In Honor of my Blogoversary: My First V-Log and My Very First Post

Posted by on Apr 10, 2012 in Communicating with Professors, General | 36 comments

(Happy Blogoversary to me… and to you! It’s been one year since The Chatty Professor began and I thought I’d celebrate with my first Vlog, and my very, very first post. Enjoy! And I can’t wait for our further conversations!)


Plead. Cry. Yell. Play victim. Apologize.

After 13 years of teaching, I’ve witnessed all sorts of reactions when students learn that they aren’t getting the grade they “needed.” But this was a first:

A bribe.

It was almost a “good” bribe, too:  Student would babysit my kids or mow my lawn.

I don’t have a lawn. I do have kids. And it is hard to find a good babysitter these days…

Seriously, did Student think bribery would actually work? Apparently so.

I was not surprised that Student was upset with the final grade. All quarter, Student apparently had a particular outcome in mind. Student needed a certain GPA in order to get into a program at another institution. The final grade in my class missed the mark, but was, unfortunately well-deserved based on Student’s performance.

Of course, it would have been helpful if Student told me about the needed GPA early in the term. Maybe we could have actually done something about it–like hatch a plan for early review of work, continual checking of grades to see if Student was on track, etc. But in week 10 when finals are flying? Rewind is not possible.

So, desperate student = desperate bribe.

I’m almost surprised it didn’t happen sooner in my career. I’ve seen a load of tweak-out come week 10, all as a result of poor planning or life unexpectedly getting in the way, which, of course, happens to all of us.

What did I say to Student? Essentially, that a bribe was:

a) Something I could or would never accept (and as if I’d really have this person watch my kids!);

b) Highly unethical;

c) Highly unprofessional;


d) Cause for me to escalate the matter to my Division Chair if the dialogue continued, which could have far deeper ramifications for Student’s overall college career.

Fortunately, Student apologized profusely and accepted the grade.

While I’m definitely in disbelief about the approach, I am empathetic. Being blind-sided never feels good. Having that “Oh, crap! What am I going to do now?” feeling never feels good either. However, these feelings hopefully drive new behaviors and improved communication. As Maya Angelou says, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

How can Student communicate better next time?

Number one:  Never, ever bribe a professor for a grade! This seems obvious, right?

Number two:  Start a dialogue EARLY with a professor about the needed/wanted grade. Find out what that grade will require. Stay after class, make an appointment, send an e-mail, carrier pigeon, anything! Learn what needs to be done, do it, and keep tabs on progress. Sounds like a no-brainer, but too many students don’t do it and find themselves in a sweat at term’s end.

A bribe.

There is no place in college (or anywhere, for that matter) for bribery. Well, maybe The Soprano’s School of Mafia-Related Communication. And even there, the most artful bribe could get you whacked.




  1. I loved your video!!! Great job Ellen!!! :)

    • Thank you, Monica! It was really fun to do that. I was so nervous :-) . How did I go into the classroom cold? I appreciate your encouragement and comment. Look forward to more conversations :-) . Ellen

  2. Congratulations, Ellen! Thanks for your contributions to the blogosphere and the conversation. And thanks for all your support over the past year!

    • Hello!
      Thank YOU for all your wonderful support, particularly all those amazing posts with the thoughtful questions at the end. I love the lesson plans built right in :-) . I hope we will be able to meet in Ohio at some point. My daughter is there typically every summer for a day or so on her way to Chicago, so, very possible. I look forward to more connection!

  3. Woohoo love it!

    • Michael,
      You really encouraged me on this. I kept thinking, “I’ve got to do it!” Your voice was in my head for months. Now I’ve done it! And I will again :-) . So many thanks!

  4. I very much enjoyed the vlog, Ellen. Please keep them in your repertoire. And we still have to do that Google+ Hangout, so I can see that enthusiastic communication style in this vlog (and over the phone) “live and in color”.

    • Hi, Brian,

      Thank you! Now that I got over the shock of doing this… finally!… I definitely will do it again. The issue, of course, will be keeping it brief. I’m not just saying that either. It’s an issue for me :-) .

      Okay, yes, Google+ is my next goal. I promise! We have to meet “live” :-) .

      A million thanks. I love our interactions!

  5. Ellen, in my book… You Are Awesome!

    • Hi, Ted,

      Thank you a million. That goes right back to you–you know I think you are absolutely a master (speaker, person, dad, etc…). You give me a tremendous amount of encouragement. I appreciate you so and am SO glad we were able to meet. Looking forward to more connection :-) .

  6. Ellen, You are so adorable! Enjoying reading your wit and charm and now seeing in your v-blog. Happy Anniversary girl and keep it up. Elizabeth

    • Hi, Elizabeth,

      Thank you so much! That video took me, like, 20 tries! How did I ever go into the classroom cold? :-) I just had to get over it… I appreciate your encouragement. I think I’ll attempt it again for sure.

      I look forward to more conversation!

  7. Love SEEING you Ellen. So cute and love your hair! I hope I’ll also see you at #DadChat tonight as the topic sort of relates to college and its costs…we are Teaching Responsibility.

    I bribed a professor once, btw…well, sort of. I challenged him to a game of squash for an “A.” I won, got the “A!”

    • Hi, Bruce,
      Awww… thank you, my friend! I am trying to let myself have more hair :-) . We’ll see how that goes. My husband is former military and jokes that my hair shouldn’t be as short as his. But, I’m going to do what I want, of course!

      I have my daughter’s science fair tonight, but I should be on board for the first 1/2 hour of #DadChat. Love the topic!

      Really? A professor, you, and squash? So I take it this was while you were “in” the professor-student relationship? Haven’t you read my other posts about this? ;-)

  8. Love the vlog! (Had to click on it from your blog post to even have an idea what the term meant. Trailblazer Ellen!) You rock, sister! Happy one-year birthday to the Chatty Prof. :)

    • Awww… thank you, Laura. How do we go into the classroom cold? Do you know how nervous I was to put that together? :-) . I really appreciate all your support over this past year. I remember that very first blog post. I can’t believe the journey. Thank you for being part of it. xo. Ellen

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