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.
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.