Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Double Standard

"Teacher, my journal!" Basir thumps a thick spiral notebook on my desk and smiles proudly. "I write."

I thumb through the pages and feel like groaning: he's just given me three months' worth of work in one go. "You were supposed to do this over the past three months," I tell him, frowning. "Why did it take you so long?"

Basir gives me a sad look. "Teacher, very, very busy."

"You've been too busy?"

He nods. The look on his face clearly says Isn't it obvious?

"For the past three months?"

He nods again.

Unlike some of my students, Basir doesn't have any kind of part-time job; I've asked. His only responsibility is to get to class on time four days a week, something he seldom manages to do. During my break, I stuff his journal into my locker with the half dozen other late journals I have in there. Maybe I'll have the time to mark it on the weekend.

When I go back to the classroom after my break, Basir frowns. "Teacher, where my journal?"

I look at him in amazement. "It's in my locker."

"You control?" (Turkish students use 'control' to mean 'mark'.)

"How could I possibly have marked it? You just gave it to me!"

Basir actually has the gall to look disappointed. He's always the first out of the classroom at break time and the last one to come back. He spends his break outside, smoking cigarettes and horsing around with his friends, but he obviously expects me to spend mine marking his overdue journal.

In the next class, Özge gives me a dirty look when I get her name wrong. "Teacher, what is my name?" she asks me, eyes flashing accusingly.

I chew my lower lip and wrack my tired old brain. "Özge," I say finally.

"You forget!"

By great effort, I manage to resist rolling my eyes. I forget my own kids' names half the time, but I can't expect Özge to know that. Or believe it, for that matter.

"I remember your name!" she persists. It's true, she does. Too bad she never remembers to use the past simple in the right place, but reminding her of that would be snarky.

Instead of answering her, I walk over to the board. I draw six black lines. "This is how many classes I teach here," I tell Özge. Then I write '30' next to each line, followed by 30 x 6 = I raise my eyebrows at her. "Thirty times six is...?"

She wrinkles her nose. "One-eight-zero."

I nod and print out 180 in large black numbers. "That's how many students I teach," I tell her, just in case she hasn't made the connection. "So...how many teachers do you have?"

"Two," she says, narrowing her eyes.

I spread my arms. "If I only had two students, I'd remember your names every single time." This is a lie actually. I only have two kids and I get their names mixed up every other day. But Özge doesn't need to know that.

Over the weekend, I really am busy. I've got our foster daughter coming home for the holidays and I have to launder her bedding, clean her room, and arrange for someone to pick her up from the airport. My husband catches a bad cold and our Eldest decides she will be coming home for Christmas too, but not on the same flight as her foster sister, so a ride has to be arranged for her too. There are meals to fix and Christmas presents to buy and a house to take care of. There is a kitten to chase after and a dozen letters to write and those one hundred and eighty students, after all. So I don't get around to marking Basir's journal over the weekend, and he cannot get over this. "Where my journal?" he asks me.

"I'm sorry, but I haven't had a chance to mark it yet."

"Why not?"

"I've been very busy."

I don't get around to marking it all week and he asks me about it every single day, sometimes more than once. Never mind that it took him three months to get around to writing it, the fact that I haven't marked it over the course of an entire week fills him with righteous indignation.

I get Özge's name wrong three times and I mispronounce it too. She pouts and shakes her head at me. She's obviously forgotten my little lecture on 180 vs 2.

Özge wants to be an architect and Basir is aiming for the engineering department. Too bad neither of them is going to be a teacher, but with any luck, some day they'll be parents.



Charles Gramlich said...

I find it amazing that student's will ask me if I've graded something, like a test, when I've only had it a few minutes.

Vijaya said...

Yup, double standards for sure ... Let Basir sweat a bit.

debra said...

Being a parent is a wonderful teacher for the child.

MG Higgins said...

Oh, jeez, this is so funny. (I'm not laughing at you, of course, I'm laughing with you.) I hope you had/are having a wonderful time with your daughters.

Mary Witzl said...

Charles -- You mean it's not just my students who do this? What a relief! Today, another student handed me a long composition just bristling with all sorts of mistakes. I took attendance, taught the class, then started to gather up my things to leave, and so help me, he asked me if I'd marked his paper. He must have thought I could mark his paper and teach at the same time. Maybe we should just wear Superteacher suits and be done with it?

Vijaya -- I let him sweat a good long time on this one. And once I discovered he'd plagiarized half of his journal, he sweated even more!

Debra -- I'm practically licking my chops, just picturing my own offspring as parents. It's amusing enough just watching them clean up after kittens.

MGH -- It really IS funny that my students can't see the double standard. Kasim really does fancy himself busy when all he has to do is get to school on time and do a little studying. Özge really seems to think she's superior because she's nailed my name. Sigh...

Anonymous said...

