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Thursday, April 12, 2012

This is the part where I stare at you blankly.

As any teacher will tell you, the job has its moments.  There are times when it's very rewarding, and there are times when it feels like you're bashing your head against a brick wall repeatedly.  Near the end of the semester, it's often more of the latter.

The semester is winding down, so consequently, students are beginning to panic.  They panic about their grades, final exams, and various other things.  So, on a daily basis, students say things and ask me things that leave me no other option but to stare at them blankly - not because I'm trying to be rude, but I'm so astounded that I literally don't know what to say.

Example #1:
Last week, a student raised his hand and said, "Do we have to take the final exam on the day that it's scheduled?"

My response: "Yes, you do, unless you have extenuating circumstances that prevent you from taking it at that time on that day."

Student: "Well, I was hoping I could take it early because that's my birthday."

My response:  Blank stare.  Blank stare.  Blank stare.

And then, I realized he was serious.  I had to stifle a laugh.  It didn't go well.  I laughed really loud.

I then explained that by "extenuating circumstances" I meant you were deathly ill or had to have major surgery. 

His response: "Oh, so you're saying I can't take my exam early?"

No, you can't.

Did I mention that the exam is at 10:30 . . . in the morning?

Example #2:

Today, I was approached by a student who has missed three times more classes than she's actually attended (even though attendance is required).  When she does come to class, she doesn't take notes because she's too busy trying to keep her eyes open despite the four Red Bulls sitting in front of her.  She doesn't do her homework.  She's missed 4 quizzes and 1 test.  Most of her test and quiz answers are "IDK" (I don't know). 

Student: So, um, I wanted to talk to you about my grade in this class.  Um, I'm not sure if I'm going to pass or not, but, like, do you know if I studied really hard for the final could I pass?  And, if I'm not going to pass, what are my options?  I mean could you just withdraw me so I don't actually fail if I'm going to fail?

Me:  Blank stare.

Student: Or, like, is there some extra credit I could do so that I can pass?

Me:  Blank stare.

Student: So, um, do you think there's a chance I could pass or bring my grade up?

The final exam is in a week-and-a-half.  12 days.  You haven't passed a test or a quiz yet.  So, yes.  Yes, you can still pass.  You study really hard, I'll make the final exam worth 1 million points.  I'll also give you 2 million points worth of extra credit.  And then you can pass.

Me:  Have you looked at your grade?

Student:  No, I haven't.  I also haven't picked up a lot of my tests and quizzes because I've been gone and stuff so I don't really know how I did on them.

Well, considering that you put IDK for 90% of your answers, how do you think you did on them?

Me:  Well, the first thing you need to do is see what your grade actually is.  Remember that the final exam is worth 25% of your grade, so if you did well, it would help but not an enormous amount.

Student: Oh, yeah, well I'll totally do that.

And then I pounded my head against the wall because, frankly, it just seemed more productive.


  1. Sounds like teaching at the community college level is WAY WORSE than high school. They are still writing IDK on crap? Unbelievable.

  2. Oh, but this last one made me kinda sad. What is going on in that girl's life??