Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Student Stories

Last Friday was the last day of classes, and I've begun to encounter the students whose grades are not what they had hoped - or needed them to be. The common question now is if there is anything they could do to raise their grade.

D. had a D in my class. He had had attendance issues, having missed six classes (four is my limit; if they miss more than four, they fail); well aware of this policy, at one point he emailed me, after having already missed more than four classes, to tell me he would be missing class to study for an exam in another class. I told him that he would be failing class, after which he came literally running to class. I told him that if he missed one more class, he would fail. Already on probation, he needed a C in order to stay in college. He had done his own calculations to determine how his final grade, but had not taken into account that different assignments are weighted differently, which ultimately affected the end result. He was missing one assignment, but the rest of his assignments were inconsistent: Some were done fine (not necessarily great), while others were poorly written (or, in the case of his journal, only half done, thereby earning him half credit). 

C. was failing my class; he did not hand in one paper (earning him a 0), and those he did hand in were consistently poorly written (Cs and below). At one point during the semester, he asked if I would provide extensive feedback on all his papers and meet with him during my office hours so he could revise his papers. I told him I would provide him feedback on one or two to start with, but I also recommended he visit the Writing Center. He never got me copies of his papers, nor did he visit me during office hours. A day or two before our last class - the class in which we would meet so the students could assemble their portfolios - he asked if he could do anything to bring up his grade. I said he could revise. His response was that while it was not personal - he thought I was "an awesome teacher" - he did not feel like putting in the effort to improve his grade, and therefore would not be coming to the last class. (He noted he would retake it after he returned from his mission.)

E. was failing my class, having not handed in two or three assignments (earning him zeroes in each case), in addition to having had attendance issues as well. After having missed more than four classes, I pulled him aside and told him that if he missed one more class, he would fail. He did miss two more, but told me of extraneous circumstances, for which I excused him. The last week or so of classes, he pleaded his case via e-mail, taking full responsibility for his grades, but asking what he could do to raise his grade, noting that if he failed my course he would not be able to return. I told him that I was so sorry, but at this point there was not much I could do. He didn't show up on portfolio day.

Another C. just looked crushed when he found out what his grade on the last day of class. He asked if there was anything he could do, but I had to tell him no. (He had a very high F, having failed to hand in two papers.)

And tonight I got an e-mail from K., who had a high C. He had done some extra credit, which had increased his grade, but not high enough. A dance major, he needed a B to maintain his dance scholarship, but there wasn't much I could do to add any more points to his grade. He was also missing one paper.

It's amazing how much damage one or two missing assignments can do. Several students will not be continuing their college careers, at least not right now, because they didn't do the work.

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