Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bathroom Observation and Extra Credit for Failing Students (two completely unrelated items)

Just stepped into the bathroom to find a well-dressed man waving his hand repeatedly in front of the paper towel roller. After three or four fruitless waves, I finally said "it's not one of those" (or something like that). He seemed very exasperated that he had to reach up and pull some off the paper towel roll.

I'm guessing he was visiting from across campus, possibly the science building, where the standard of living is quite a bit higher than our humble home in the communication department.

IN OTHER NEWS: I was expecting a student to visit today to discuss his grade. "I'll come by during your office hours" -- why do they never actually do that? In any case, I knew he was doing pretty poorly, but I went ahead and ran the numbers on his grade this morning -- he's failing pretty badly. He's already asking about extra credit.

Of course, I provided no less that THREE extra credit opportunities for the class already, only one of which he plans to complete (the other two opportunities have already passed; they were connected to specific events). I really hate to fail anyone, but I am very reluctant to artificially inflate a grade with innumerable extra credit opportunities.

Now the harder part of it -- he's one of a few students I've had who have some sort of disability. I received from him a special notice from the university's office of disability assistance (not the exact name) that because of his (unnamed) disability, he is allowed to have extra time to complete tests. Which he has had; no problem. But when I talk to this student, he's just one of those people who doesn't seem to be 'all there.'

So, I'm just wondering -- how would you handle this if you were in my shoes?


At 12:25 PM, Blogger bitchphd said...

Give him the grade he has earned. You have made the requested accommodations for his disability, so that has nothing to do with it.

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous New Kid on the Hallway said...

I hate those requests: "can I do another assignment to improve my grade?" I always say no (if everyone can do extra credit, that's one thing, but I'm not going to offer one student the chance to keep doing stuff till they get it right/get the grade they want - besides which, chances are good they're just going to write ANOTHER crappy paper, and how are two crappy papers supposed to combine to improve a grade?).

I say if the student is failing, he's failing - screw extra credit. In practice I'm a little nicer in that if they're failing b/c they haven't turned stuff in (which is what usually happens with me) I'll grumble and groan but accept it late. (In practice, this doesn't usually help, b/c they usually don't get it done and if they do it's awful, but I look a little nicer.) But I won't give one kid a chance to improve their grade just b/c they're doing badly, b/c I figure everyone in class would like that chance (I swear an A- student who wants a straight A can feel almost as upset as someone who's failing!).

I will say that I've had lots of students with documented disabilities and accomodations, and some are responsible people who do their work, and some are flakes who don't. So I don't think you should take that into account in this case, unless there's something about the assignments that ties directly to his disability and this can be seen as an accomodation. It may be that his disability is playing into his academic problems, but if that's the case, it's probably because he's not managing it well, which is still his responsibility as the student. (That is, assuming he's getting the accomodations he needs. But if you're fulfilling those accomodations and he's screwing up, then it's his problem, unless there's a minute chance that his accomodations need adjusting, so to speak, which isn't your problem/call, either.)

At 1:13 PM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

Of course, I know you're both right. In truth, after looking at the numbers again, if he passes the final with even a low passing grade and does the remaining extra credit, he can pass the course, so that's what I plan to tell him. Don't know why I agonize over these things. This same student didn't show up for one of the exams, then came to see me a week later with his doctor's note. Didn't call on the day of the exam, didn't both contacting me after that. I let him make up the exam because he had a legit medical excuse, but I was really put off by the fact that he just didn't bother to contact me at all while sick or soon thereafter.

At 1:30 PM, Blogger chutry said...

It's really difficult not to agonize over such things. I know I *still* struggle when students don't "succeed" in my classes. But Professor B is right: the student has had every opportunity, so your offer is more than fair.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

Yeah, that's what I plan to do. I also plan to do that when the other students who are failing show up at my office. Specifically, I am almost looking forward to the little blonde who sits in the back of the lecture hall with her boyfriend, the one who skipped out on the extra credit film screening with him (after coming in long enough to get a study guide, which I hand out for each screening) and then showed up to take the extra credit quiz and got a big, fat zero.

She's one of those "I'm graduating in May and need this class." Uh huh. Guess you should have thought of that on those nice spring days when there was something better to do...

At 3:27 PM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

I'm not biased against this one student in particular -- I'm just sick of the ridiculous nature of the argument: "but I need this class."

That's so not my problem. But it definitely should have been in their minds when they were prioritizing their social lives.

I mean, I gave an extra credit film screening with a quiz over that screening, All they had to do was watch a movie. Why they felt the need to skip that, I don't get. Maybe they had seen the film and thought they knew enough about it.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger B2 said...

What else can yo udo? There's only so much you can for a student, regardless of their situation... it seems a mite cruel, perhaps, but it's not nursery school.


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