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shrinkykitten

"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.

4.08.2007

How do you say "no" without pissing people off?

Specifically, how do you say no to students without that showing up in your evals?

My course text was not in the bookstore until this past tuesday. This forced me to push back the date their paper was due, and made it so that students couldn't do their readings, which deleteriously affects class discussions and I think also makes them think readings are not important.

I'm annoyed the books were so late (esp. since the books were ordered a long time ago by the person who was supposed to teach the class, and have been unsure how much I need to adjust to make up for that.

Their first paper is contingent upon their having read 2 of the chapters. However, because the books were late, I made it so that my lectures covered a lot of what was in the text. I told them this was so that they could at least start their papers before the books got in.

And yet, I have gotten 3 requests today alone for extensions (their paper is due tomorrow) because they claim they had to order the book given that it was not in the bookstore on-time (that is, they are claiming that when the book wasn't there, they decided it would be faster to order it - I have actually never seen this be successful with textbooks - they always always seem to be late).

So far, I have not given any extensions - but part of me feels like I ought to. But, there is no way for me to contact the whole class and give a blanket extension (again, given that I already pushed the date back, so that doesn't seem fair. Plus, I am assuming that given that the are adults, and have some problem solving capabilities, they could have copied the chapters from the copy at the library (which they can't do today since it is closed - which is part of why I feel a little bacly for not giving extensions - but then again, they are the ones who waited until today!), or they could go to the bookstore and read the chapter there, or photocopy a friend's book, etc., etc. They have a lot of options, it seems to me. Plus, this paper is damned easy to write.

Oh, and I have one student who asked for an extension because as of last friday she'd not yet gotten the book and was leaving for Europe right after class and thus would be unable to turn it in on time. Why do they think such excuses will win our sympathy? Europe? Please.

So, how do you say no to students in a way that won't piss them off? Honestly I don't care, but I know that these things always show up in my evals because students get really angry at me when I am not as flexible about deadlines as they want me to be.

7 Comments:

At 9:36 PM, Blogger StyleyGeek said...

I came to the comments here hoping someone had already posted useful advice, because I wanted to know how to do this too!

I'm sorry, though, I really have no idea. I hope you manage it, though.

All I can think of is to heavily emphasise the fact that they could have used the library's copies of the book. Then at least some of them will realise it's their own fault and not yours.

 
At 9:37 AM, Blogger Anastasia said...

I'd probably give the extensions but make it clear to the whole class that this was not my doing and purely an accident of the bookstore mishap. throw the bookstore under the bus.

they aren't going to be happy about realizing this is their fault, not yours. It is, but that's beside the point. That's why I'd blame a third party (bookstore) so that everybody gets off the hook. They don't have to face up to their responsibilities (ick, I know, but we're talking evals here) but they also won't take it out on you.

 
At 11:34 PM, Blogger Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Anastasia may be on to something...

I'd give the extension and blame the bookstore. I'd say that I NEVER give extensions -- or that they should see the syllabus about extensions.

The problem you'll have at this point are the students who actually got it done, having taken extraordinary effort to do so, get nothing... what I've done in this situation is to give a bonus (5% of the paper value??) to those who have it done on time and a short extension -- maybe to the next class meeting -- for those who had problems. This is fair because the ones who did the work that is kind of more difficult than you'd planned get a bonus and that bonus doesn't count against the people with extensions.

 
At 11:35 AM, Anonymous sheepish said...

You can't. You just can't say no and not have them pissed.

You can ameliorate the effect though. One of my strategies is to bend on a number of small things that don't matter so much - to make gestures of conciliation when it doesn't really matter - but to hold firm on the big things. This is a tough practice to follow, because it's easy to become a pushover when giving in to a lot of small things. And ultimately, they still resent you for not letting them have their way when you hold the line.

 
At 11:44 AM, Blogger shrinkykitten said...

ITPF and Anastasia: the issue really wasn't *whether* to give extensions - the issue was that I didn't want to, but really didn't want to have to deal with the consequences of refusing to give an extension.

sheepers: I think that is the crux - and part of why I didn't want to give an extension (it also would create havoc for future assignments) -- I don't want to look like a pushover (because I'm not AT ALL - I like my deadlines, and I like things in on time - creativity comes in how to do the assignment, not in when to do it).

Styley: Here's how I handled this particular case - I was indirect. I call it "that bitch, my ex-advisor's, method for dealing with things you don't want to deal with." So, I ignored the part of the emails I didn't want to deal with (request for extension) and focused on the part I could deal with (how to get the book). I responded, "I"m sorry you've been unable to get the book! Other students have had great success at using creative methods for getting the readings done like going to a library and using that copy, reading the book at the bookstore itself, copying chapters from a friend's copy, etc. Good luck and see you monday!"

In my experience with my advisor, then I end up thinking, "Huh, I must have done something wrong in communicating my real question to her" rather than denigrating her.

 
At 9:03 PM, Blogger StyleyGeek said...

Smart move! Hope it worked!

 
At 11:19 AM, Blogger Clio Bluestocking said...

Everyone here had great advice. You also handled it quite well in explaining very nicely how to get the information. Given the "could you mail me an outline for my paper" requests, however, some of these students are just not going to be happy unless you award them an A right now and excuse them from the rest of the semester. You may find, however, that the rest of the class appreciates you and your professionalism.

 

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