Monday, November 21, 2005

End-of-term madness

It is panic season. With the wonky academic scheduling, there are only two classes left -- the Tuesdays before and after Thanksgiving. Then finals. Then...life.

Right about now you start to wonder how you'll grade all those research papers. Two classes --one with 22, one with 64. Why did you assign such long papers? At least a half-hour per to read, mark and figure out the grade. Shoot me now.

Right about now the worst students go into full-on breakdown mode. The dreaded emails arrive, always leading with chilling words: "Can I schedule a meeting with you...?"

After four months they finally have awakened to the fact that failing is no longer an option. It's a certainty.

Warned a few weeks into the term that they should drop the course because they're already behind, they stubbornly dig in their Ugg-shod heels and swear they'll catch up. But they don't. They come to class and doze. They shrug off deadlines and skip exams. They just shuffle slower and slower toward the inevitable.

What can I do to pass this class?

Invent a time machine, set it for mid-August and start all over. That's about the size of it, kiddo.

I had a lot of problems this semester. I'm seeing three counselors. I'm on medication. My asthma. My peanut allergy. My colon. My migraines. My parents. My boyfriend. My girlfriend. My roommate.

The excuses blend into a chorus of desperation. Sung in a minor key.

If I don't pass this class, I have to stay another year! If I don't get a B, I'll lose my scholarship!

You steel yourself against them. Rules are rules. You read my syllabus. You had the schedule. There are no makeup exams. There is no extra credit. You cannot do another paper.

My group kicked me off the project. I had a car accident over the weekend. My computer got fried. My backpack was stolen.

And inside your head, bees swarm.

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You nailed it sister. And their first sentence always begins with "It's not MY fault that..."

7:37 PM  
Anonymous Tina said...

Holy crap... I'm dealing with this now. They begged for extra credit, but few did the extra credit assignment. Quite a few have stopped coming to class... requests to make up the test abound. Projects are due next week and there are no extensions - I have to brace myself for the excuses. Finals are the next week and I'm prepared to deal with people that don't like the scheduled time.

Next semester will be better, right? ;)

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was 2 & 1/2 years into a 3 year course when I had a breakdown and had to cut back to just one subject. It did end up taking me another year to finish in the end (I had to drop another subject the next semester.) To this day I still have the 'failing everything' nightmare and would think twice about doing another course because of it.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Cold Potato said...

Just be sure to figure out which ones really are having problems.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was an adjunct at a nice Catholic school and had a student flat-out lie to me about her father dying and her brother committing suicide in her roo, leaving the implcation that she had molested him etc..

Another prof became suspicious and asked the counseling office for verification. She couldn't produce, and ended up failing out of school. I know that because I saw her the next year at my two-year school... she smiled and waved, and I was around the corner before I recognized the lying skank.

Sometimes the lies are just that, lies...

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeesh.

But, like cold potato says, do try to figure out which students are really having problems. I was eternally grateful in undergrad for the two-day extension on a big paper that a prof gave to me when my long-distance then-boyfriend was threatening suicide. People who flat-out lie about crises make it that much harder for those of us who have legitimate ones to get needed leniency.

2:01 AM  
Blogger Hillapatra said...

Out of all my years in school I have never once had to schedule an appointment with a teacher. We get sick, we have things going on... I'd rather shoot myself then have to beg a teacher for a better grade.
The only reason they keep coming in is because some teachers do indeed let them have slack for it. Bravo for standing your ground. Perhaps the news will get out and less of those kind of students will take your class next semester.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Deborah said...

This is unrelated to teaching, but similar as far as lies go. My last job had me working in HR, hiring young people to conduct inventory in hospitals. We'd get call-ins or no-shows all the time. I had a couple that left a message over the weekend that one of their relatives had died.

I was floored when my boss ordered me to call them and require proof. Now that I've read your posts, I see her in a better light. This generation will stoop to any low to get out of their responsibilities.

12:13 PM  
Blogger theprofessor said...

I always asked for airline ticket stubs and printed obituaries when students claimed they'd gone home for a family funeral. A colleague taught me that one.

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only once did I have a professor ask me for a newspaper as proof, but it was more for his amusement then for actually trying to catch me at anything.

I was on an off-campus program is D.C. but went back to my home campus for the school newspaper's 150th anniversary weekend. I was supposed to fly back on Sunday. On Monday morning, I called the prof before class and explained to him that while I was at my home university, the dorm I was staying in with a friend had caught fire and was destroyed. My purse was in the building and I was not allowed to get on the plane, as I did not have my driver's license. The prof laughed and said that stoy was too good to have been made up, but that a newspaper was required. When I showed up on Tuesday, he took the paper from me, laughed some more, and said that from now on all late assignment excuses will be measured against, "I was in a dorm fire in Indiana."

