They’ll Be Lucky To Get A C-Minus-Minus

, , , , , , | Learning | January 17, 2018

(I work as a freelance tutor. Most of my students are at the local community college. On this day, I am meeting a student in the early afternoon, but I’ve arrived early and am eating lunch in the cafeteria. A student I’ve worked with before sits down at my table.)

Student: “Hey, [My Name]! What are you up to?”

(I’m a little suspicious, since we don’t know each other well and I’ve never liked her. She’s very demanding, tends to whine rather than even try to do her work, and doesn’t always pay me. But I figure I should be polite.)

Me: “I’m meeting a student after lunch. What have you been up to?”

Student: “Well, actually, I have a C programming project that’s giving me trouble.”

(C programming is my best subject, and I’ve tutored her in it before. I assume she failed and is retaking the class.)

Student: “It would be great if you could take a look!” *gives me puppy-dog eyes*

Me: “Okay, when is it due?”

Student: “Tonight!”

Me: “Well, I have a student I’m supposed to meet, but she tends to run late. You can come with me to the room where we’re meeting, and I’ll help you until she shows up, all right?”

Student: “Okay!”

(We go to the classroom and the student turns on the computer.)

Me: “First, can you bring up the class and show me the assignment, so I know what you’re trying to do?”

(She opens the assignment on the computer and shows it to me.)

Me: “I thought you said you were taking C programming? This is C++.”

Student: “Oh, yeah. I guess it is C++.”

Me: “Well, I can Google the shortcuts that I don’t know; it’ll just take a little longer. Can you show me what you’ve done so far?”

Student: *blank stare, not even guilty or scared, just uncomprehending*

Me: “Have you started this assignment?”

Student: “No.”

(We start the assignment from scratch, and I am able to Google what I need, but the student is being uncooperative as usual. Whenever I ask her a question, whether it’s about course material, how she would start to solve a problem, or even basic knowledge like how many days are in a year, she just gives me a blank look and says she doesn’t know. Finally, when we’re about halfway done…)

Me: “Look, this isn’t something you would have memorized in class. You just need to think about it for a second.”

Student: “I shouldn’t have to put up with this! I’m really trying and you just give me this attitude all the time!”

Me: “Let’s review. This program was assigned to you a week ago. You have done no work on it. You have made no effort to get help; it was pure dumb luck you ran into me in the cafeteria. You don’t even know the name of the class you’re taking. I agreed to work you, cutting my lunch short, on zero notice, and to help you write a program from scratch in a language I haven’t even taken a class in, knowing the odds are only about 50-50 that you’re even planning to pay me. I’ve sat here for the last half hour doing far more of the work than I should have, while you have refused to make any effort whatsoever. You know what? You’re absolutely right. You shouldn’t have to put up with that.”

(I packed up my stuff and walked out without another word as she tried to backpedal. Don’t worry about my original student; I texted and arranged to meet her in another room. The next day I mentioned the incident to one of the computer science professors, and his only comment was, “She got halfway through that program?”)

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