I’ve got this kid. Let’s call him Sam. Sam is a senior who thinks quite highly of himself and makes no effort to hide his disdain for anyone who doesn’t share that view. He’s not a very good student, though if he spent as much energy working as he does in making excuses for why he can’t work, he’d pass his classes just fine.
Sam spent some time away early in the semester. I don’t know whether he was sick or he went on vacation or what happened – he didn’t bother to get in touch with me at all about his extended absences, and I’m still not sure what kept him out of school, but the upshot is that he missed a significant amount of both class time and work that was expected of him. As a consequence, he failed the first half of the semester, at which point I got an email from his mother.
Let’s just say that once I started having regular contact with the parent, a lot of my questions about the student were answered. You teachers know what I mean.
So I worked out a deal with Sam about the work that he was missing. I went through and re-assigned him the important pieces and let slide the everyday work, explaining to him that while I think the everyday work is important (or I wouldn’t assign it), the major writing assignments and projects are designed to show me that the students can demonstrate proficiency in particular skills and concepts, and it’s those that I need to see in order to judge whether or not he’s performing to a degree of competence that would allow me to ethically issue him a passing grade. I let him set his own deadline, he agreed to the contract, and I waited for the work to come in.
He finished most of the work we agreed to, which is just about what I expected. Also expected was the quality of that work; he gave his shot at redemption just about as much care and effort as he puts into everything else he gives me, which is to say not much (here I’m reminded of Taylor Mali asking “how dare you waste my time with anything other than your very best?”).
What this post is about, though, is the email I received from Sam’s mom this morning asking me why I hadn’t yet issued a grade for one of the bits of work he handed in. While I issued a very professional response along the lines of promising to get to all the students’ grading before the end of the term and about how busy I’ve been assessing the work that continues to come in from my four classes, what I WANTED to ask was exactly what in the name of Walt Whitman makes this woman think that I’m going to go out of my way to hurry up and grade mediocre crap that he kid couldn’t be bothered to hand in on time in the first place. Really? No… I mean, REALLY?!
Sometimes, the disrespect, callousness, and sheer arrogance just stuns me.