Tuesday, April 1, 2008

And this is why I should never EVER make exceptions to my syllabus


No student will be allowed more than one make-up during the semester, and all make-ups must be completed within one week of the originally scheduled examNO EXCEPTIONS!

(source: the syllabus for pretty much every course I ever teach)

The second exam of my community college survey course was the Thursday before Spring Break. As usual, I have the study guide (and practice exam!) posted a week in advance. So around March 1, all of my students knew what the essay prompt for my exam would be. Now fast-forward to last week. One of my seldom-seen students reappears, asking about the exam. I point the wayward one to my syllabus. Student then says mother has been in the hospital and that student had been taking care of her.

"Okay, why didn't you tell me that you were doing this
before now?" Blank stare and silence.

"Okay, do you have the documentation to prove it?" Affirmative nod.

"Well, I'll cut you some slack. Let's make up the exam on Tuesday the first. Be ready! And you are a Good and Dutiful Child for doing all that."

Student shows up today, three weeks after the original exam date, takes the make-up, hands it in.

"You didn't answer the essay question." Blank semi-sheepish stare.

do realize that this is about half the exam and you'll fail if you don't answer it." Student retrieves paper and attempts to answer essay question. Professor Instructor silently grinds his teeth, then sighs.

I mean, granted, community college students are somewhat ill-prepared for the rigors of collegiate classes --that's why I tend to grant a lot more slack to those students who obviously mean well. But
come on! You knew about the exam well in advance of anything else that came up, you knew about the essay last week when you asked to be allowed to do the make-up, and this is how you reward me: by being totally unprepared for the exam? And see, this is why I really began cracking the whip on my students this semester. I had some students blow off the first exam and then somewhat angrily drop my class when I told them that no, they could not make up the exam without a valid written excuse (doctor, ER attendant, bailiff, undertaker). This is college: you don't just blow off exams, and if you aren't mature enough to accept that, you aren't ready to be here. I'm not doing you any favor by reinforcing your public high school training (i.e., show up, don't cause trouble, automatic passing grade regardless of quality of work or effort extended).

do feel bad for this student. But I'd feel worse for the other students who passed the exam the first time if I gave this one a passing grade for effors alone.
--UPDATE: student has handed in the essay. It's quite obvious that the student tap-danced the whole way, but did at least get part of the response close to a reasonable answer. So not a total goose-egg. Still, I hope the rest of the exam was done well.

Or maybe I'm still grumpy from last week (cf. previous entry). Oh well, I can always pump iron after my evening lecture.

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