from 2006-2007, deep within the trenches


Photo credit: Sudhamshu

1. Do not give me Katrina-sized attitude because you do not want to take an English class. I did not make the core curriculum. If I had, you’d not only take more English courses but all freshpersons would start in the grammar and expository writing class.

2. Do not tell me you were in AP English then wait for a response. I do not care if you were in AP English or if you are directly descended from Langston Hughes or W. E. B. DuBois. You will not pass this course because of your grades in high school or genetic potentialities.

3. Do not tell me how your English teacher in high school a) never asked you to __, b) let you turn in extra credit work at the end of the semester to salvage your grade, or c) did not correct your work for grammar, expecting me to do the same things. This is not high school, I keep my job if you fail, and no one will intimidate me into passing a student who cannot punctuate a 5-word declarative sentence.

4. Do not ask me if you need to buy the textbooks. I would not require the books if we were not going to use them.

5. Do not walk into class and ask, before I have unpacked my bag, “Are we doing anything today?” This is not your idea of high school where the classroom is a rest stop between hallway social engagements. If we weren’t going to do something in class, I wouldn’t be here.

6. I hold office hours at specified times and you will not find me in my office before or after those times or on days when no office hours are scheduled. Do not try to lodge a complaint with my chair or dean because I am not in my office on Wednesday at 4:30 when my office hours are Tuesday 1-3.

7. Do not walk up to the front of the class in the middle of a lecture or in-class assignment to ask about your grade, your last paper, or how many absences you have. I am teaching and you are not the only person in the room. Ask before or after class or send an email. A polite one.

8. Do not in any email to a professor or anyone of higher status or education write, “Get back with me.” Save that for your friends.

9. Do not email worries about not getting an A in my course. I do not care if you get an A or an F or a W. You get what you earn, not what you want.

10. Do not expect me to repeat myself because you were fixing your hair in a mirror, reading a book, or talking to the girl behind you. This is common sense and needs no explanation.

11. Do not assume that if you complain to my chair or dean about a grade that the chair or dean will immediately chastise me and raise your grade. The first thing either will want to see is the assignment sheet, what you turned in, and what comments I made. They might also want to know if you have talked to me first, attended office hours, requested conferences, or missed too many days of class. My chair even knows the content of the course and has every right to quiz you orally on the assignment under dispute. Generally, you will lose. I am a professional, not some ho they pulled off the street 5 minutes ago.

12. Do not ask your parents to call, write or email me on your behalf. If you have never taken responsibility for yourself before, now is the time to do so. Do not tell your parents that I am a mean and unfair teacher then neglect to admit you have missed half the classes, never bought the textbook, sleep half the time you do show up for class, or didn’t turn in a 300-point portfolio you had 4 weeks to complete.

13. Do not answer your cell phone during a conference or when you are asking for explanation of an assignment. Your time is not more valuable than mine. I am also a person with a life.

14. Look at my class, and your other classes, as a full-time job. You are expected to show up every day dressed and ready to work with the requisite materials, be that a textbook, a handbook, a newspaper article, a pen, or your ability to think. I come to work every day. Do you?

15. Do not look blankly at a piece of paper, like an essay assignment, and ask me “what it means.” Read.

16. Do not tell me “how hard” you work. I do not care how hard you work nor do I see any of that. All I see is the final product. That is what I grade, not some amorphous quantity of time you call “effort.”

17. I do not “work” for you. This is not a service industry. This is education. You get out of it what you put into it, both of which are up to you.

18. Do not blow off half the classes of the term then expect me to work overtime to tutor you and grade 4 weeks of late homework and late essays. This should also be common sense.

19. Do not expect a “Congratulations!” or free pass because you tell me 3/4 into the semester that you “never bought the books.” Do not tell me this after an open-book quiz and wait for a response.

20. Do not turn in 3 or 4 weeks of missed homework, essays, and assignments on the day midterm grades are due. Not only are you not my sole student but I see no reason to bust my ass because you didn’t bother to apply yourself for the last EIGHT weeks.

21. Do not insist that we must have a conference 3 weeks into the new semester when I have already told you, in writing, from my official University email, twice, that you completed 2 out of 12 assignments and didn’t submit an out-of-class essay worth 20% of your final grade. Or the final project worth 30% of your final grade.

22. Sending 4 copies of a week-late assignment will not improve your grade.

23. The syllabus says two important things about email: check your account daily, and allow me 24-48 hours to reply—i.e., do not ignore your email account, and my emails about your grades and missing assignments, for 1-4 weeks then barrage me with panicked emails every hour because I have yet to respond to your last email.

24. If your assignment is late, attach it to your excuse-laden-but-I-don’t-want-to-make-excuses email. Submitting the late assignment 2 days after the excuse email tells me that it’s late because you never bothered to do it, and, instead of doing it when you realized your error, spent time composing an excuse instead of the assignment.

compiled from Dear University Student, Dear University Student #19, Dear University Student #20, Dear University Student #21, Dear University Student #22a, b, & c.

a mad black woman in New Orleans

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