Yep. I know.

Get over it.

Look. If you haven’t figured it out already, I think you’re lazy and whiny and missing the point of everything we’re doing. That was exaggerated, by the way, but not by too much. The work we did on 2 Million Minutes, “For Once Blame the Students” and “I Just Wanna Be Average” was scheduled intentionally for this point in the semester when you start to lose your beginning-of-the-year mojo. This little intervention is to remind you that an AP class is essentially a college course and because you’re not yet collegians, it will be hard for you. That’s how it’s supposed to go. You won’t just be showered with A’s and candy and smiley faces and glitter; you won’t be reminded of everything that you’re juggling for the class. I recognize that you are all busy and overextended, that’s kind of the way of the modern world, I’m busy and overextended too, but that doesn’t get to excuse you from your responsibilities for this class, just like that doesn’t excuse me from my responsibilities. 

Some of you have demonstrated a consistently strong work ethic and an understanding of the complexities of rhetoric. Some of you are still struggling with what rhetoric is and what it means and how to talk about it or write about it. That’s fine, but it is 100% up to you to make use of the resources I have provided for you since the first day you walked into class. Still some of you are lost and you aren’t (from what I can tell) doing anything productive about it.  If you’re in that camp, you have a long road back to glory. That is, if you care enough to trudge long enough through the muck to get there.

I will continue to push you, question you, and challenge you, and offer guidance and support, but unless you reach out for it (and reaching out for support is NOT EVEN KIND OF the same thing as asking me what to do or how to do something that I’ve already explained.) you will remain in the dark. Asking for support is more like flopping down in a desk opposite mine and admitting that you’re lost. Admitting that you’ve been struggling and X just still isn’t making sense! And then I will ask what other resources you have exhausted and you will list them all! And then we will chat about where you’re struggling. Don’t come to me expecting me to spoon feed you the answer. Spoon feeding is gross. It’s for two-year-olds and despite your penchant for tantrums, you’re not two-year-olds. Your rhetorical analysis annotations were due today (uh, sorry block 2, I forgot about you in all the hub-bub of getting started on your task. I’ll look at yours tomorrow. And block 1, don’t complain about this. I don’t want to hear it.) and some of you did very little, if anything. I don’t need to check in with you to see that you’ve annotated your text, but I thought it might be a good idea to do so, since otherwise you might not do it, and the effects would be devastating if you did not annotate. Similarly, I don’t need to ask to see an outline…but I might. I also don’t need to require you to have a rough draft, but I am, because otherwise…(fill in the blank). Effects. Devastating. Remember how you had to revise the crap out of your literacy narrative and still maybe didn’t get an A like you had hoped? The same will be true, like times 100, for this paper. It must be oozing with flawless sophistication to earn an A.

You were given a syllabus that provided you with quite a bit of information and there’s no way you retained it all after looking over it once. I get that, but whenever you have a question about something, the logical solution would be to consult the syllabus and then the website and blog and see if I already answered that question. Sure, it would be easier to just ask me. But then I become a monster. Steam pours out my ears and my eyes twitch and become bulbous and my hands contort into claw-fists and my neck bulges and becomes all veiny, and I salivate poison.  Nobody wants that.

So, now that you’re terrified of setting off my inner monster consider this: what is an appropriate and respectful way to approach someone in a position of authority if you have a question or a concern? I promise it’s not this: “Um….so…uhh…. In Skyward…YOU did this…and uh I KNOW I did….” or something equally inane and disrespectful. Skyward doesn’t provide a whole lot in the was of comments and explanations — in fact, while we’re at it, Skyward doesn’t speak so it can’t “says” anything, so if something doesn’t look right to you, by all means ask about it, but please do so respectfully. I’m not a machine and sometimes my fingers hit the wrong keys or an assignment got lost in it’s fellow assignments in the basket. We’ll correct it, no problem, just be respectful about it, that’s all.

Yes, I know I’m all sassy and sarcastic and whatnot. You’ve known this from the first five seconds of class. I hope you also know that I love teaching this class and I honestly do enjoy my students (hey, that’s you!) and for as much work as you do for me, I do lots of it too. I told you at the beginning that I’ll never ask you to do something that doesn’t serve a purpose. I mean that. Everything I ask you to do is for your benefit in the realm of rhetorical analytical, reading, and writing skills.

On that note, here’s an email from a U of M professor on student preparedness:

Sent: Saturday, October 15, 2011 8:27 AM
To: —————–
Subject: Re: High School/College Vertical Alignment

Dear ——–

I can offer you my personal feedback from teaching both freshman seminars and upper division courses.  Most students are horribly prepared in not only writing but close reading of texts.  They don’t know basic grammar, don’t know paragraph and paper organization, and haven’t written much of anything in high school beyond 3-page book reports and reflection pieces.

When I poll freshmen, I learn that the average high school English class has 30-40 students, that throughout elementary and secondary school they never received formal instruction in grammar and composition, and that, on average, only one or two out of 18 actually wrote a research paper of 10 pages or more.

I know that over the past three decades American K-12 has suffered in terms of financing and has plunged from 1st to about 28th in the world, so its failures are owing to structural conditions.  But having said that, I also have to say that K-12 along with the media, political rhetoric, and government policy have dumbed down the American people.

Perhaps you, in your own arena, can provide some small remedies.


Ellen Messer-Davidow
Professor and Chair
Department of English
University of Minnesota

I take what she says very, very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that I used two “verys” — something you should never do because very is a stupid intensifying adverb that is never really necessary. I could say that I take what she says seriously. That should be sufficient, but I want you so know just how serious I am: very, very.

Regardless of what you are writing, for whom you are writing it, and to what purpose, you should write with care and precision. That is what good writers do and that is how they got better in the first place. Your BLA stuff, your CRJs, YOUR BLOG POSTS, and everything else from your chemistry labs to your APUSH stuff should all be written with care. That. Is. How. You. Will. Get. Better. Period.

Do you need an emoticon to know that I still like you even though you frustrate me and make me mad and sad and worried about the future of the world sometimes?

Ok, here: 🙂