Friday, March 02, 2007

Letters to my students, all unsent

Dear Baby-Faced Male Student Who Is Actually Nearly 30,

I'm glad that you came to see me today to discuss your writing. I was interested to learn more about your background and happy to offer some career advice. However, I was less thrilled by the pungent cologne that your chose to wear to this meeting. I very much hope that this was not applied for my benefit--but since I've never noticed the offending scent when returning homework assignments or talking with you in class, I fear that it may have been. Please: throw that shit out ASAP.


Dear Totally Brilliant History Major,

I can't believe that you wrote your 82-page senior essay on a subject very similar to one of my own projects, and I can't wait to attend your presentation at RU's student scholarship fair. I'm sure you'll get into a great graduate program. But--maybe when you speak in class, you could do so at a slightly higher volume? You participate a lot, and you don't appear to be shy, but you need to PROJECT, my friend.

Thanks! Love you!

Dear Formerly Cheerful Student,

Yes, it's true that I busted you for text-messaging in class when you should have been working with your group, and I'm sure that was embarrassing--even though I did so privately and I doubt any of your classmates noticed.

HOWEVER, the appropriate response to being busted is not to mentally absent yourself from the class for the next hour and ten minutes by sitting four feet away from the rest of your group and not talking to them. Snap out of it!


Dear Student in All Three of My Classes,

I admit it: I was concerned when I discovered that a brand-new transfer student had registered--at the very last minute--for all three of my classes. I assumed that you were a clueless and poorly-advised community college transfer, and that you'd do badly and soon hate me.

I had no idea that you would turn out to be one of my very smartest students and a funny, delightful person. And the fact that you already have an undergraduate degree in music performance? Means you can scan and close-read the shit out of any poem you encounter.

I'm so happy you're in my classes. I'm even happier that you seen to have become friends with another of my favorite students.

Thanks for existing!


Tenured Radical said...

Fabulous, as usual Flavia: can I second the cologne comment? Peeyew! Now I know they don't put it on especially for me, as I am not young like you and I am a well-known lesbian to boot, but they leave trails of awful scent behind that doesn't go away for ever. Gag.

I have warned Extravaganza that if he is thinking if buying cologne he must alert me immediately so that I can pay for something tolerable.


Tenured Radical said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Texter said...

Did you really speak with Text-Messaging Student privately? How?

When I am addressing the class, and I see a student with cell phone flipped open, I try to have no qualms about saying something out loud ... Today, though, I was "lecturing" - (presenting ideas and inviting responses)- and students were in rows facing forward. In the VERY FRONT ROW, there is one of my male students with cell phone open, text messaging (the same one I've called out before.)

Normally, I would either gently nudge him as I walked by, or look at him with my brow furrowed and say "C'mon, X" or "?"...But today I was having such a good day and the class was going so well, that I decided to not tarnish it by calling him out, but ugh.... (P.S. This is the same student who two weeks ago sat (in a classroom of 12) with an open copy of Descartes (not even trying to hide cover) while we discussed Our Subject in my class (which is not philosophy)! When I asked to speak with him about this after class, he laughingly told me he likes to "multitask"!

anthony grafton said...

Wonderful post. Is there a new tendency to compose letters in the style of Moses Herzog? Other wonderful specimens are at NOBODY SASSES A GIRL IN GLASSES. Form aside, all my admiration for your ability to confront the in-class messager.

Flavia said...


Well, semi-privately. I was returning papers and whatnot as my students were working in groups, and I went up to her and in a low voice told her please not to do that in class, mentioning that I had a policy on my syllabus specifically dealing with such things. (Cell phones must be turned off; computers may be used for notetaking, but if I catch someone emailing or surfing the web, I'll ask them to leave and will count them absent for the day--and the same applies to text messaging.) So, one or two of the people around her may have heard me, but they were pretty busy.

She's a good student and it seemed like merely a lapse in judgement, so I didn't enforce the policy in her case (which is another reason I was irritated by her subsequent behavior).


Yes, I think it is a popular genre or meme in the blogosphere--this is the first time I've composed a series of letters (I've sometimes written just a single one, to an irritating colleague or student), but I freely admit to stealing the concept from other bloggers.

Anonymous said...

Flave -

Figured this would be as good a time as any to ask: how shall we pronounce your nom de blog?

I keep thinking "Flave," like "Flavor Flav." Although I know you in real life & and can picture you with fuzzy pink dice in your car and some serious rims, I'd still like to play it safe.

That is, does "Flavia" rhyme with "Mafia" and "Sony Bravia"?


Flavia said...


I pronounce it Flave-ia (and you're not the first person to make the Flavor Flav connection--I guess I gotta stop wearing that clock!), which seems to be the standard pronunciation on this side of the Atlantic. Back in the mother country, however, our people would indeed pronounce it with the same "a" as "mafia."