Just as I was feeling all warm and fuzzy about the impending start of the semester, one bozo does something to put me in a sour mood.
I went to campus today and while checking my mailbox there, the pre-semester stillness of the usually buzzing mailroom offered me the chance to notice a tidy little computer-printed sign that one of my colleagues had affixed to her mailbox, effectively blocking access to the box itself. The sign said something along these lines:
Don't even think about turning in your paper now.
- Dr. So-and-So
Heh heh. Not something I would have done myself, but I appreciated the tired if sarcastic sentiment of it (especially knowing that the colleague was a composition instructor with a heavy load). But that's not what put me in a sour mood. I then noticed another, smaller sign stapled to the first one, with the following neatly handwritten message in block letters:
Oh for crying out loud. Since when does imposing a strict deadline signify that the professor is somehow not "student centered" (and by implication, supposedly only concerned with him/herself)??
Here's what I want to say to that student: I'm sorry, but when the university talks about being "student centered" they don't mean just you. I know, I know, it's in the singular, but it has a kind of allegorical ring to it -- like "Everyman." Just as he is every man, the "student" in "student centered" is every student. There are actually other students here at Rust Belt, and they turn things in on time, finishing their work in the time allotted to them. Should we be less centered on them and more centered on you? Should we, perhaps, forget our own deadline for turning in grades and let you turn in your work at your whim? Yes, that's right, we have deadlines to meet too. In fact, that's often why people create deadlines -- so that the work that has to be done subsequent to your part can get done on time. And when it comes to grading, most of us like to grade work from a single class all in one bunch; that way, if there's a problem or essay question or whatever that's flawed in some way, we see the patterns and cut students some slack. It's also a kind of norming, giving us a sense of what students in a class are capable of. So see, our silly, whimsical, self-centered deadlines really *are* about students. And exactly how do you think this flexible attitude towards deadlines will fly in, say, the world of law, or at the IRS, or commerce, or wherever? Do you think you'll suddenly and magically develop good habits when you leave school? Are we really doing you a service if we let you do work when you feel like it?
You know, what gets me is that so many of our students are totally instrumentalist in choosing majors -- they want something "practical," that will give them "real world" skills -- and yet so many (often the same ones) miss some of the most fundamental "practical" lessons that college is supposed to teach you or at least give you time to perfect: time management, responsibility, independence, and self-motivation. I could be teaching you the most bizarre, esoteric, obscure subject (and some might argue that I do!) and my class would still be giving you a pretty low-stakes way to hone those skills. And I'm sure my colleague's class is the same.
I don't often rant on this blog, but that little added note rubbed me the wrong way. I mean, if it had said, "The sarcarsm isn't necessary," I might have even agreed with it! But the writer had to go and act like the unthinkable imposition of a freakin' deadline was somehow a blow against all studentdom.