Thursday, March 22, 2007

A taste of what is to come?

Over at Acephalous, Scott shares a complaint from his teaching days. A complaint from a young gentleman who claims "I write so very well". Anyone who teaches or plans to teach at any level should have a look and a (if rather pained and horrified) laugh.

Be warned even my worst writing does not reach the level of this young man's missive. Bring your goggles and a strong drink, you'll need them.

Since I've already lamented over sharing classes with people like him in the comments, I thought I'd bring up another side of things. How do you deal with a email/letter/etc. like this from a student? What is the protocol?

Honestly, I can see no benefit in answering the complaint other than inviting the student again in meet with 'me' to discuss the grade. Would the student see this has you starting to give in and pressure more for the grade they think they deserve? Do the girls pull out the water works?

The thing that still gets me is, why bring up problems with grades AFTER you've received your final grade. Bit late now, isn't it?

Say you have two students, A and B. Both have missed a good deal of classes. Both have struggled with assignments. Student B comes in during office hours to talk about their grades and actually listens to what you say. Student A never talks to you, not even through email. Student B grades improve, obviously trying their hardest. Student A keeps running their head into the same wall. Which student will most likely receive a better grade in the class?

If I was a betting woman, I'd say Student B. I'd rather have student B than A. Sadly Student A like the gentleman in Scott's post will never understand that it's too late after the fact.

They hand out faqs on all this when you start teaching right? (Along with a time machine when you finish your Ph.D.)


1 comment:

Bardiac said...

Your post brings up several important issues. When I read the student's email, I read a text revealing a lot of pain. And while people have mocked the text for its inadequacies in those comments, I would hope that Kaufman addressed the student with respect, in a way that might actually help the student. It's easy to mock on the internet, and we all do it, but that doesn't release us from responsibilities and ethics as teachers and people.

It's especially tempting to mock others when they have less power than you have. But it's like treating a waiter like crap; it says more about you than it does about the waiter, and what it says isn't good.

Your question about students A and B: it's important to me to remember that I never grade students. I grade the work they turn in. I can't tell how much work people put into assignments. I can't tell if their roommate just attempted suicide and they can't tell anyone, but are trying to hold things together. I can't tell if they've got a drug problem, or their mom just died of cancer. I can only evaluate the work they hand in.

If student B's work improved, then the grade would improve. But not just because B has tried hard or something.

Student A may turn things around, may learn from whatever s/he's going through. And s/he doesn't owe me an explanation. (Yes, I often appreciate an explanation, but that's a different matter.)

Gah, I feel like I'm sermonizing. I'll stop now.