Thursday, February 15
Life is like a box of chocolates. So are students. Some of them are heavenly bliss, and others are total disappointing duds.

I find that with the undergrads in my classes I don't care one way or the other. Some stink, some soar, and it doesn't really affect my day-to-day life. But when you're working with a student one-on-one, or you're on one of their committees, or you have them in a grad seminar, and their work is like a chocolate truffle coated in stale coconut that scratches your throat on the way down and leaves a nasty taste in your mouth, that can really ruin your day.

Although I had issues this past week with one of my graduate students, I sorted that out by sucking it up and being more confrontational that I might normally be.

I think I basked in the glow of that accomplishment a little too long, because just when I was sure I had eaten the last nasty chocolate in my student box I got an updated draft of another student's thesis. First, the title is incomprehensible. Second, the thesis is only ten pages long. It was twenty pages when I first read it, before I started helping him, way back in October. It's due in April and is supposed to be 50 pages long by then. Third, the writing sucks. Sucks, sucks, sucks. Fourth, he still isn't citing the right way. In fact, his cites have not changed at all after extensive feedback from me on citing. Fifth, speaking of cites, the majority of his come from pages 1-6 in a number of books. Do you think that he reads past the introduction? Sixth... you know what? I just can't go on.

Why am I roped into reading this draft, commenting on it, and meeting with him to discuss my comments when I have other things to do, especially when he so clearly doesn't take a lick of my advice? It's exhausting. I would much rather be making myself sick on some real clearance-priced chocolate than shoddy work.

9 comments:

strawberries said...

i say confront the second student. he obviously has listening problems, to say the least. and he is not worth your time unless he cooperates, so tell him. coconut covered chocolate never is.

fraud, in denim said...

I did confront him. I'm glad that you were with me in spirit, Strawberries. Of course I did that after I wrote an outline of his thesis. Oh well.

If he doesn't finish, he doesn't finish. But I'm not signing off on a substandard thesis. I'll be sure to tell him that if there's not drastic improvement by our next meeting (one confrontation at a time, you know?).

There was one moment that almost drove me over the edge. I asked him about "What about spring break?" in a "Couldn't you get a lot of this done during the break?" way and he said, "Oh, I can't wait. I'm going to the Domincan Republic to hang out on the beach and drink with my buddies." *sigh*

thistle said...

The next time 2nd student asks you to read a draft or meet with you, you should say:
"I'm sorry, I can't. I'm going to the Domincan Republic to hang out on the beach and drink with my buddies."

Just say that over and over.

Breena Ronan said...

Personally I like coconut macaroons with chocolate. I don't know why professors don't tell these people that they can't graduate if they pull this kind of crap. I mean maybe not everyone deserves a graduate degree? Those of us who work hard would like our degrees to mean something.

Anonymous said...

It's not a graduate student. If it was a graduate student, I'd bet that the conversation would have gone completely differently. I have no problem telling graduate students what they need to do to succeed in my class or in the program.

It's actually not even a major. He's an undergraduate who decided that he wanted to write an honors thesis about something that's not even remotely related to his degree or his future plans, which I think, while admirable, really limits his investment in the project.

fraud, in denim said...

Oops. That was me.

Anonymous said...

How did this guy get into a grad program? I would never be a grad student like this one and yet I just got my first rejection letter. sigh.

fraud, in denim said...

I'm sorry, Anon. I hope you get your first acceptance letter or call soon.

Lucky for all of us, this guy's not a grad student. He's just an undergrad. In fact, he doesn't even want to go to grad school.

Turquoise Stuff said...

Ouch, that kind of frustration for an undergrad? Does your dept have an undergrad advisor or someone on staff who deals with undergrads? Because it sounds to me like it's time for you to take this to the next level and tell that person that this student is not performing appropriately and someone else needs to talk to him. Sometimes getting feedback from a third-party shocks students into the reality of the situation. Sometimes it doesn't.

I hate this crap. I am so sorry to hear about these frustrations you are facing!! I think after a point with people like this, you need to take a step back and not put so much energy into it anymore. If he can't, why should you bother?