At the start of the semester for the course I TA, I get to wrap up the first week with a second semi-syllabus day, and cover some minor details that need covering but aren’t worth the instructor’s course time to cover. The material is mostly procedural, and very dry, things like how to get excused from the course for an interview so you don’t lose credit. One of the things I try to make abundantly clear to the students is that it is my intention to treat them as professionals, co-workers almost, but that I have certain expectations of them that they absolutely need to meet.
Overall I think they respond well to this. Inevitably even in a class of mostly seniors, they are not prepared for the notion that they will have to be proactive, I will not seek them out. I explain to them on this intro day, “tell me about issues when they happen so I can work with you” yet every class has a few students who wind up waiting until the days before grades are due to tell me about some computer issue that kept them from submitting things for the entire third and fourth weeks of the class and they need those points to make whatever grade.
It’s at that point I wind up being the mean guy in their eyes, because they want the grade they feel they’ve earned. (maybe there’s a conditioned behavior in there) But I won’t give in. I tend to stick very strictly to the classroom policies and become the mean guy who won’t budge.
I don’t necessarily enjoy denying the students the grades they want. But I also take the classroom environment very seriously, how is it fair to the students who followed policies I established (and have an attendance record for when I said them) to bend the rules “just this once” and what would that do to my credibility. So I guess that just makes me the professional mean guy, a role I think I am ok with, I just wish I didn’t have to deal with the disappointed students who don’t get the grades they feel they deserve.