Frustrations of teaching

I love teaching. Seriously, I find it really fun and enjoyable… most of the time. This semester I find myself with students asking such BASIC questions, I can’t answer them without sounding demeaning or rude.

I teach general chemistry lab, and they aren’t even asking chemistry questions. They can’t follow simple directions. Even after I answer their questions, they repeat the question as if looking for a more satisfactory response! Here are some examples of what I’ve been fighting with my response in parentheses (and these are NOT all from the same student or students):

I don’t have enough room on my data table. What should I do? (Turn the page.) But there’s not enough room right HERE. (Just make a new table.) So do I have to complete the experiment, since there’s not enough room on the data table? (Yes. You must complete the experiment.)

What’s due for this lab? (Just look on the handout, its written there.) But what graphs do I need? (Just look at the handout.) Can’t you just tell me? (Did you do your prelab?) Yes. (Then you should know what will be due) Yeah, but I don’t remember. What’s due? (All I’m going to do is take that handout and read it to make sure I tell you the right answer. I’m not going to tell you anything that’s not on the handout.) Yeah, but come on. (No. I refuse to read this to you. You can read. You need to read this, do the work, and decide what’s due. ) Yeah well… ok.

I didn’t write my lab notes in my lab notebook, but you can sign this anyway, right? (No. You must always write your lab notes in your lab notebook.) Well, can’t you sign it anyway? (No. You do not get a signature. I refuse to sign your lab data unless it is in the lab notebook.) Can I meet you later to sign it then? Like, if I transfer it over? I have class right now, so we can meet later. (No. As it says in the course syllabus, you must write your lab data in the lab notebook. I will not sign data outside of lab, nor will I sign data that is not written in the lab notebook.) Well, I’ve done it like this before… (No. I do not sign data unless it is in the lab notebook.) So will I lose points for this? (Yes.) How many? (I don’t know yet, as I haven’t graded the report.) Well, thanks, have a good weekend.

Why did I lose points here? (You mention a fictional character in your prelab. She is completely irrelevant to the experiment.) But I just mentioned her name!  copied it form the lab manual. (The introduction of a lab report should include main points and ideas relevant to the experiment. This fictional character was used in the introduction to present a hypothetical problem to better explain the experiment that you did.) Grrr.

These new labs are really hurting our grades. (The average on the last lab was the same as the one for this new lab. I don’t really see why you would say that.) But look how olow the class average is! (You do realize that a low class average actually HELPS your grade, right?)

How are you supposed to answer these questions? How do these students even have the gall to ask? If someone told me the answer was in the lab handout, I would be so embarrassed that I missed it the first time that I would shrink away feeling stupid. I really think that the majority of these students should fail; they aren’t suited to move on to the second semester. They need more practice with the basics. The sad part? I’m sure my overseeing professor will pass every single one of them. What good is busting my butt teaching when they all move on regardless of what they learn? *frustration*

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