On another occasion, I did have to miss class for a funeral of a high school friend who had died suddenly(she died of asthma attack). No obiturary was necessary because he trusted me and could see I was upset. I would have been horried if I was asked for proof. I was upset enough as is, getting proof was the last thing on my mind. It's a shame that we need the physical proof and can't just trust the student.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Red River said...

I missed two weeks of classes when we rolled our car in North Dakota and then spent a week in a hotel during a blizzard. We rented a car and drove home. I had pictures and receipts, but still the profs were not happy - they said I should have called the Dept secretary.


Well, I did and left messages with the dept secretary for all of them. I was able to produce phone calling card statements. When I talked with the Dean of Students, he had the scretary come in, and she was pretty embarassed.

I think it helped that I had an A average in every class. I'd taken my books with me and was able to study and had all the homework ready to be turned in - so I actually did very well on the makeup finals.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Lauren said...

This post struck a nerve with me, because I've been in the position of the student who's life just falls apart around finals. My father was critically ill and, though there wasn't enough money for me to fly back, I was too upset to work or study. While there were hospital records and the like, I think it would have been an unnecessary burden on my family in a time of stress to have to provide proof to all of my professors. Maybe it's different from the professor's side of things, but I couldn't dream of asking an obviously upset student for a printed record of their family member's death, especially if it was a parent, or if the student had been doing well in the class previously.

I go to a small school, so maybe it's different from a large university, but we have pretty good communication between departments and administrators. If you're having major problems or need to go home, you generally only have to talk to a counselor, a faculty member, or a dean, and they'll talk to the dean of students, who e-mails all of your professors and explains the situation. In the rare cases where the professor doesn't honor the dean's request, the professor, student, referring faculty member, and dean meet and reach an agreement.

It's extremely useful, because most students have personal relationships with at least one dean or administrator. In my case, I had already talked with the dean about my dad's illness and my financial situation, so she didn't have reason to doubt me. She was even able to get me a student loan from the bursar's office so I could buy a ticket home. Considering everything else that was going on at the time, it was nice not to have to worry about missing finals as well.

I guess our system does leave itself open to being taken advantage of, because you only have to convince one counselor or faculty member that you need an extension for all of your classes. But since the process ultimately requires the dean to take an active role and become the student's advocate, it's unlikely that a student could cheat the system more than once in four years. And I think the possibility of having to meet with the dean, professor, and faculty member if one of them doubts your honesty would deter most students from trying.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm the Adjunct Prof at a good Catholic school above who was lied to about her father and brother's death... the thing about the student was that she didn't seem too upset about the situation. I thought it was her way of dealing with things, while a colleague didn't trust that impulse.

I actually have trusted other students -- like the African student who recently had to go home to Africa because of her mother's sudden death. When someone cries on your shoulder for 5 minutes in the hallway, they are pretty convincing...

1:31 AM  
Anonymous lucille said...

I just lay it all out at the beginning: if you contact me 24 hours ahead of time, you're excused and/or you get the extension. If you don't, bring in verifiable proof and I'll verify and excuse you. If you don't have the proof, have another University office call me and explain the situation. The responsible students always come through, and since it's a blanket policy they don't feel I'm singling them out for suspicion. The irresponsible ones drop like flies.

But it's true, I never had to do that at my previous small-college job.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous renita said...

Imagine my amusement. I was reading through the comments. I was thinking "and how about that dorm fire at my university back in '02..." And then, lo and behold, I see a post from my friend who was staying in said dorm said weekend! ;)

2:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a student claim my requirement of verification of illness was a violation of HEPA... probably because I actually ASKED for it...

6:17 AM  
Blogger Koru's Daughter said...

It is after 5:00 pm on Friday at the end of finals. A student calls my home number and asks if I would come in tomorrow, Saturday, because he did not do well in his classes this semester. He wants to change majors right right now. His parents are picking him up at 8:30 am tomorrow morning so would I come in before then? The "No" completely stunned him.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I only give consideration based on the track record unless it is medically related. That being said, it is rare that students performing above C level ask for extentions/consideration. It is the students I have been warning all term that lose their Aunt and have four flat tires the morning of the final.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Mad Crazy Adjunct Love said...

Actually, the colon? Not such a bad excuse. I have no idea how I'm gonna make it through my PhD with IBS. Probably a lot of prayer at this point. I'm usually okay once I get some place but driving = hell. Hrm. Teaching, at least, poses no problems.

10:13 PM  

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