Teaching Children to be Useless Revisited

It still seems to be the unstated policy of my employer that pupils are to be given the clear impression that there will always be somebody there to wipe their arses for them.

Not only are we expected to have a ready supply of calculators for the little darlings who can’t remember to bring their own (but can remember their mobile phone and iPod) but we also now have to keep them supplied with pens, pencils and rulers.

They continue to believe that any policies that they find inconvenient can be negotiated away. This evening as I was leaving I was approached by a pupil waving a tenner and saying he wanted to buy a revision guide. There are two things wrong with this picture:

1. Only the Finance Office may take money from pupils. Teachers, tecnicians and Learning Support Assistants may not do so.

2. They were told at the beginning of term that the procedure for buying the revision guide was to pay at the Finance Office, collect a receipt, bring the receipt to us and exchange it for a guide.

I told him all this, to which he replied: “Yes but I’ve got a test tomorrow and I need it now.” IMHO he’s left it a bit late to start revising  but what pissed me off was his casual assumption that I would drop everything (I had my hat and coat on and was locking up) and bend the rules for him because he hadn’t got round to getting a revision guide any time over the last thirteen weeks.

I told him it wasn’t going to happen and continued on my way. He’ll now doubtless believe any poor results he obtains are due to Mr Throop not selling him a revision guide and nothing to do with his own laziness and poor planning. I’ll doubtless hear about this tomorrow but fuck it, I do have a family of my own and I like to see them occasionally.

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3 Responses to “Teaching Children to be Useless Revisited”

  1. dvnutrix Says:

    Last lecture of term when you are giving revision hints for upcoming exams, a new face turns up and approaches you.
    You: Hello, were you auditing this class because you are thinking of taking it?
    New face: No, I’m already enrolled.
    You: I haven’t seen you at these lectures. Are you X to whom I’ve been sending letters and emails for the last 10 weeks?
    New face: I had a scheduling clash. Anyway, I came to ask for all your lecture notes for this class.
    You: ?!?
    New face: My academic advisor thinks that I’ll be able to negotiate an extension on all the class assignments if I pass the exam. But I can’t pass the exam without the notes.
    You: a) I don’t have all the notes on me b) You haven’t done any of the practicals so they wouldn’t make much sense to you c) Nobody has notified me of any such extension etc. etc.

    And yes – somehow, you are the unreasonable one for expecting them to attend classes, submit assignments etc.

  2. draust Says:

    It is also amazing how University students who have been next to comatose, even if actually physically present, all Semester / year / course, turn into experts on every single rule in the 250-page handbook when they are faced with any kind of disciplinary sanction for their non-attendance / non-meeting of hand-in deadlines / suspected plagiarism etc etc.

    I suppose it all speaks to “untapped potential”, but it is depressing that it takes that to bring out their analytical brain.

    When I started back in the late 80s we ran a system which went roughly along the lines of

    – we (the staff) offer teaching and help;

    – you (the student) either:

    (i) pay attention, work reasonably hard and typically get a degree reflecting both your ability and your workrate;
    (ii) do nothing and still do brilliantly because you are a genius – congrats, you beat the system; or
    (iii) do nothing and do crappily because you were a lazy sod, attracting zero sympathy.

    So attendance was not compulsory, but if students didn’t show up it was their funeral if they went down in flames in the exams.

    Sadly, the rise of TQA and the culture of endless box-ticking meant that the old Universities, e.g. in the Russell Group, didn’t want to go public defending this effective, if laissez faire, system. So – now we have an endless paperchase of attendance logging; we have to waste time ticking myriad forms so that lazy (or hedonistic) students can be sent letters asking them to see tutors (us again) so we can spend time we don’t have asking them why they didn’t turn up (typical answer: shrugs). Following which we can fill their file with an (our) arse-covering note indicating that there was a meeting where Dr X asked Johnny why he hadn’t been showing up, to which Johnny responded “er, dunno really – them 9 am lectures are like, really early, yeah?”.

    This box-ticking culture has also bred in a number of the students the idea that if they DO turn up it automatically guarantees they will pass. And also that some idiots (thankfully still not that many) can, as described in the post for the school setting and by DVN for Univ, appear at the last minute and ask YOU to jump through extra hoops to make up for what THEY should have (but haven’t) done in the normal course of things.

    Since the students started paying three grand a year in fees all of this has got worse, as they now have a strong sense that they are PAYING us to be at their beck and call. This was widely predicted by the staff when tuition fees were introduced, and has indeed come to pass. Joy.

    And don’t even get me started on all the students with a dyslexia “diagnosis”, or with “special circumstances” – both on an ever-rising curve.

  3. draust Says:

    PS Hmmm – feel better having got that rant off my chest. Must be nearing the end of the teaching semester. And I’ll take the Prozac now, thanks.

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