By Melissa McDonald
Every term, I always have at least one student who says, quite brazenly, some variation of “I hate being forced to write, and I’m in this class just because I have to be.” I am sure my colleagues in other general education courses receive similar complaints (“I hate X”) as soon as the course begins. Even though I have been teaching for a long while, it is still disheartening to hear such things because it means the student has given up before even trying.
There are a couple ways I could respond:
The mean way: I am not forcing you to do anything. You’re an adult. Feel free to fail all on your own.
The nicer way: I know you and many other people do not like to write, but at least have an open mind and try to learn something. Or at least wait until you have written something for this course before complaining about how much you hate writing. We’ll be exploring different types of writing, so you might find something you like or at least learn skills you can use in other ways.
What follows is a list of the ten common types of students I teach. I’m sure you’ll recognize several of these varieties:
- Of course, the “I Hate Your Course Before Even Trying” Student mentioned above.
- The “I Pay Your Salary” Student. This is the one who threatens you and believes he or she is a customer paying for a grade, no matter what the quality of the work is. I was floored the first time I heard that one, but I answered, as calmly as possible, that the university paid my salary and that no student ever handed me a paycheck. I added that, for all she knew, her tuition check paid to keep the lights on. (Maybe I shouldn’t have said that last one, but students should know that there’s more to a college or a university than paying salaries. Chalk it up to my being young and still somewhat inexperienced.)
- The Invisible Student. He or she is on your roster but never comes to class, except perhaps for the midterm or the final exam. I guess he or she is hoping for a miracle. Likewise, there’s the student who participates in the first week but then disappears off the face of the earth for a few months. When the student returns to the world, he or she asks to make-up what he or she has missed as if the course is self-paced. For some reason, this student cannot fathom the purpose of deadlines and the instructor’s contact information.
- The “It’s Your Fault” Student. This one comes to you a week after finals to beg for a passing grade but tries to convince you by blaming you. I’ll never understand the logic. I guess it’s like cat logic; you just go with the flow.
- The Beggar. This student begs you to give you a higher grade—”please, please, please”—because you obviously have magical powers over simple math.
- The one with twenty grandmothers, all of whom die in the same semester, usually around the time a paper is due or on test day. It’s such a cliche, but this one persists even though we’re on the scam. (At the same time, I hate to be too skeptical because, when I was in graduate school, I really did have a grandmother who died at the end of the semester, and I had to go out of town for the funeral around the time all my papers were due. I was really nervous about whether my professors would believe me, so I went to their offices with a specific plan.)
- The Needy One. These students are always in your office and/or emailing you about how horrible they are doing in the class and how can they do better, despite their current A averages. I never know what to do with this one. I am not a hand holder by any means.
- The “I Love [Subject] and Hope to Learn All I Can” Student. I like someone who wants to learn, but I’m also a bit skeptical. Does he or she really love this subject, or is he or she thinking that such statements earn them higher grades?
- The Hard Worker, a.k.a, my favorite kind of student. This is the one who comes to class, does the work (sometimes early), asks questions, and never complains.
- The Future Teacher. This is the one who may be looking at you as a role model or as a cautionary tale.
Naturally, a student could be any combination of the above on any given day. We’re all human and have both good days and bad days, right? Well, some students have more bad days than good, and a few have more good days than bad.
About the Adjunct: Melissa McDonald is an adjunct instructor, writing consultant, and a military spouse all rolled into one. She earned a BA in English from Nicholls State University and an MA in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She has taught composition, technical writing, and literature courses, both face-to-face and online. She also has experience as a journal and a newsletter editor, a webmaster, and a writer. Outside of work, Melissa enjoys spending time with her family, playing with her cats, reading, writing, and cross stitching.
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