Back to School

Home (sigh). Little darlings at xxxxxxx community college were in fine form today. Met them at 10 AM on the dot (quite a feat, since I had slept not a wink the night before, since American Airlines 1609 from Chicago made two aborted take-offs and then sat on the tarmac for FOUR HOURS, while the crew encouraged us to remain seated and I finished reading AN ENTIRE BOOK and was so bored I even started grading student papers). Collected their final papers. Passed out the review questions for the final exam. Said, hopefully, shall I just hand them out and we’ll call it a day? Students of course confounded me by asking that I review the material.

OK, I said calmly, whipping out my book. “Who can tell me what Eric Schlosser says in the epilogue, pages 213 to 221?”


“OK, let’s see, are there any ideas from the prologue that he brings up again in the epilogue? That will give us a clue as to his true intentions in writing the book.”

Again, silence.

“OK,” I say, “Would you agree with me that he believes that companies should not be fettered by regulation?”

A hand shoots up. Jonathan works at Kepler‘s and I used to hope he would amount to something. Though lately he’s been chatting up my other bright student and in the last few weeks the two of them have been leaders of a mini-rebellion in my class, always challenging me when I give out homework.

“No, he doesn’t believe that,” says J.

“What does he believe, then?” I ask.

(At this point, only 10 minutes into the class, Magdalena K and Alyssa E have already walked out)

“He’s always making emotional arguments. He believes in moral obligations,” says J.

“OK,” I say. “Give me an example of a moral obligation.”

“Fairness,” says J.

“Very good,” I say again. “And what practices does he specifically target as unfair?”

At this point, dear reader, the thing that has been driving me crazy all quarter– the concerted effort of various groups in the class to giggle, make noise, show me how little attention they are paying me (All for what? To show how smart they are?) begins. But today I have so little patience that I immediately say, “Let’s just call it a day, OK?”

I did this, too, last week. The students complained.

“What?” one of them said. “We drove all the way here for a half-hour class?”

‘Fraid so, babe. ‘Fraid so.

The class is over. I’m never going to address this particular group of truants again. Boisterous shouts, noise. I put my things away. It all seems pretty anti-climactic.

A few students sidle up to me. “What’s the exam going to be about?”

Now they ask me. “It’s on the sheet,” I say.

“What time is the exam?” they ask.

“It’s also on the sheet,” I say.

“Can I e-mail you my final paper?” This from Dietrick W., who I know very well expects me to say no, and will be happy, because he has no paper; he hasn’t written a single one since the start of the quarter, and so I will flunk him, and I really don’t think he’s the type to lodge a complaint with the Dean, but if he does I won’t sweat it and will give him a C. ONLY if he complains to the Dean.

Other students: When will the grades be out?

“This Friday,” I say. (That’s pretty quick! Only two days after the final. But that’s because I already know pretty much what I’m going to give everyone.)

“Will they be posted?” someone asks.

“Yes,” I say. “But if they aren’t I can e-mail you.”

No one looks back, no one lingers to talk, except for the ones who are really worried now about their grades, now that they’ve spent the whole quarter goofing off. Still haven’t decided whether I really want to flunk these people, and have them pester me the rest of the holidays, or whether I’ll pass them and hand off the problem to the next teacher.

Stay tuned . . .

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