Pig Wrestling

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

For as long as I can remember, my dad (who is a principal) has had a little quote taped to the inside lip of his top desk drawer. It says: "Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it."

Tonight, I wrestled with a pig. And it got REALLY dirty.

Said pig is my chemistry lab professor. Not the one I was ranting about last week. This chemistry lab professor is an entirely different kind of wrong. She said she taught at another university (has yet to mention its name though) and seems to have absolutely no idea what's going on, but instead of admitting that, feels a need to tell everyone else they're wrong.

Her profound lack of understanding of other humans has led to my fingers being seriously burned and my GPA dropping. Both of which I am pissed off at. And tonight, we can add me being yelled at in front of a group of my peers. Oh, it's ugly.

You see, each week we have a lab report due, including our data sheet from the last lab, post-lab questions and observations and conclusions. We also have a quiz on the upcoming lab. As usual, we are expected to show all work and be precise.

Seems reasonable, yes?

No. Because even if you show an ENTIRE page worth of work, which is all correct, and then make one very VERY tiny error, you get zero points. Of the 5 assigned to the problem. No partial credit, but everything is worth 5 points.

So I emailed her. Politely. And I asked if we could go over her grading policy because some of my classmates have been copying other peoples' answers, with no work, and receiving some credit for those answers. And I don't know, something about that sounds like we're valuing CHEATING over trying.

But first I had an exam for her. In the middle of the exam, I realized she had made a mistake. I brought it to her attention. I asked her to make sure it wasn't just me, but since there were 3 other people at her desk with the same problem, I was comforted that it wasn't. She went on about how then if we think we did it right, we should just leave it alone. Even though the problem didn't work.

I asked her, again, VERY politely, if she could look over her key and make sure that the problem was correct. Her answer? Not right now. Maybe in 10 minutes.

Excuse me? There's a possible error on your test and you'd like to make us all wait 10 minutes before you'll even look at it (side note: when she finally did, I was absolutely freaking right. Thankyouverymuch).

The test went fine, and our grading meeting began.

I had my lab reports covered in post-it notes reminding myself to ask her why I received no credit for doing work. I spoke in a quiet voice the whole time because half of the class was still taking the test, and I asked her about the partial credit. She said no. She said she didn't have time to grade papers and give partial credit. I suggested not making the questions worth 4-5 points if there was no way to get anything but a 4/5 or a 0.

And she LOST IT.

And I quote: "Who the hell do you think YOU are telling me how to grade papers? You don't know my job. You don't know what I do. I make up my grading scale and that's not my problem." Now, to be more accurate, that should all be in capital letters because she SCREAMED it at me. Seriously. Screamed.

I very quietly responded that I was a TEACHER and that I have nearly 100 students, and yet, somehow I always managed to grade and give partial credit. (So maybe I didn't need to go there, and yet, it felt SO good.) And then I tried to tell her that the person behind me had cheated during the exam, and this was really the highlight of the evening...

(again, I quote) "I don't have time to patrol everyone for cheating. That's not my job."

So we can go ahead and pencil into this mega-week the writing of the email to the head of the chemistry department. Because a) don't yell at me in front of my peers and b) people are cheating. And it's not MY job to patrol it either. But I will not be put in a situation where my academic integrity is lost because she cannot even watch the 20 people in the room to see if they're cheating.

NEVER wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and you'll most likely wanting to slaughter the pig. And the pig will still think they've done nothing wrong.

Because the pig is crazy. And has no idea of the shitstorm that's coming.


Sharon said...

You go girl!!!! I'll be your cheerleader.

Carleen said...

While it is true that those of us who teach at universities have the freedom to set our own grading policies, your lab prof's are, I concur with you, absolutely unreasonable! To expect students to complete a task, show all their work, answer pre- and post-lab questions, and then fail to give any credit for that work if there is an error is, in this prof's humble opinion, patently unreasonable. Let's not talk about the lab prof's lack of ethics in not proctoring her own damn exam properly and, ehem, ethically!

I do hope that you'll share the response from the chemistry chair with us. I would love to see how (s)he handles this one!

Becs said...

Personal responsibility seems to be a concept that got lost in the 1970s. And - everyone turn please and look at Bernard Madoff - is still going strong.

Those of us who own up are now shouldered with the burden of making other people be responsible. Gah.

Sue G said...

Katie, if the chemistry department chair is responsible for hiring both the chemistry teacher and the chemistry lab teacher, what makes you think he/she is possible of ameliorating this situation...or even recognizing it, for that matter?

I do hope for your sake that this will not become a story of "The Three Little Pigs!"

Flea said...

Huff and puff, Katie.