Yes! That happened so often to me in Mauritania. They would turn in a thesis paper, 4 or 5 months worth of work (supposedly) and then start bugging me the next day to have it corrected. I think you should explain to Basir that you take as long to grade as they are supposed to write--in other words, 3 months. Be firm. Then maybe he'll be a teensy bit happy to get it in a week or two? Naah...I'm dreaming.

Patrick said...

It's quite common for teachers to forget their students' names here. But I never hear of parents forgetting their child's name. Lol.

And yea, we used to keep asking our teachers for our marked works, especially exam papers. And most of the time we don't get what we ask for. XD

Robert the Skeptic said...

I love it... using Math to solve a social dilemma. Good work, Teacher!!

Helen said...

Do you know what that little story makes me wish? - that I was as busy as Basir. And do tell Mary, what is Free Rice and how do I sign up for it - it sounds great!! (I am so globally challenged as to not even know where Turkey is on the map. Will go look it up now!)

Mary Witzl said...

Planetnomad -- I'm so glad other teachers have weighed in with their own stories! Sometimes I think my lot are so thick they're the only ones who do things like this.

I know from past experience that if I told Basir it would take me three months to mark his journal, the only words he'd hear would be 'mark' and 'journal'. These kids don't even understand things my colleagues explain in Turkish. I think it's adolescent attention deficit syndrome or something.

Patrick -- Now that you mention it, I'm pretty sure I did this too. But I don't think I ever nagged any of my professors the very day I handed in my work.

I'm infamous for my inability to remember names; it's my cross in life. The first week of classes, I have to make tiny notes to myself on the attendance sheet (like 'thick eyebrows' or 'big nose'). At parties, I have to resort to all sorts of strategies. I sweat blood trying to get people's names right. I figure my kids can cut me a little slack when I slip up.

Robert -- That's the only level of math I'll ever be able to use. The math part of my brain, like the name and direction recollection part, is sadly incomplete.

Helen -- Me too! There once was a time I was as busy as Basir. I found it a challenge just taking care of myself and getting to and from school. I yearn for those days now!

Just google 'Free Rice', find the geography section, and sit back and have fun. When I started off, I didn't know Iran from Iraq. Now I can nail Turkmenistan and Moldova.

Blythe said...

On top of everything he *plagiarized* his journal. I wish I could say that was a shocker. A student once handed in a an essay that included the downloaded "paper mill" version as the rough draft complete with the receipt for payment at the end. Weirdly, I still remember teaching as worth doing...

Falak said...

It's funny how your students expect you to remember their names! In my class we have a 110 students and the fact that the professors know that we exist is more than enough to please us. Hope you're having a good time with your daughters:)

Stella said...

Glad you let Basir sweat some. Kids don't realize how hard it is to get their names right. I have over 500 students (I'm a school librarian) and sometimes my students get annoyed with me for calling them by their siblings name. Meanwhile, I'm congratulating myself on knowing which family they come from.

I wish I was as busy as Basir, too.

Postman said...

You've got it very tough, having to remember 180 kids' names (TURKISH names, no less; at least they picked Anglo aliases in Korea) and then deal with their tantrums when you understandably mess up. But I think you handled it diplomatically, for what it's worth.

Basir needs to come to class more often if he expects you to grade his stuff right then and there, tell him that. But then, I guess some students just expect you to be a whiz. Once again, I'm dumbfounded by how similar our experiences are/were. I'd collect journals and then, just the next day (or even the same day) I'd have kids coming up to me and asking me "Teacher, where's my journal?"

Bish Denham said...

Well, obviously you need more things to do...Don't feel bad about mixing up your kids' names. My sister is Erva, I'm Bish, pretty different names right? My mother OFTEN when calling for me would go..."Er...Bish!" LOL

Kappa no He said...

I have so enjoyed all your blogs this past year. I truly believe you could print them out and send them to a publisher and they'd be published as is. What a wonderful and exciting life you lead. Mary, I wish you and your family the very best of 2010s. I look forward to seeing you here and on FB (I'm on the Blue Boards too but need to post more).


Kim Ayres said...

I was going to say tell him he can have the results in 3 months to reflect how long it him to submit his work, but I see planetnomad beat me too it.

Meanwhile, hope the new year and decade is good to you :)

Mary Witzl said...

Blythe -- I've had so many obviously copied compositions straight from Wikipedia, so many near-native English journals submitted by kids who can barely write their names, that I've become very jaded. I keep telling my students that I know how to google too and that all of us teachers can spot plagiarized stuff a mile off, but they never believe me until I catch them. But I still think teaching is worth doing. Maybe I'm just as self-delusional as my students are?

Falak -- I wish I were teaching you and your friends, then. The lot I teach are spoiled senseless. Oddly, I can usually remember where they are from, what subject they're majoring in and what their hobbies are. It's just their names that give me trouble.

Stella -- You have to remember 500 students' names? Now I'm feeling like a wimp, whining about 180 names!

