Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh no not again

So I alluded to this in my last post, but now it's getting frustrating. As of today, it seems I'm having a repeat of how this semester began with my e-mails being called "inappropriate" and "disrespectful" and I sit here completely baffled. This all started last Friday when I turned in my observation journal and what I thought were my book reports. I'll admit I should've taken care of it earlier, but that's beside the point. I got them all done and got the clear plastic binder at Wal-Mart and turned them in at the School of Music Friday afternoon and figured I was done with that. Well Tuesday I was looking for another paper and suddenly found the book reports. The day I turned them in was a really hectic day for me and so there's a lot I honestly don't remember. I didn't remember printing off a second copy of the reports, but sometimes I do that because I notice a problem and have to print them again. Well, I immediately e-mailed my professor, who also is my advisor and will be my supervisor next semester when I student teach. This is the e-mail I sent, dated December 9, 2008 at 11:52 AM EST:

"I just wanted to make sure you received my book reports with my observation reports. I found my book reports, but honestly cannot remember if I printed a second copy. The day I turned it in was a very hectic and rushed day, so I just want to be sure I didn't forget that part. Thanks!"

I didn't hear back from my professor, so I figured I must've printed an extra copy. Well, Thursday night I checked my campus e-mail and realized that because my KSU e-mail finally switched over to the new gmail system, the forwarding command I had set up needed to be set up again and I had several e-mails sent to my KSU e-mail that I had missed since they are usually forwarded automatically to my AOL e-mail. One of those e-mails, which came Thursday, was from my professor which had my grade. It was a one-liner with no complete sentences, containing my final exam grade and "book reports: 0" and that I had gotten a D+ for the semster. A D+! Funny that I NEVER got a D on ANY assignment during the semester, yet somehow a D+ is supposed to adequately reflect my efforts and understanding in the class. Upon seeing that I was understandably shocked and upset, and sent this e-mail from my KSU address, dated December 11, 2008, 11:02 PM EST:

"Did you get my e-mail about the book reports? I asked if I had remembered to attach them because the day I turned them in was very hectic and somehow they got separated when I put them together. I did NOT spend hours on them to get a zero. I had assumed since I didn't hear from you that I had turned them in and had a second copy. I'm also confused what "add others" means in reference to my grade and SERIOUSLY question a D as an adequate representation of my actual performance in that class considering that I never got a D on ANY assignment."

Mom suggested that I just send her the electronic version of my book reports, so about 50 minutes later, at 11:52 PM, I sent another e-mail that included the Word 2007 document:

"In light of the missing reports, rather than make a trip to campus to put them in your mailbox and not even be sure you'll get them, here is the Word 2007 document. Again, I did e-mail you because I wasn't sure if I had accidentally forgotten to include them or not and since I didn't hear back I assumed that I must've printed an earlier copy and that's what I found in my folder. That day was very hectic and I honestly don't even remember half of it since so much happened and so fast."

I didn't hear back today, and knowing this professor is one who takes her vacations seriously (i.e. rarely answers e-mails while she's on vacations and pretty much has no contact) so I sent another e-mail this afternoon, dated December 12, 2008, 4:35 PM EST:

"Hello [professor's name]-
I would really appreciate a reply so I can get this all taken care of. The last thing I need going into this break and into student teaching in January is this grade hanging over my head and the possibility of having to take this class again. It is something I cannot afford in more ways than just tuition, especially considering that I did the required work and hardly "earned" a D grade. Please get back to me as soon as possible so we can discuss this and come to a mutually beneficial conclusion."

So, this afternoon at 4:50 PM I FINALLY get an e-mail from my professor and this is what it says:

"Jon, I would be happy to respond to an appropriate email from you, that is in a respectable tone, before my vacation begins."

