub (greed), cover their vulnerability and terror with hostility (anger), wear revealing clothes (lust), eat whole chickens in front of him in class, apparently without his intervention (gluttony), express the frustration they feel at their professor's alienation and indifference by attacking smarter, more together students (envy), and wish to be better and better off than their parents and yes, their teachers (pride).

I felt horror when I read this: "It seems hard these days to find a student in class whose mouth is not stuffed with food. Such students will often say that they have no other time to eat, but previous generations — who were no less busy — managed to consume small snacks between classes. That is why colleges have vending machines."

So let those students rushing to or from jobs, and those students on financial aid overscheduling themselves, eat cake, right?

Reading Benton, I am reminded of professors I know in disciplines other than English who complain about teaching writing to undergraduates. The sad fact is that it is ALL of our jobs to teach writing to undergraduates, because that's what we do: we teach. Similarly, when students sit half-naked eating chickens while trashing each other in class, it is our job to teach them manners. Sadly, most people don't have manners anymore, but the world is usually always improved by civility. Why are his students so indifferent, desperate, freaked-out, naked, hungry, hopeless, and grandiose? Is anybody talking to them, working with them, giving a shit about them? What the hell is going on here?

Anonymous Professor hates his students because they grade grub, write crappy papers, and want genuine feedback from him about their ideas as they relate to the discipline, rather than the responses of a TA paid to grade for him. It is clear from his tone that he doesn't respect them; he calls them "Stupid Bitch" and "Moron" in his blog, which is structured to show what he actually said ("I'll be happy to give you more substantive comments") and what he wanted to say/should have said ("Hey, moron, no one will give a fuck about what content you have when you don't even know the difference between than and then or weather and whether. They will just laugh at you. So shut up and sit down and fuck yourself.")

Wow. And they pay you to teach ANYWHERE?

Students are frustrated because they are paying tuition at rates that terrify them, their parents, and their spouses/partners. They are working hard for a degree that may not lead to a job when they graduate. They are working full-time jobs. They have kids. I have taught students from Trenton and Newark whose large families lived on less than 12K a year. I have taught culinary students up since 3:30 am cooking who wished they never had to write another paper. I have taught first-generation college students from immigrant families, students working, going to school, and raising families of their own. I've taught kids who just want to party in Florida, kids who giggle when I joke about coming to class stoned--because they ARE stoned. I've taught geeks and sorority types, athletes and rich kids, students from fancy suburban high schools and students from the inner city.

Sometimes they have driven me crazy, but I never hated them. Their arrogance usually masks terror at what they don't know, so you teach them. Their envy is a fear that they can't compete, so you teach them. When they don't do the reading, you make them do it there. When they are frustrated or scared, you encourage them.

It's your job.

What they don't need is some dickless wonder with an incredibly nasty attitude who doesn't have the courage to say something close to what he needs to say to get their respect. Why don't they respect you, I wonder, reading his loathsome hurl of a blog. How can they not adore you, when you clearly possess such empathy, such respect, such strong boundaries?

And what the hell is up with Inside Higher Ed giving a forum to this moron?


New Kid on the Hallway said...

I gotta agree with you on this one. I mean, I can understand venting about certain student behaviors, but I thought both those pieces were pretty mean-spirited. I guess I also think that regardless of how you wish students acted, we're stuck with the students we have, so there's not much point in complaining about them unless you're willing to work to change them.

MaggieMay said...

I love you. I love this post. I am copying it right now and taping it to my wall. I may have portions of it tatooed somewhere. If I do, I'll post a picture.

Winter said...

Fantastic post! I cannot imagine "hating" my students. Some of them have angered me on occasion, but I think that's ussually because I've failed to set appropriate boundaries in the first place. I would never, ever put them down in class. No matter how cocky they appear, I know they'd actually be devestated. Why is this guy teaching anyway since he so clearly hates it? I'm sure his students are hostile to him because they're picking up on his hostility to them. Why would they respect someone who hates them? What does he expect?

lil'rumpus said...

This is a great post! I've also been really disturbed by some of the negative commentary about students that I've encountered online. Like everyone else, I occasionally need to (usually privately) vent frustration produced by some of the behavior of my students, but frustration is different from the mean-spirited ire and disdain evident in this discourse.

