Outraged

There’s a bumper sticker that I love that says “if you’re not outraged, you’re just not paying attention.” Well, I’m paying attention, and am I ever outraged.

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I went to visit Joe yesterday. I’m going to be having a conversation with Henry about the quality of his work in my class – or, rather, the lack of quality – and, anticipating a confrontation rather than a conversation, I’ve given Joe the heads-up on my plans. I emailed him samples of Henry’s “work” and a synopsis of our last conversation – the one in which Henry was “offended” by his progress report – and essentially told him that I am interested in covering my ass here. I want full transparency on my part so that if (when) this boy comes to my bosses screaming oppression and discrimination, the people in charge will already know my side of the story.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love my boss, but it bears repeating. This man really is wonderful. He’s fair and even-handed, he really listens, and he’s realistic and practical. He doesn’t have any irrational fantasies about what his faculty have to deal with: he’s taught these kids himself and knows full well what kinds of behaviors they’re willing to demonstrate in order to get what they want. I feel very much that Joe respects my unwillingness to bend to the will of the students who come off with entitlement issues or to pass students who’ve not demonstrated sufficient skill in my classes. In turn, I feel that he understands that I am willing to work with students who are responsible and self-aware enough to ask for exceptions to my policies, and who follow through on their promises when I do.

So, back to Henry: I brought in samples of the boy’s work to back up the claims I made in the email. I made the point of saying that I don’t KNOW that Henry’s going to freak out about the zero he earned on his mid-term, but that there’s nothing in my observations of him to date that makes me think that he won’t. Joe asked to see the “writing” samples I brought, then turned to his computer and did some clicking, eventually coming up with Henry’s grade history.

Are you ready for this?

The kid passed composition with a C average. Did you catch that? He PASSED COMPOSITION.

Joe turned around to see my jaw hanging open like an idiot’s. “You’re serious,” I asked; “Henry passed composition?!”

He was serious – Henry’d taken the class last term and passed it. Henry is a solid C student all around, as well.

I have no idea how this happened, especially if the kid’s work in my class is representative of his work in his other classes. He cannot write coherent English, and I am mortified to think that one of my colleagues thought his work sufficient to pass him. My suspicion is that this passing grade was either a social promotion, the result of threatening on the part of the student, or a weariness of the process and a lack of hope for a better outcome that inspired this professor to slap a C on the report card and be done with it. I had hoped that didn’t happen here (what a naive and silly girl I can be!), but I was wrong. So. Very. Wrong…

I don’t know who that colleague is, but I wish I did. I’d love to find out what about this student’s work earned him a C in a writing class. Truth be told, I also want to know who this professor is so I can know what to expect of students who’ve taken his or her class.

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7 Comments

Filed under colleagues, concerns, frustrations, General Griping, I love my boss, Yikes!

7 responses to “Outraged

  1. Even if he rightfully scored a C average (or whatever you call it in those whacky States of yours) shouldn’t his mark for your class reflect his work in your class, and not his work in classes in previous periods?

  2. Oh, absolutely, Jangari – that’s not my point. My point is that I got this student, whose writing is atrocious, AFTER he was supposed to have learned the basics of composition (and, one would hope, a few of the not-so-basics) in someone else’s class. I was more willing to cut the kid some slack if he’d not taken the writing course already. The fact that he has makes his terrible work that much worse…

  3. sphyrnatude

    Much more likely than this student mastering (or at least absorbing a small portion of) the material in his prior class, is the possibility that he has mastered the skill of convincing his instructors that it is easier to simply give him his “C” so that they won’t have to deal with him again next semester.

    Being able (and willing) to play the race card makes a huge difference too.

    So, what did your boss recomend?

  4. A similar thing happened to me this summer. I had a student who just didn’t “get” what we were doing the first couple of weeks of class. And he would sit there and say he didn’t know where to start, something like a student in your class saying they didn’t know how to write down a sentence.

    I checked his transcript to make sure he had the prereqs to my class. Not only did he have them, he had already taken a version of my class elsewhere and made a C there. What? He knew nothing. So I don’t know how he could have earned a passing grade.

  5. Have you spoken to our HS classmate who works in another department over there? I really think you should cultivate this relationship and observe how things are done in their department. I believe they will only reinforce your feelings about how work should be done and perhaps give you some insight about how to handle the issues as well.

  6. My initial reaction is the same as yours – it seems likely that the C was given by an instructor who, for whatever reason, accepted his work at that level. Is it because the teacher had lower standards? Or because the teacher just didn’t want to deal with Henry any more?
    It’s unacceptable to me that Henry is in his second year of college and can’t write a coherent sentence, so your colleague is just the latest in a long line of teachers who’ve passed him along.

  7. Laurie

    Is it possible he cheated? Perhaps he is no longer dating/friends with the student who wrote the papers for his Composition class. (If he still had access to the source of the passing papers, one presumes he would continue to pass.)

    If this is the first time you have encountered a student so lacking in skills who has passed the Composition course, it might not be the result of a lazy or frightened teacher.

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