I’ve got a student. We’ll call him Larry.
Larry is really pretty representative of most of my students. He’s smart enough to do exceedingly well in all of his classes – mine included – he just chooses not to. Whether he realizes this as a choice of his own making or whether he considers himself an unfortunate victim of circumstances, I don’t know (but I can certainly make a good guess). Regardless of WHY Larry doesn’t turn in his work or show up for the majority of the classes, the fact remains that Larry DOESN’T turn in his work or show up for the majority of the classes.
We at TCC run 11-week terms. Around week 5 or 6, I distributed progress reports* to those of my students who were in danger of, or who were in fact, failing. Larry actually received one of those reports because, as the Universe would have it, Larry actually showed up for class that day. Attached to that report was a copy of Larry’s entry in my grade book, showing him all the assignments that had been recorded as zeros because I’d not received anything from him. (It might be important to mention here that this is at least Larry’s second attempt to pass composition. O’Mama told me the other day that she had to record his failure in her class last term.)
I announced to the five students (who showed up and received their reports that day – I wrote many more than five) that I would accept their work late. This is a CLEAR violation of the stated policy in my syllabus, I reminded them, but if they were willing to knuckle under and do the work that was expected of them, I would be willing to go back a bit on my policy.
We’re in week 10. Guess who came to me in a panic after class on Monday, horrified that he was going to fail the class? He can’t fail the class, he explained, because this is his last opportunity to take it before his internship. If he fails, he loses the internship and has to arrange for another in a later term.
Week 10 of an 11-week course, is what I’m sayin’ here.
I met with Larry on Wednesday (it should be noted that I had to hunt him down – he was supposed to come looking for me) and gave him a repeat performance of the speech I gave him when he got his original progress report, along with a not-so-gentle chiding about his choice to wait until week 10 of an 11-week course to begin to attempt to do something about it.
Because I’m rather fond of my ass and like to keep it safe at all times, I composed this email to Larry this morning and cc’d it to his department head. I want to make sure that this doesn’t turn into a he-said/she-said scene. I know that kids get nutty when they’ve realized how badly they’ve screwed themselves over, especially when the loss of an internship is the consequence of that screwing. I don’t want to be the recipient of the rage of a cornered student on the losing end of his own stupidity.
I’m writing you this email as evidence of our conversations and the agreement that we made yesterday, Wednesday, March 12. If you have anything to add, email me back and I’ll keep that as part of the record, too.
You came to me on Monday, March 10 (in week 10 of an 11-week course), concerned that you were going to fail our composition class. You’d received a progress report from me earlier in the term (I’m sorry – I don’t have the date that I gave that to you handy, but it should be on your progress report copy – I believe it was around the middle of February), warning you that your grade at that point was insufficient to pass and that, if you continued your current performance, you’d fail the course.
It is my policy, stated clearly in my syllabus and repeated often in class, that I do not accept late work. If I were to hold to that policy, there would be no chance that you could pass this class; you’ve failed to turn in many online assignments in addition to several in-class pieces, a writer’s journal, and a research paper (I gave you a copy of your current entry in my grade book both with your progress report and when we met yesterday). I am willing to bend my policy in your case; however, all of the work that was assigned for this class must be completed and handed in no later than Monday, March 17th by 1:00 or I will leave the zero grades in place and you will receive a failing grade for this course. If all the work is completed and handed in on time, the best grade you will receive is a D.
When we met yesterday, also I told you that you would have served yourself far better had you come to me earlier in the semester to discuss your trouble in keeping up with the work. I stated several times in class – and more than once in emails to the group – that I understand that many of you are working very hard; that you have a lot of work in all your classes, combined with jobs and responsibilities outside of college. The fact that you waited until literally the last minute to come to me with your problems does not speak well of your ability to manage those responsibilities. My hope is that you take that away as a lesson in all of this: people are very often willing to make arrangements and compromises if you come to them – early and honestly – with your needs.
* I despise progress reports. These are college students; they should be able (and willing) to keep track of their own grades. I resent them even further because we have to write them by hand (despite the fact that my gradebook program has a neat-o feature that will print progress reports for me) on a four-part form, so not only do we instructors have to fill out all the information on every report (and trust me; there are a lot of them) but we’ve got to use ball-point pen and use the force of a silverback gorilla.