Tuesday, October 17, 2017

No, No, a Thousand Times NO!

Student #1: Can you just tell me exactly what to write on this paper so that I can get an A?

Me: No. You won't learn anything that way.

Student #1: But I'd have an A, so...

Me: I said no.

Student #2: Can you look over my works cited page and tell me if I did it right?

Me: There are some mistakes, so you'll need to revise them.

Student #2: Can't you just tell me how to correct them?

Me: No. I went over citations in class. I showed you how to find the information online, and it's also in the textbook.

Student #2: What if I just e-mail you at least three of my citations, and then I'll just correct the last one myself?

Me: Seriously, just look in the textbook. (rummages around in my bookbag for the bottle of aspirin I always bring to school)

Student #3: Could I set up an appointment with you to discuss my paper?

Me: No, I've already met with you twice to discuss your paper. If I meet with you a third time to discuss that same paper, it'll be like we're writing it together.

Student: But I can't figure it out by myself.

Me: As a student, it's your job to figure some of these things out for yourself. As the teacher, there's only so much I can do.

Student #3: How about I e-mail you my draft, and then you tell me what I should fix?

Me: No. Or as they say in Spain, no!

Meeting with students during my office hours is part of my job. And it is good to meet with students to find out what they're struggling with; it's better I know that now rather than when I'm grading their papers. What's not so good is when I have to set aside twelve (or more) extra office hours (in addition to my regular hours), as I've been doing almost every week since I came here, in order to accommodate all the students who want to meet with me. That means far fewer hours for grading, making lesson plans, research, and my website job, which is why I've had to stay up late almost every night to get all my work done.

At first I thought that I was the problem. I thought that maybe they kept coming to me for help because I wasn't getting through to them in the classroom. But dozens of appointments later (many of them with the same students over and over), I've realized that too many of these students want me to do the majority of the thinking, correcting, and revising for them, and all they have to do is fill in the blanks. I refuse to do that for them because I really want them to learn, and it's frustrating.

I can't keep going on like this. Because of my two jobs, I'm still working months at a time without a day off, and if I keep going at this rate, I'll have a heart attack before I turn forty from all the stress, or maybe just from all the coffee.

I've started being more firm with my students and setting more limits with my office hours. I will continue to be there for my students as much as I can, but I've finally started to realize that it's okay for me to say no sometimes, especially for the sake of my own health and sanity (and also because otherwise, I might start hitting myself with a chalkboard eraser during class and shrieking). I want to have more of a life outside of work, and that won't be possible if I keep saying yes every single time someone tries to get me to do extra work.

What about you? Do people at your job ever try to get you to do more work for their sake? Do you have a hard time saying no to them or in general?


  1. I think almost all jobs try to get you to do more work than you signed up/are getting paid for. I used to go along with it, but now I see it as a helpful exercise in learning how to set boundaries!

    Also, I don't know if your college/university has a writing center, but if so, I highly recommend sending students there. I work at one currently, and I get the impression it takes a lot of pressure off my university's English professors, because they can tell their students to come to us for one on one writing attention, rather than giving away all their office hours :) Just a thought!

    1. Hi SolariC,
      Thanks for the suggestion! The school does have a writing center, and I recommended that the students go there. But I think that most of them still haven't gone there yet; they come to me instead. I told them that it's good to go to the tutors, especially since I have dozens of students and can't help everyone as often as they need me to. But what happened was that several students still made it clear that they expected me to set aside even more time for them, even after I said that I wasn't available at their requested time slots. It's kind of frustrating because some of them don't seem to get that I'm not available to help them whenever they want.

  2. Saying no has helped me so much. I tend to be a people pleaser, so it was hard at first, but it is changing my life. I think you are right, those students are spoiled. When i was in college, way back, certain lecturers flat out refused to have office ours where you could ask them to explain something better, or ask for help, because you're finding the subject daunting. I would know, i was one of those students and had to figure things out myself by doing more reasearch and so forth. One lecturer even enjoyed it when some of us failed a test. It was a power trip for him. You are doing more than you have to already. If they can't appreciate that, it definitely isn't your fault. Definitely say no more. You need to rest and enjoy your life too. You're a person too.

    1. Hi Murees,
      Unfortunately, there are a lot of professors in academia who may be brilliant scholars but are not good teachers (although there are some who are both good scholars and good teachers). The thing is that professors are pressured to do a lot of research, even if it means they have to sacrifice their teaching responsibilities. But on other hand, those lecturers you mentioned also just sound like jerks.
      I think that some of these students have a sense of entitlement; they think that since they (or their parents) paid to take this class, that means that I have to help them whenever they need it. But even a workaholic like me can't work 24/7. Even if I could, I wouldn't want to.

  3. Keep fighting the good fight! I can't stand teachers that give in to students like these!
    Still remember the postgraduate level Middle English class I took as an undergraduate. It was a seminar class, only c.12 students. As an undergraduate, you don't take a class like that unless you really want to, right? Just take an intro 101 if you don't have the time or inclination to do the work. And still there was a guy who showed up the Monday that a long-term assignment was due, and said he'd had a swim meet on Saturday and couldn't finish his work. Argh!

    1. Hi Deniz,
      Sometimes I feel pressured to give in, especially when students send e-mail after e-mail or make multiple requests for appointments, even after I tell them that they need to learn how to work on their own. And wow about that classmate of yours! Honestly, I've taught students like him before; there's always at least a few of them every semester who place certain (or all) of their classes at the bottom of their priority list and then get upset when teachers like me don't make exceptions for them.

  4. Sounds challenging, but I think you've got the right attitude. There's no point you doing the assignments, you already know it!

    1. Hi Annalisa,
      I know, right? I really do want them to learn, but unfortunately what too many students want is to get an A, not earn one.

  5. Sounds like a bit of "tough love" is required. You'll be doing both yourself and them a massive favour by saying no a bit more! Sounds like they have got used to you saying yes and are "taking the mick", to put it politely (and Englishly).

    1. Hi Nick,
      You're right about the tough love approach. And you're right about how they got used to me saying yes; I think that's partly why they don't realize that they shouldn't keep asking for multiple appointments for the same assignment.