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14 November 2005

Excuses, excuses.


Normally, I'm pretty relaxed after class. I don't ever yell at students. I don't get emotional about stuff that happens in class.

I walk into the classroom, I teach a well-prepared lesson, and I go home and grade, grade, grade. That's basically my life.

Today, however, went a little differently. My students in my lit class had to turn in a take-home exam that I gave them last Monday. I cancelled class Wednesday to give them time to work on the exam, and the school was closed on Friday for Veteran's Day. Of course, there will always be those who don't show up or don't get the work done; I've been teaching since 1994, so this is old hat. Today, though, I let it get to me.

The exam I gave them was very difficult. It was based on the fiction and poetry sections of the class. There were 20 multiple choice questions, 30 short answer questions, and three 500 word essays. The exam had to be typed and stapled in order for me to accept it, and it had to be turned in at the beginning of class - no exceptions.

After class, a small crowd of students gathered around me. "Mrs. Sullivan, I need to talk to you" (they sometimes call me "Miss," "Ms." or "Mrs." as they have no clue of my marital status. I introduce myself as Maureen Sullivan). Each had a horrible, pathetic excuse for having no work to turn in or incomplete work, and I'm not sure what they wanted from me, as my class policy on the syllabus states that in case of an emergency, arrangements needed to be made before class time.
For instance, one student was hit by a drunk driver last week. He broke his shoulder and arm, yet he contacted me, explained his situation, and asked for an extension, which I happily gave.

Here are the excuses in no particular order of lameness:

1) I was out of town last week.
So? I wasn't. You had a take home exam. I left a copy in my mailbox for you to pick up. You didn't.
I didn't know.
It's your responsibility to know, though, isn't it? You have a syllabus, don't you? Why didn't you call and make alternate arrangements with me?
You don't put your phone number on the syllabus.
That's right. I don't. I have 150 students. I do put my email on there --
--But I don't have a computer.
That's fine. There are computers at the library, though, and you have a phone, right? You could have easily left a message for me at the English department.
They never answer the phone.
Did you even try to call?
Did you stop by and leave a note for me?
Then what would you like me to do for you? This is your problem, not mine. You have a responsibility to get all of your work when you miss class.

2)My computer lost power on Saturday and I lost everything.
Uh-huh. What would you like me to do about it?
I can't give you more power. I don't have another computer to give you. What do you want from me?
Well, I wanted to know what your policy is on late work.
If you look at the syllabus AND the assignment, you'll see that I clearly state that I don't take late work.
So what should I do?
About what?
About my exam.
What do you want to do about it?
Can I turn it in on Friday?
No. You can email it tonight, but I won't accept it after midnight.
But that's not enough time!
You should have backed up your work. You had a week to take this exam.

3)This was really hard. And really long.
Well, I didn't finish everything.
So what should I do?
Turn in what you have.
But it's not done.
I understand that. You don't have to turn in anything if you'd rather not.
Can I fix it up and turn it in later?
No. It's due today.
But it was really hard!
It should be. You're in college now, not high school. If you were having trouble, you should have contacted me for help right away.

4) I didn't have enough time to finish.
I gave you a week. It was a take-home.
Yeah, but Friday was a holiday.
You had the same amount of time as everyone else.
But I had to work.
I think you need to learn to schedule your time better.

Ok. So that's my experience. I feel like a meany jerko. After class, instead of bolting home as I usually do, I head to the English department to seek consolation from my fellow adjuncts - they've been through it all before, too. "Don't feel bad. You did the right thing," was the basic gist of what they said. The general feeling was that students have to learn to be accountable, and if I give in to every lame excuse, I'm not teaching them anything.

I still feel bad, though. I feel like I've somehow failed at teaching time management skills, a skill at which I excel. I mean, I have written over eleven thousand words on my novel in addition to my normal activities this past week. In the time that they had to write a 6 page exam, I graded for over 45 hours AND wrote over 30 pages on my book. I didn't miss One Life to Live a single time (I'm not necessarily proud of that, mind you). And I didn't have to stay up all night to do it, either. I'm in bed by 11 and up at 7:30. I didn't skip any dog walks or call in sick or let the house become a pigsty or stop exercising or skimp on cooking and eat fast food (Oh, wait! Yes, I did eat fast food once in the last two weeks, but that was not a time-related phenomena - scroll down and read for yourself). My point is that with focus of my goals and good time management, I can get my work done, even if it means letting the old blog go without an update.

This isn't too say that extenuating circumstances don't happen, but none of the above students had them. There were no deaths in the family or car accidents or electrocutions by cell phone concurred in saving the life of a girlfriend whose car has gone off a bridge into the icy depths (this is an excuse one of my fellow adjuncts was recently given by a student. Funny that it didn't make the paper at all, we thought!). My students had the run-of-the-mill lame-O excuses. I'm surprised no one tried the classic, "My dog ate it."

Thanks for listening to me vent.
I feel better now.


Blogger No Filter: The Book said...

the problem is students have been babied for a long time ... that exam is more then some students have written in a semester English class in High School..

I say see what they have ...

Might need to turn off "their inner editor" and just type .. its the Nano way :))


2:13 am  

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