What Now? said...

Yeah, I think there's a definite line between the "students say/do the damnedest thing" griping/laughing and "I hate my students," and it's definitely a line I never want to cross. I have a few (just a few) colleagues with whom I try never to discuss students because I think they're tottering right on that line, and I don't want to absorb any of that negative attitude.

Anonymous said...

This is anonymous professor (Dr. Mandrake). What is kind of frustrating is the extent to which people cite this one post of mine, written in frustration, and totally ignore any of the other posts in my blog in which I talk about how much I like my students. Or how utterly devastated I was when I found that one of my students died in a car crash. I am not some callous asshole, my students genuinely enjoy my classes. Read my post about my course reviews in Sure, that was a frustrating day, probably the most frustrating day in my teaching so far. And yet, I write these posts so that I don't take it out on them. It is my own catharsis. If people relate, great. If they don't, great. Leave me a post as to how I should feel, or how you deal with these frustrations. I just want to have a record of my own feelings and thoughts throughout this process. It is my own form of keeping a journal. I'm not getting paid for my thoughts, and I am not forcing anyone to read them.

Sfrajett said...

This is what I wrote to Dr. Mandrake's blog:

Dr. Mandrake--you call women bitches. A lot. What's up with that? If you think students shit on YOU, I dare you to trade places with any female junior faculty, anywhere. But I guess there has to be some compensation, eh?

Sorry that it's so hard to see how sensitive you are. I thought your blog was a joke, it was so vile. I'll tell you what bitter is, dude: try teaching students who never do the reading, ever, year after year in a cement gray shithole, only to have your leprous department shit all over you and decimate your career. Believe me, friend, it's worse than you can possibly imagine. So you hate your students. Is it really their fault that academic life blows so hard? Stand up to them a little and hate the other professors on campus who nourish their delusions and help make your life hell. Stop being a cog in their machine. Hate someone your own size.

Anonymous said...

On Benton's piece, here's a completely different take.

Who cares if students come underdressed and eat food in class? Seriously. I could care less. I'm not their mommy or daddy, and I'm not Miss Manners. It doesn't bother me in the least unless a student brings a heaping load of some dish that's so aromatic that it affects other students' ability to participate in the way they see fit. Most of what Benton whines about doesn't affect me in the slightest. Even sloth and such: that's their problem. If they don't turn in assignments on time, they don't get a good grade. No need to bitch and moan about it.

Sfrajett said...

Thanks for all the good commentary. It's nice to see so many voices of common sense and sober professionalism. Or at least, people who do not flip their wigs at the least provocation. Or maybe just, nice people who teach and are properly medicated. Cheers to you all.

App Crit said...

Much of what you say I'd agree with Any decline in civility or manners on campus is something we should modeling it. Our students are adults, albeit just so. But still, our job is to teach them what they sign up for. Our job is not to raise them. Maybe we could get a qualitative survey on this, publish an article, present it a a conference, etc. That'll really get the world keyed in on what we see.

So, no, it's not our job.

But, you're right. Students need to be able to trust their instructos/professors. No, that's not quite it. They need to be accepted, or even liked. Alas, the effect of constructivist schools. Even still, our job is to rectify that by being the academics we were hired to be. Nothing more (it's a lot already), nothing less.

Professor Zero said...

1) It's not the students who come to a 9 AM class directly from working the graveyard shift, who behave badly. If I were that patient with every spoiled middle or upper middle class child, the adults in class (the ones with the jobs, the kids, the sick parents, and so on, as well as the ones who don't have these things to handle, but who do do homework) would not get the attention they deserve.

2) I took a day off from a class around April 20 myself, being too irritated with to many of that group to be reliably civilized. This means I'm not 100% saintly, 100% of the time. How bad is that, really?

Anonymous said...

They "...want genuine feedback from him about their ideas as they relate to the discipline, rather than the responses of a TA paid to grade for him?" News to me. Depends on the class, naturally, but the majority of students only care about the bottom line. Hell, most of them don't even READ the comments you make on their work. If your students really do care about the comments you make, well, you're in a rare and fortunate position. When you're faced with an avalanche of indifference, though, some hate is unavoidable.