I get my share of students asking for extensions. Standard policy is to send them to the Office of Student Appeasement and Retention. The earnest people in the OSAR will tell me if there's going to be a make-up exercise, and I'll deliver -- this happens seldom enough that I don't mind it, because OSAR tracks excuses and, typically, all the grandparents have "died" by the time their descendants reach my courses.
And so in the blissful absence of other shit of which I soon speak, I lapsed into complacency and even harbored the conceit that program policies and my syllabi had finally rendered me immune. Such measures as dropping the two lowest quizzes and giving 40 points for a take-home project but not including it in the denominator (a perfect score is thus 440/400) had for several years eliminated requests for extra credit. And then this Totally Real Fucking Email infests my inbox:
Dear Proctor Hep,
Ever since the final on Thursday I have been panicking about my grade in your class. I need to pass because I am about to transfer to the Motorcycle Administration program at Marvydale. I did the math and figured I only needed a 74 on the final to pass the class but now I'm so not sure I did it. I have been talking about the exam with friends, and there's a whole bunch of questions that I can't remember what I answered which has me worried that I zoned out. I feel that I learned a lot in your class, and might not have shown it on the test. I don't really know what I'm asking but I guess it is is there anymore I could do to bring my grade up so I could pass if I didn't get a 74 on the final. But if I passed then please ignore this..... ha ha ha!
Have a great weekend!
I haven't responded yet. I looked at the first output from the Scantron reader, and even if we catch a few grading errors that net the class a few points, Stephuhnee will be well below the 74 she needs. Naturally, my first reaction is probably the best: despite any sorrow for the predicament, zero flexibility on the bald facts. So my response to the questionmarkless question would be simply:
In any other direction lies madness. But then the pendulum swings as I recall a colleague's advocacy for remediation -- albeit within a different program -- and I wonder if there's an opportunity for such a thing here. So an idea emerges:
#2 You can retake the final exam to try to meet or beat a 74, but the highest course grade you can get is a 70%.
But then the pendulum swings back:
#3 Anybody else who will fail because of poor performance on the final exam should be offered the same option.
#4 What about students who passed but could bump up a letter grade by retaking the final? Shouldn't they get the same chance as the bottom-scrapers?
Like I said earlier -- madness. So we're back to #1, but as a teaching moment:
#5 Sorry, there's nothing we can offer you. Hopefully, you'll take this lesson to heart that if you aim for mediocrity, you risk falling short of even that goal. As you see, it's the same with studying "just enough" to pass a course. Always shoot for the top and you won't have this problem.
But now the pendulum swings again with my colleague's posthumous proposal:
#6 What say we relist the course for the summer, but as an independent study? The students bone up and take new tests, and we use the higher of their original or retest scores to compute final grades. The F from the first time through stays on the transcript (that was never in question), but at least they don't have to wait a whole year to retake the course (which we only offer in the spring) to show a pass on their transcript.
And this is where the door in my tiny brain opens and hypothetical responses emerge like clowns from a car to run in all directions:
#7 You're transferring to Marvydale? Not this year.
#8 Well, it occurs to me that my house hasn't been painted in over a decade, so . . .
#9 Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You used "anymore" as a noun. Prepare to die.
#10 Here's what we'll do, Stephuhnee. For the sum of one dollar, you'll sell me your plans to an operational time machine. I and my industry contacts will build this machine, but there's a twist -- you'll see why we need that later. We'll use the machine to go back a few weeks to just after the last midterm. We won't remember anything that's transpired between then and now, because it wouldn't have happened yet, right? And if we just start the clock from there again, we would just get the same result as we have now, right? So we'd need to change something, and here's why we need the twist: this second time through, everybody on the planet will sense that the time ahead is a gift that they should not squander. The whole class will retake the final, and maybe they've studied harder because of that feeling they had, and maybe they'll do better. If we do this, you'll pass the course, but I'll also have to relive several things from these last few weeks that in retrospect, I really wish I could spare myself. Yet I'll do it all again for you, but also because there are some things I'd have done better if I'd had a better attitude about time myelf. And here's the other part of the twist: in our alternative future, this conversation never took place, and the time machine -- even its plans -- never existed. (You understand the problem if such a device were to fall into the wrong hands.) Which brings us to now, Stephuhnee. This is the part where I reach into my pocket for a dollar, and you open your bag and get out those plans . . .