Like you, I'm just thrilled to remember as much about my students as I do, even if I happen to forget their names. It seems that students are the same the world over, though.

Postman -- Basir doesn't just forget to turn in his homework on time, he swans into class late, without book, pen or paper, and has occasionally interrupted the lesson to ask if I will mark him present. I let him sweat it out for over a week and it probably wasn't long enough.

It's funny how similar the experiences of teachers are, all over the world. We all have to cope with students who think the world revolves around them.

Bish -- That's exactly what I do: I call my kids by each other's names. I know their names very well, I just get them mixed up. I tell them that I'm allowed to forget their names since I remember to earn a living and make dinner.

Kappa -- That is high praise, coming from you -- thank you! Every time I read over my posts, I invariably find something I feel I should change. When I started this blog, I don't think I was so discriminating, so I'm trying to tell myself that's progress.

Kim -- My students don't seem to understand their double standard. On the occasions I've cracked and told them I was going to take my sweet time marking their work given how long it took them to hand it in, the irony has completely eluded them.

Happy New Year to you too, Kim!

Anne Spollen said...

My college students email at 4 o'clock on a day when I've collected exam papers at 2:25 - then they send "follow up" emails every few hours asking for their grades - and this is after I have told them I don't respond to emails asking for individual grades.

And Turkish names -- yikes.

laura said...

Someday they'll be parents? Revenge is sweet!!!
Happy New Year to you and your family!

Marian said...

I once had two students called Alicia and Amanda. They were both the same height, had hair the same color, etc. I had the worst time telling them apart.

But Alicia had long hair, and I was happy because Alicia and long both had the letter L in them - yes, I was reduced to that thanks to the similar names. Then she went and cut it to the same length as Amanda's. Deliberately.

Then I realized that Amanda's nose turned up at the end, but this now meant I had to maneuver myself into a position where I could see the student's profile before greeting her.

It was terrible. I have no problems with memorizing the genus and species names of dozens of bacteria, but Alicia and Amanda defeated me.

Robin said...

That'll sure teach the little buggers! It is so true how kids want their needs gratified immediately, with no concept of other people's time, availability, etc. They either grow out of it, or they become my cousin Alan.

angryparsnip said...

What gets bad is when you start calling your children by the dogs names. . .

Mary Witzl said...

Anne -- It's so reassuring to hear from other teachers and find out that their students do this too.

Turkish names are a nightmare for me! I've got a handful of kids from places like Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan, Iran, and Moldova. Their names are lifeboats in a sea of confusion.

Laura -- Sometimes, picturing these kids in a decade's time keeps me going: Basir in the driver's seat, responding for the umpteenth time to his kids' "Are we there yet?" I would pay good money to see that.

Happy New Year to you too!

Marian -- Yes! You know what I'm going through!

In Japan, we had the same list of names all term long; only the attendance sheet that went with it changed. So I was able to make tiny notes to myself like 'black glasses', 'Aunt Alice Jane', 'big nose', and 'bushy eyebrows'. My first week here, I made careful, detailed notes, only to find that the attendance sheet disappeared at the end of the week and we were given a new one. All my work was for nothing and I had no way to remember who was who. I've got FOUR Mehmets in one class and three Fatmas in another. Alicia and Amanda would have driven me mad...

Robin -- On Thursday, I had a kid follow me down the hallway, wanting to know there and then why I'd only given him one point for his journal out of a maximum of four. He'd turned in only four entries out of 17, but he'd talked to X who'd only turned in four and gotten two points and so on, ad nauseam. Thank GOD I'm only responsible for 30 journals! (You've got one of those cousins too? Some day we'll have to swap stories.)

AP -- What do you mean, WHEN it gets bad? I call the cat by the kids' names and from time to time, I call the kids by her name. If we got a dog, s/he would be factored right into the mix.

Charlie said...

I'm here, tee-cha, very busy!

(If it works for your students, it should work for your friends.)

One thing I've never understood is where and when a teacher finds time to grade tests, essays, term papers, journals, etc. 180 of any of those things have to be eaters of time.

No personal life, huh.

Mary Witzl said...

Charlie -- You got it: very little personal life, hastily consumed meals, and short toilet breaks. But at least I only rarely take work home with me. My husband takes work home with him almost every day.

It's a little sad: no one calls me 'tee-cha' anymore! I've graduated: now I'm 'Teacher Mary' or 'hojam'. The lies and excuses, though -- those are just the same.

Lily Cate said...

Oh geeze. In my family, you get used to being called any and every name, including the cat's.
Somehow, we all know by tone who my mother (or grandmother) means, but they almost never get the right name on the first try.

Mary Witzl said...

When I was a kid, I thought my mother was incredibly daft for getting my name mixed up with my sisters'. Now I'm in awe that she did as well as she did: she had more kids than I do and there were always cousins about -- and DOZENS of cats. Glad there are others out there with the same experiences!