It may come as no surprise to anyone reading this, but I was pretty irritated when I got this e-mail. You have all read the e-mails I sent. Honestly, what was inappropriate and/or in a disrespectful tone? I'm really tired of responses like that. Those of you who know me know that I'm a pretty laid back person. I guess the only things that really get to me is when people get like this and they avoid addressing the problem claiming "disrespect." I'm not a person who fires off angry e-mails; I think about what I want to say and what needs to be said and try to do so without sounding wimpy but not mean. This is what I replied back in an e-mail dated December 12, 2008 at 5:55 PM EST:

[professor's name]-
I'm sorry my tone came across as it did. One of the problems with e-mail is the tone I wrote the e-mail in doesn't always transmit when it is read since tone in any written form is only through interpretation of the recipient. That said, please understand this involves my grade and graduation, so I have every right to be a little upset as this has taken me completely by surprise. Wouldn't you be worried if I wasn't concerned with a grade that low? Having to take any class again will be very costly for myself and my family in many more ways than tuition.
Again, I did send an e-mail earlier in the week asking if you had received my book reports and I did not receive any response. I had no way to know if you had received them to even correct the problem, otherwise I would have addressed the issue as soon as possible.
Also, when something is inappropriate in an e-mail I send, please be specific as to what you saw as inappropriate. I cannot correct a problem that I do not see.

As I attended the Roosevelt boys basketball game tonight (a 71-44 Roosevelt win over Coventry...go Rough Riders!) I thought a lot about this and the more I thought about it, the more I agreed that yes, some disrespect was shown, but it wasn't towards my professor; it was from her to me. Responding like that is INCREDIBLY condescending and downright insulting in my opinion. I am an adult who is paying a lot of money to be "educated" by her, not some middle school teenager with an attitude problem. Why is it OK for her to answer her e-mails whenever she feels like it (if at all), but not OK for me to show a little emotion in mine? Frankly, I consider her lack of an answer to my initial e-mail to be highly unprofessional. And what kind of teacher who cares about the well-being of her students doesn't notice something like this and pull the student aside or contact them and say "we have a problem" and try to work things out? Seriously, these people are supposed to be teaching me how to be a better teacher. I guess I at least know what NOT to do.

This, of course, brings back the memories of the beginning of the semester when I had such a difficult time with the College of Education. I still haven't gotten a decent explanation of what I did that was so awful other than addressing the person I e-mailed "as a peer." I know...what a crime. Two adults conversing as adults. How awful! I continue to be amazed and disgusted at the "fiefdoms" certain people establish in academia. Have they forgotten their real purpose? That's right: to educate! And who pays for them to educate us? Yep, the STUDENTS! I didn't sign up to pay over $10,000 in graduate tuition so I could be talked down to, belittled, and have my questions and concerns ignored! And as far as I know, I need a C to "pass" the class, so if I would have to take it again I would have to wait until next fall, meaning I couldn't graduate this May and would have to wait another year to find a job. Not only would that be hugely inconvenient, but it would virtually guarantee losing this house. It is sad how people in college fail to realize or even care about the consequences of their actions when they exercise their "authority" (better defined as "lordship") over students. Just having to take one class over again would be catastrophic to me and this family. And if I brought that up in a conversation, not only would it be virtually ignored, but it would also be labeled as "unprofessional." It just goes to show that too many college professors are more concerned with lording over their dominions than making sure their students are actually learning. Grades aren't used to show the outside world what level of understanding the student has, but are instead used as a weapon to keep students in line. That's what happens when things that have little to do with comprehension (like attendance) are attached to grades.


Camille said...

More power to you Jon! I'm totally on team Jon. Dumb professors!

Becky said...

I think you're right that she's being hypocritical in calling your letters rude or whatever but then being a jerk in hers. I feel bad though because I can guarantee that professors work with so many slacker students that they just start to treat them all that way. They feel they have to be "tough" or they'll be walked over...which is probably why she didn't contact you about your grade--because more students than you might think get grades like that and don't care.

ANYWAY, I think you're right but I think you also need to be a little more careful when you know they're going to be punks so just be overly careful to avoid more problems. Hopefully you can graduate in May and you don't ever have to deal with them again!

Good Luck!

Jon said...

Again Becky, like the people at KSU you identified that I "need to be more careful" but you are short on any specifics of exactly what I have done or said that was even remotely out of line other than not groveling at their feet and addressing them as an adult. I don't know how much more "careful" I can be.

Also, while I understand the fear of "slacker" students, this professor is more than aware that I am a graduate student. It is INCREDIBLY rare to have a "slacker" grad student since it takes so much effort just to get into grad school, so that in itself is an incredible insult to me to be lumped with all the undergrad "slacker" students. Graduate students are the most motivated of all college students since pretty much all of us are getting a degree we don't technically need to get a job.