A Better Man Than I Am
My co-professor in the Connection we're teaching ("The Edge of Reason") held the midterm for his half of the class today. Because we take turns teaching the class, which only meets twice per week, we are each limited to about 13 meetings over the course of the semester. So my co-professor decided that he would not use classroom time for the review session but would, on his own, uncompenstated time (which also costs babysitter money, I might add) offer a supplementary review.
One student went berserk, and I mean that in just about the technical sense of the term. All that was missing was an axe and a beheaded cow and you'd have Egil Skallagrimmson. The student accused my partner of being "irresponsible," "arrogant" and, in a later email, "a pompous ass." We wrote that if my co-professor was laying bleeding on the sidewalk, he'd walk by. His most damning criticism: "you are just too smart to be teaching."
Now my first reaction was "We need to slap the nonsense out out of this little wretch, and right fast." But my co-professor kept corresponding, drawing out more abuse. At first I thought this might be a case for the Honor Board, which handles civility issues, but then my co-professor provoked a core-dump that showed that this student has really serious problems of some sort going on. He was then able to get the counselling center involved, and maybe this student can get the help he needs now (and some training in minor social skills such as not giving authority figures gratuitous insults).
In all of this my co-professor showed why he is a better teacher than I am. I would have terminated the interaction after the first really obnoxious email. That would have been the end. But by going back and forth, we discovered that there was a problem and it might be important to address it.
And to be fair, some of the whining was actually funny (undercutting the student's whole argument): It boiled down to:' you are the meanest, meanest, meanest big meany ever.' Fortunately, both of us have children. We're immune. We've heard whining that college sudents can only begin to imagine.
Students inclined to whine: I scoff at your tiny, pathetic attempts at whining. Until I see you lying face-down in the hallway, banging your heads against the floor due to Bob the Builder not being on television, you just won't impress me. I advise getting out of the whining business. You're not even in the league, you amateurs.