Wondering. . .

Me: Josh, what is this that you handed in? Why is the bibliography not annotated? The syllabus specifies that this has to be an annotated bibliography, there are specific explanations on how to make one in the syllabus, I have sent out 4 reminders, and we spoke about this in person. What happened?

Student: Oh, I see! I’ve been wondering why you keep repeating “annotated bibliography,” “annotated bibliography”! I had no idea you actually meant we had to submit an annotated bibliography.

Seriously.

But of course nobody is going to beat the achievement of that student who asked, looking completely shocked, “Oh, so you meant the composition had to be in Spanish??” in a course titled Intermediate Spanish II.

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25 comments on “Wondering. . .

  1. I have the same thing happen to me from time to time. It’s so aggravating. Another thing I love is when I give the students a outline, stating exactly what to do for the assignment, and then they complain about their grade when they lose points because they didn’t follow the directions.

      • I’m related to someone who once told a teacher in elementary school (completely seriously): “It’s not fair that I have to take this test, I didn’t study for it at all.” Fortunately by adulthood they straightened out.

        Kind of on topic, IME (ommv) most people who loudly complain about stupid, unbearable bosses are just really bad at following instructions. Their supervisor says “Do XYZ” and they do ‘RCB’ instead because it’s easier or how they’re used to doing it and who’s the boss to tell them what to do anyway and those disastrous results aren’t their fault because if it was that important the boss should’ve explained exactly why they were supposed to do XYZ…

        There are a few exceptions, but when people complain about how unreasonable their bosses are, I mostly hear: “I couldn’t pour piss out of a boot with instructions printed on the bottom”.

        • “There are a few exceptions, but when people complain about how unreasonable their bosses are, I mostly hear: “I couldn’t pour piss out of a boot with instructions printed on the bottom”.”

          – This is the best. :-) :-)

      • I had/have the opposite problem. I pay too much attention to the word and not enough to the spirit of the instructions. This is certainly a neurotic aspect I have developed in certain situations. Eventually all the words seem to clash and I can’t tell what they’re saying, because I have too much advice. So, then I metaphorically drop everything I had been carrying, and simply give up.

      • Though, I actually think my tendency to try to look deeper and deeper into the meaning of an instruction to the point that I can’t see it has to do with my father’s way of training me as a child. He would ask me to do something and I would, but then he would say it wasn’t what he had in mind, and I was being cheeky.

        • I think that my students were also made so careless by their upbringing, albeit in an opposite way. I think they are the product of parents who think it’s cute to baby their little darlings well into adulthood. They have this general conviction that this kind of thing is cute and should be admired.

          • Yes. I think Westerners tend to assume I must have had this similar kind of background as the coddling one. So they put pressure on me, believing that will help me to conform, toughen up and see the light. Only it has the directly opposite effect — it just makes me wonder what it means, switch off emotionally, and get confused as to whether to follow inner principles or external ones.

          • Also, I should mention, my father used to fly into a rage and hit me, really, really hard, at times continuously.

            That is, if I misunderstood his directives and for some reason he needed to believe I did that on purpose.

            So, when people load me down with a lot of directives in an incautious manner, I do get very confused.

              • Actually, I don’t know if it was so horrible. Certainly it was very horrible at the time, and it makes me very inclined to have to battle my confusion related to superego at times. But I think the much more horrible thing occurred much later, when my father lost his sense of reality at times, after we migrated. He became convinced that I had power over him, and that he had to lash out and fight back. As I put the pieces together, it turns out that he was angry at his mother over early issues of abandonment, and the pressures of migration and change had reopened an old wound for him.

                What would have been nice is if, when I had brought this to the attention of authorities numerous times, somebody had actually believed me. This didn’t happen and that’s what really hurt.

              • “What would have been nice is if, when I had brought this to the attention of authorities numerous times, somebody had actually believed me. This didn’t happen and that’s what really hurt.”

                – You actually took this to the authorities? It is a rare person that can do that, so good for you. Of course, they were total jerks for doing nothing about it.

              • Well, I told a lot of people whom I thought could stop it. Not the official authorities — i.e. not the police, although I thought of doing that, but I realized I didn’t have a case of any sort. So I took it to unofficial authorities — adults, people around me…people whom I thought were more established in society than I.

              • In all, I think the disinclination of people to help had a deeper meaning on another level. I think those who inhabited the colonies were seen to have made a Faustian deal, much in the same way that those who volunteer for military service seem to set themselves apart for both abjection and reverence. So, there really is no turning back, toward “civilization”, if you happen to get damaged in the process. You are seen to have committed to something, and people won’t let you rejoin civilization or to receive its niceties.

                At least, Westerners won’t.

                That’s what pushed me down the path of Nietzsche and Bataille and intellectual shamanism and the wildman.

                It’s like people won’t let you rejoin the conventional path. No explanation or request suffices.

                But then again, I have rejoined a lot of normality through the orient.

  2. This happens all the time.

    Military veterans are great students for this reason. “We follow these instructions exactly … and then we use our judgment, taking into consideration certain general goals and principles? OK, I have it, fine.”

  3. I assume that students have no idea what an annotated bibliography is. So if I want them to do one, then I give them examples of what I’ve done in the past, personally. They still don’t get it sometimes, but I try to coach them through it as much as possible.

    • “The syllabus specifies that this has to be an annotated bibliography, there are specific explanations on how to make one in the syllabus”

      …but I guess you are right, the more examples, the better. I have found students have a very hard time making these, which is why they are a good exercise. To do them one has to have read the bibliographical item, not just cite it or quote from it, and one has to be able to synthesize and contextualize. I am very much for all of this!

      • “To do them one has to have read the bibliographical item, not just cite it or quote from it, and one has to be able to synthesize and contextualize. ”

        – This is precisely why it has to be annotated. I need to know that they have started working on the essay. If I don’t assign an annotated bibliography, they will just copy-paste a list of sources that might have no use for their projects and leave the actual research for April.

    • There is a detailed explanation with examples in the syllabus and we went over it in detail on class, after which I sent out a PP presentation on the subject. Believe me, this is not for lack of trying on my end.

  4. I am going to confess that I do not understand what the term “annotated” means here. My first guess was that it meant that each bibliographic entry had to be preceeded or followed by a bit of text explaining its relevance and mentioning the specific line and page of the text where it is referenced. I have seen this from time to time, but it is not the practice in mathematics. The other possibility was that each work cited had to be referred to by listing the relative prestige of the publication. I am skeptical that either of these is what is meant by the term, but I cannot think what else it could mean,

    • Each bibliographic entry should be followed by a paragraph explaining how it is relevant to the research that is being done and how it will be used in the piece that is being written. This is required to prevent students from handing in lists of bibliographic entries that have nothing to do with their research and get them to engage with the scholarship.

      • Aha. We do not do this in mathematics at all. We do refer in the text to a reference by a bracketed reference such as [3] or [3, p 447] or even [3, Theorem A]meaning that this information is from reference #3, or more specifically from reference 3, page 447, or from Theorem A in reference 3. I think people in some fields use a superscript for such notes. We use footnotes only to credit support or describe an author’s position.

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