“Can you set up the practical for me next week? I’m just not ready for it this week.”
I slowly unclench my fingers from the mouse as I read this email from a student the evening before our first lab practical of the semester. Four weeks into the semester, it does seem about time for these kind of desperate requests. Nonetheless, it is so hard to not be riled up by the request. I breathe for a few moments, compose a response, delete it (too biting), breathe a little more, compose a new response (better), and send it. The gist of my reply is “no”. I elaborate that it would be unfair to do that for one student over all of the others. I drop their lowest exam or lab practical, so if he bombs this, it will just be his lowest score and not affect his overall course grade. Later that evening, I get a reply.
“Okay, I can see that reasoning. I was just stressed with work and wanting to do well. I’ll crack down on the books tonight and be as prepared for tomorrow as possible.”
Wow…maturity. Who woulda guessed? That kicks up my “high hopes” level for the semester by one notch.
“I’m sorry that I haven’t completed the syllabus quiz – which was assigned the first day and due the end of the second week – but I was bedridden this past week and the internet where I live is too spotty to get email and I was called into work several times this past week and…”
A little background for you. I assign the syllabus quiz – found online in a test bank – the first day of class. The students need to get a perfect 10 out of 10 on it by the end of the second week (they can take it as many times as they want). If they haven’t gotten the 10 by the deadline, they lose 1% of their overall course grade for each day late.
This student is now two weeks late. I’ve reminded him in person and sent him email reminders. He’s shown up for half of the classes, usually just long enough to take the exam and disappear before I can catch him to chat. He has not done well in the exams but did fair in the lab practical (so, I don’t want to give up on him entirely). Having said that, I’m not thrilled with his inability to complete a simple assignment. If he’s having such trouble with this one assignment, what does that say about the rest of the semester? This one drops down the “high hopes” level for the semester by one notch. We’ll see how/if he progresses.
“I’d like to re-enter the class. After the first week, I had to drop when my work changed my shift schedule. Now, I’ve got it back into check and wonder if you’ll let me back in and catch up on what I missed.”
Breathe. Re-read the email. Unclench the fingers. Breathe. Look at the schedule. She attended for the first week and a half, doing fair in the chapter quizzes. She’s been a student in two previous courses and is stable, solid “B” student usually. She’s missed a week and a half, which includes two quizzes (which is doable as I drop the two lowest quizzes out of seventeen). The first major exam is in a few days. In her email, she mentions that she’s already talked to some classmates, gotten notes, downloaded my PowerPoints, and is reviewing for the exam. I decide to take a gamble and allow her back into the class.
That was a week ago. She took the exam and scored a high “C”, which isn’t bad considering how much she had to catch up to get there. We have two quizzes this next week and the next exam the week after that. We’ll see how she does. My “high hopes” indicator is “pending” for this one so far. Cross your fingers.
Overall, so far:
This semester is a mixed bag of stories and students. You’ve had students like these. You can appreciate how easy it can be to become jaded and not have hope. By the same token, you know what it’s been like to offer hope and…either they reward your hope or they crush it. But, that’s one of the amazing thing about being an educator. We hope.