January 10, 2009

Another Story from the Incredulous Files

As I mentioned in my last post, my students had to read a biography and do a presentation this week. It was actually one of the book tasks I assigned on the first day of the quarter, but a few weeks ago I changed the format of the project related to the reading assignment because the original one involved using computers. My students barely received their laptops this week. I had to punt, you know.

So, the students had known about the reading-of-the-book part since the last week of October, and they learned about the format change mid-December. Right after the students finished their first book task in early December, I took them to them library, where most students, who hadn't already checked out a biography, consulted the librarian and me for advice. Furthermore, part of the presentation included a poster, and I gave students the first three days after the break to work in class to get their presentations ready. (Pretty smart way to deal with coming back from a long break, aye? Give 'em a project!)

Imagine my surprise when one of the darlings went up to give her presentation and started with, "I didn't actually read a book, but..."

Wait a minute? What? "What do you mean you didn't read a book?"

"Well, I couldn't check out any books from the library because I had overdue books."

Must have been very overdue books for the librarian not to let her check out. What about finding a book her local library?

"But you've prepared a presentation? How did you do that?"

"I went online and got a bunch of stuff," she answered. Can you feel my head just about to explode right now?

"This wasn't a research paper! This is basically a book report. You had to read a book!"

"So, I can't do it?"

"You're seriously going to stand up there--wait a minute," I decided I needed to chew her ass out in private, "out in the hall way, NOW!"

In the hallway, it's all I can do not to tear her silly head off and do it quietly--you know the whole class was silent within as they tried to listen, with the class informant running commentary on what he's seeing through the door window.

I did not have the patience to stand in the hallway, wheedling a confession and self-realization out of her. She emphasized she couldn't check out a book. That is the dumbest excuse ever! If Guy Montag can get his hands on a book, she should have no problem. Hell, she could have stolen one if she had to.

I am a compassionate teacher, but not on the day a long-term project is due. Did she come and talk to me about her problem? No.

"So, you were actually going to go up in front of the class, with what looks like a nice poster in hand, and make me look like the bad teacher when I won't let you give a presentation even when it looks like you worked so hard?" I asked her.

"I guess," she answered.

You know there would be two camps--the students who felt sorry for her because they wouldn't see the big picture that she needed to read a book and the students who knew exactly what was going on and would be irritated if she were able to get credit for reading Wikipedia. (Don't kid yourselves. You know Wikipedia was involved.) Yes, the students are evaluated on the presentation, but it started with reading a book. Oy!

"Essentially you're telling me that you couldn't do the assignment, so you just made up your own?"

"I guess," she answered. She probably didn't think of it like that. But she might have. She is the sister to another student who liked to challenge my sanity.

It's maddening.

These are the times that times that try a teacher's soul. Sanity. Patience. Whatever. Grr.

(No teenagers were actually harmed in this story.)

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