Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

An open letter to my students

Damn. I had another case of plagiarism this term. What's with these folks -- they think I'm too dumb to recognize plagiarism???
So as we approach end-of-term exams, I would like my students to see this. I flagrantly lifted and adapted it from an anonymous poster somewhere (I would gladly include an acknowledgement if I knew who wrote it; it came via a link from Newmark's Door).

To my students:
  • I’m a better liar than you. It’s because I’m probably above average in intelligence, and I've had lots of experience. When I was an undergrad, I had friends who got out of all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons; and any excuse I didn't hear about as an undergrad I've heard enough times as a prof to be familiar with it. Deaths in the family, tears on command, cars breaking down, feigning symptoms of depression, you name it, I either knew someone who used it or have had to deal with it in my 92 years of teaching. I know when you’re trying to bull$hit me, so don’t try. And while I’m very sympathetic if it’s legitimate, I’m a son-of-a-bitch if you lie to me.
  • I’m also a decent writer, and I read a lot. The thing is, copious readers and good writers notice writing style. If you try to plagiarize, I will be able to tell. And, I will give you hell for it, and I will report you, and you will be very sorry because I will fail you in the course and may try to get you expelled from the university.
  • If you miss class, don’t ask me if anything important happened. Asking this is extremely insulting; I wouldn't give the lecture if I didn't think it was important. What do you expect me to answer? “Yes, actually, on the one day you missed I decided to give a pop quiz that counts for 50% of your grade. Oh yeah, and then we discussed the answers to the final exam and then I gave everybody real, not invisible, chocolate chip cookies. Too bad you missed it.”
  • Just because I seem fun and amusing doesn’t mean my tests are easy. My classes are hard. Here, I am not lying. Believe me. Reading all the material and going to class does not guarantee you an A or even a B unless you’re super-duper smart. You actually have to study too.
  • You’re not nearly as cool as you think. Class clowns were funny in high school, but not now.
  • If you’re out on the town drunk and want to yell at me about your grade, then please don’t ever take any of my classes again.
  • And don't send me nasty e-mails when you're in a drunken stupor at 4am. Believe me, you'll regret it in the morning.
  • I’m not actually all that good at keeping my mouth shut. Please don’t tell the other faculty members (including those in the department of hydraulic socionomy) what I say, unless it’s good and about them; or it’s something you learned that you thought was really neat that also does not clash with their theoretical viewpoint, because they’re sensitive about that.
  • Please don’t get offended by my jokes. They’re funny, but sometimes not to conservative Christians or most liberals.
  • If I’m late for a meeting and rushing out of my office, or if I’m trying to eat lunch in between classes, or if I’m out with friends on a Friday night, I might not be all that keen to answer questions about the upcoming midterm. I might be grouchy. Just so you know.
  • This is for the boys: I'm hetero.
  • This is for the girls: If you’re flunking my class, don’t make sly little suggestions about what you might do to earn a passing grade. You’re flunking my class. Why would I think your performance would be better in any other areas? Besides, I'm too old to care.
  • Incompletes are for students who, for legitimate, documented reasons, couldn't finish the class. If you don't like your grade, you can't take an incomplete.
  • I will do my best to give the first midterm before the drop deadline. If you take the midterm and do badly, and then don't drop the class, and then come back 3 months later and try to play it like you were never in my class and you want me to sign a form, I won't.
  • If I see you out on the town on a weekend night and you want to buy me a drink, you cannot currently be in my classes or ever take any of my classes again. Ever. Then maybe you can buy me a drink. Alright probably. Okay.
  • Similarly, I'm glad you like my art work. And, yes, it is for sale. But don't think that if you buy some, you'll get a higher mark in my class. You won't. So it's probably best if you wait to buy anything until at least a year after you've had your last class from me. And don't tell me while you're taking a class that you'd like to buy something a year later - that won't work either.
  • If I set up extra office hours to help you, and you don’t show up, I will refuse to set up any other office hours outside of regularly scheduled ones.
  • When you tell me, “I’m getting kicked out of school because of the grade I got in your class,” this makes me feel bad, but it also makes me wonder if this is the first bad grade you’ve received, and what kind of slave driver is supporting you that would cut you off for one bad grade.
  • When you come to see me because you’re worried about your grade, and you use all the study suggestions that I tell you to, and I really honestly believe that you’re trying hard but you’re still getting a bad grade, I will wish I had the guts to gently tell you that not everyone is meant for university, but I most likely won’t. I will feel bad instead .
  • When you ask a stupid question in class I will try not to laugh at your question. However, I do reserve the right to tell my friends later and to laugh then. Sorry, but sometimes I just have to. Your name and any identifying information will not be used.
  • Please ask all the questions you want to in class. Really. I learn from my mistakes. If I see anyone so much as roll an eye, I will pull them aside after class and tell them that’s inappropriate.
  • I’m kind of a talker. I like to tell stories. Please, if you figure this out, do not use it to postpone lecture, and hence, the amount of material you will be responsible for. You will still be responsible for the same material regardless of whether we cover it in class.
  • If you work for me on a project, and you do a good job, I will write you a kick-ass letter of recommendation. If you work for me and do a lousy job, I will writer a letter that, while not direct, will let the program or job you are applying for know what kind of a student you are. Remember that things like, “She was often on time,” or, “From my conversations with him, it is clear that he very much wants to go to graduate school,” are not really compliments.
  • And, please, if you like my class, if you feel that it changed the way you think, if you learned a lot, if you were challenged, please tell me. In this age of limited resources and time, that’s what keeps me going. I love teaching, and I’m clearly not in it for the money.
  • Tell me if you got something out of my class. I really really need to hear that sometimes. Actually, this last item goes for all your professors.
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