Thursday, December 20, 2012
I'm Not Baffled, Just Pissed Off.
He was a lazy shit, who did casual and careless C- work.
As the semester was closing down, he kept talking about his relocation to San Diego where he had lined up a job and a house, and where his girlfriend was already living. He was going to skip the final, too, if he could, I mean, if it was okay with me.
"Okay?" I said. "You NEED the final to pass. Your grades are on the borderline and the final is going to decide if you even pass."
"But I'm graduating," he said, smiling.
"You're not getting it, Lucas. You won't graduate unless you pass this class, and I've spent all semester trying to show that to you."
The final exam day came and Lucas showed up. He breezed through it in about 20 minutes. Nobody else left until after at least an hour, and most were there at the 2 hour finish.
I couldn't wait to see what he'd done. My calculations showed he needed to earn at least 75 points out of 100 to earn a C, 65 for a D. Both of those would have meant he'd graduate in December like he wanted. But 60 or below guaranteed an F, and he would not graduate at all.
I started to grade sections of the test, 5 in all, each worth 20 points. He did great on the first section, 18, okay on the second 15, and then there was nothing. He did 2 of the 5 sections. 33 points meant he was going to fail.
Before the final even let out I went to the hallway to look for him. Nothing. I emailed him from my phone. No reply.
That night I graded the rest of his class, average grade 85. (Of course those people ALL did ALL 5 sections.)
I waited 2 days for him to reply to a voicemail and an email, and then an email from the Dean's office requested my early grades on graduating seniors.
F. That's what it was. It wasn't even close.
24 hours later the Dean is on the phone with me. Can I come and see him.
I walk in and Lucas is sitting there with an older gentleman, who I learn is his father.
Everyone's polite. And then Dad goes off. "How come you couldn't give Luke a head's up? That's the least you can do. He's a great kid, with a bright future, and you've got something against him. There's no other explanation."
Despite my outward calm, I just want to punch a wall. I start to go through all of the times I'd tried to help Lucas get the class under control, and the kid sat there shaking his head.
"I want to see his final," Dad says after a while. "I want to see if I think his work is worthy of a grade."
I trudge over to my office and brought it back. The Dean and Dad stood on one side of the desk and turned pages.
"18 out of 20, right?" The Dean says. "That's a good solid B in any class."
"There are 5 sections," I say.
"You said we only had to do 2 sections," Lucas says suddenly.
The misery in his face is real. He wasn't the cocky graduating senior, anymore; he was grasping.
"No, I never said that," I say. "All of the other students did all 5 sections. There's nothing on the the test that says pick and choose." I pick the exam question sheet up and read, "Answer all questions; you have 2 hours."
"Well, you admit he passed the sections, he did, even a B on the first section. That's passing," Dad says.
"Sure, he passed one fifth or two fifths of the exam."
"How were his other grades," the Dean says, "during the semester."
"Between a C- and a D," I say.
Suddenly Dad looks over at the kid. "You said you were acing the class before the final."
Lucas sort of shrugs.
"I begged Lucas to work harder," I say. "We met outside of class a few times about this. I tried to get him to give more effort."
Everyone slumps. It feels like the worst is over.
Then Dad goes off again. "This is some kind of bullshit. This is a great kid. He's going to do great things and he's leaving this place behind, and he's leaving tomorrow. I am satisfied that he was confused by mixed messages on the final and he clearly passed, even got a B, on the part of the final he did. This is intolerable to be held up like this over a misunderstanding."
"I don't see how this is a misunderstanding; your son didn't do the work, didn't score enough, and took the class too casually. It's not fair to the other students if he were to get a pass with failing scores," I say.
The Dean asks us all to take a break. He's going to ask someone (I swear I don't know who) a question. I stay in the office and Lucas and his dad leave.
After ten minutes the Dean comes back.
"Honest mistake," he says. "I can't MAKE you do it, but I just talked to your chair and we're going to ask that you change the grade to a D. That way you win, because his work wasn't good, and they win, too. If he really was a bad student, then maybe he did misunderstand."
And I sat there, like a little man. I thought of all the things I should say, would say if I really had a backbone, but I couldn't make myself say them. I was over Lucas already. Lucas doesn't matter. It's this bullshit going on right in front of me that is the real problem. I wanted to say no. I wanted to fight it. I wanted to test out how secure my position was at the school.
And I also just wanted this to be over.
I'm a coward. I caved in. I let them change the grade. I went against what I believed. And I did it because I was afraid of what the Dean and the chair would do to me, or think of me. I didn't want the hassle or the headache.
I wish I could go back in time. I would simply ignore the first request by the Dean to scramble over to talk to a student and a parent. That's not what I do this job for.
I know I did the wrong thing, and I'm ashamed of it.