The Waiting Room

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Perpetual Madness

Posted by Seeking Solace |

It's that time of year when I get visits or emails from students who want to know what they need to do to pass my class. They have this sense of urgency in their requests as it is now apparent that they may not pass the course and there is only five weeks left in the semester.

Many of these students are guilty of not doing their work during the course of the semester. They give a plethora of explanations as to why they did not do the assignment. Some just give me the Homer Simpson blinks. These students will beg, plead and sulk, but eventually accept their fate.

But what really bothers me are the students who have not attended class since the second week of school. The student has not contacted me during the course of the semester explaining the reason for their absences and failure to submit work. The student has not responded to any of my emails inquiring about their absence and asking if they need any assistance. But now they contact me with some serious circumstances that would explain their absence followed by:

"Is there anything I can do to pass the course?"

I am very sympathetic to the needs of students. At the last college I worked, many of the students had serious family, home and legal issues that had a huge impact on attendance and performance. I always tell my students that I use the student-professor privilege when dealing with student problems. It is similar to the attorney-client privilege in that I will not reveal any confidences or secrets that a student reveals to me, unless I have reason to believe that the student may do harm to him/herself or others. I even put the phone numbers of numerous campus and local organizations that can provide assistance.

What I don't understand is why students do not come to me or their advisor when the are in crisis. Even if they think they can handle it, why not let those that care about your success help ensure that success? I tell my students that they need to come see me during the crisis, even if they think they can handle the situation. I am more than willing to grant extensions or consider alternatives. But what I cannot do is help them complete a course that they have not attended since the second week of school, even with the most understandable of circumstances.

So, I will tell a handful of students that there is nothing that can be done. I will not reteach topics from two months ago. I will not give extra credit. It is too late to withdraw from the course They will just have to accept the grade.

And the cycle will continue.

6 comments:

Ianqui said...

yes yes yes yes yes. All I can say is that I totally relate. I wonder if changing my beginning of the semester speech about these issues will make a difference, but since other people's already seem to be more forceful than mine, and don't work that well, I guess I'd be deluding myself.

dr four eyes said...

I know what you mean! So many of my students run into serious challenges--major illness, family deaths, childcare issues, etc. But all too often they just disappear for a couple of weeks and then reappear just as suddenly.

Oddly enough, I'm realizing than many of these students *can* salvage the semester if they focus for the next few weeks. Because of how grade policies are mandated by the dept for this course, most of the grades for the class are yet to come. It's heartening not to have to tell them it's a lost cause.

Ellen said...

At my old school, you could drop up to the last day of classes and I much prefer that - cuts down on alot(but not all) the whining

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Maybe I'm just cynical --- but, If I had a student appear in my office in week 12 that I haven't seen since week 2 -- claiming some kind of emergency... I'd think they were lying ---

I had a student (not at my current school), claim her brother committed suicide in her room -- after her father's sudden death in a traffic accident... She told me the brother's suicide note had implications that the sister had been sexually abusing him, so she ended up in a mental-health facility for a few weeks.

I bought the whole story -- but another prof of her's didn't and called the student counselor. The counselor contacted all of her profs --turns out she'd been attending her art class and a class she was taking at a sister school -- she'd just been skipping her philosophy, physics and spanish classes. The counselor asked her for some kind of written verification for the deaths of the father and the brother. When she didn't provide it within the 2-week deadline, the counselor started to do research on her own. The home address was local and the counselor could find no evidence of either death -- finally, she called home and the father answered the phone -- and it turns out she doesn't even have a brother.

From now on, I don't accept stories of doom and gloom --- I require some kind of written verification of the tragedy (tragedy always comes with paperwork). Now I get more 'I got behind and then I didn't come to class because I didn't understand what was going on...'.

Seeking Solace said...

Over the years, I have become quite jaded and believe that someone who comes to me with a laundry list of excuses is lying. I have been burned so many times that my trust level is non existent.

I do require some form of documentation to back up a student's claim, but even at this stage of the game, there is nothing that this student can do to make up the work.

Alice said...

Yes, it's so frustrating. Even though my syllabus clearly states the make-up policy (and I go over it on the first day), students still come up with never-ending excuses.

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