Sunday, November 28, 2010

How can I pass this class?

Tomorrow we will return to campus for the last week of classes. Finals are only a week away, and today, I already received emails asking the question that I answered at the beginning of the semester; "How can I pass this class?"

It's a little late for that, but instead of growing frustrated or angry, as I have done in previous semesters, this term, I'm just going to ignore those emails. Perhaps my silence will speak louder than any of the words I spoke this semester. If they ask me in person, I will just shrug, and say, "I don't know," and pretend I have an important meeting or appointment that requires me to leave immediately.

This time, I will not allow them to sucker me into pointless discussions about their grades, or listen to their whining about how they just have to pass this class.

This time, they can determine for themselves that they just can't pass this class now. Some of them may eventually understand why, and most of them will assume I'm just a callous bitch who didn't like them. In either case, it won't matter to me once I've submitted those grades.


  1. ARGH, you are right. It is coming. If I'd thought a bit harder, I would have added that to the Sunday Waaaaaah.

    I only respond to these questions in person, and then I do it strictly based on grades. As in...well, you need to get an X on the final exam in order to pass. If they ask "what do I need to do in order to get an X" I say "I suggest that you study." I usually put it more politely, but that's the general point.

  2. I just e-mailed one of my Master's thesis candidates to explain to her why I cannot recommend that she sits for her defense this term. In other words, she isn't going to graduate. Normally, I just let 'em take their chances in the chair, as it were, but this time I couldn't do it. I tried to be as polite as possible, but somehow I know she will still be shocked, shocked!, at how this could have possibly happened.

  3. I have students who are ONLY NOW paying attention to Blackboard's Grade Center . And... I'm getting questions like "what do I have to get on my final paper to do ok?" and "but I thought I turned in that assignment (like back in early October)".

  4. Even though I don't want to answer those ridiculous e-mails either, I still do for two reasons.

    One, I think if they bother to ask it's the humane thing to do to tell them either they don't have a chance in hell or they need to do really well on the Final to even have a chance. Even though they are expressing "concern" about their grade a little late, it often gives me the opportunity to point out they have 50 baziliion zeros, so they dug themselves a huge hole. I don't give false hope but recommend they do their best and see what happens. At the very least they will be exposed to the material when they have to take it again, and by telling them that I'm being helpful and not "mean."

    Two, by answering I cover my ass. They can't complain that they tried to work with me but I just didn't respond. Sometimes these students simply don't realize that by not doing half the work, they can't pass. It's a new learning experience for them, and I'm helping the next instructor out by pointing this out to them (I hope!).

    To me, anyway, it's difficult to ignore these e-mails even though they are annoying and aggravating. But they are a certain cry for help that I feel the need to answer (not saying you do!). If they get belligerent and whiny then the tone changes. I lay out what THEY did wrong and then feel free to ignore them.

    The ignorance of students as to what they have to do to succeed in a class is pretty discouraging sometimes. But maybe by me spending a few extra minutes I can help them and my evaluations in some small way....(sigh)

  5. It is midterm time at my college right now (we run 8 week terms). I know that all the students who have missed several assignments and not applied any of the teaching or suggestions to improve their papers will be SHOCKED to see they are failing.

    Some people suggest personally calling students to talk to them about how to raise their grade. I will not do this. They are adults and I am not doing them any favors by not providing them with expectations they will see in the real world. If my employees don't turn in reports on time I do not coddle them, I write them up and fire them if it keeps happening. The same should go for college which is the training ground for the real world. What I will do is send out a mass email explaining if they are below a specfic percentage they need to contact me so we can explore what they need to do to bring up their grade.

    I know approximately three students will respond to this email. When they respond I will tell them 1. Turn in your assignments on time. 2. Apply the reading from the class to support your answers, 3. Apply the mass information about improving your writing skills to your papers.

    None of them will do this.

  6. I can't make myself NOT answer even the stupidest emails. I wish I could...

  7. If they write me, asking "how do I pass this class?" (or a variant), I always respond in terms of math. I point them to blackboard (where they can find their grades), and the percentages on the syllabus, and tell them "You can figure out what you need to pass from figuring out what you already have. It's simple percentages. If you're having any trouble at all, come to my office and I will help you through the process."

    If they figure out that they can't pass the class with the points remaining to them, and then ask again how they can pass, I tell them that the math won't let them.

  8. Since I assume they can do the math, the question is coming from those who have done the math and either need an A+ on everything between now and the final, and know they can't do it, and those who couldn't pass even with A+'s from here on in.

    So the question must mean "can I do an extra-credit assignment?" To which the answer is "no".

    The answer to "but i can't possibly pass this class, is it too late to drop it?" is "Yes it is. However if you have a reason for a late drop that Advising will accept (illness or family matters), please file the paperwork with Advising and I will be happy to sign the forms when they get to me."

    I love answers that remove me from the loop. Not my decision, honey.

  9. Stella, I too just tell them to look at the syllabus and do the math. I'm not sure why they need me to tell them to do this. Is it not self-explanatory?

  10. little darling informed me that I taught a social science, and so she shouldn't have to do math to calculate her grade. aarrrggghh!

  11. O.M.G. Syllabus, math, can these words be in the same sentence?? Isn't that an oxymoron or something? Add "Calendar," and I might pick up ice skating while visiting Hades as per my students' request. We really do all have the same students...

    @Bernice. I hear you.

  12. I am fond of the time travel answer, myself. "Go back in time to the beginning of semester, and this time, hand in all your essays."

    Last week I had a student who had skipped the first 2 assignments ask me if I thought she would pass. I said "it depends on whether you are planning to hand in any work."

  13. We have both a drop deadline and a somewhat latdeadline for "limited withdrawals," of which students get a certain number over the course of their college careers. I now have a very strongly-worded warning on my calendar telling students that if they are not are not caught up with assignments, and/or haven't received passing grades on the ones they have handed in by the limited withdrawal deadline, they should strongly consider using one of their withdrawals. That seems to have reduced the number of such inquiries considerably (and prompted a few such withdrawals which save everyone involved angst).

    But maybe that's an illusion, since no, many of them don't read the syllabus, assignments, calendar, etc. I had a student ask me, quite innocently, last week, during a conference: "don't the assignments all count the same?" No, they don't, in part because they range in length from 2 to 12 pages, and in complexity from quite simple to quite sophisticated. The paper we were discussing in conference (and on which she was actually doing quite well, though I'm not sure that my definition of "quite well" -- B/B- on a draft -- matches hers) is worth 45% of her grade. Fortunately, since she still has a chance to revise the draft, and to have the newer and/or higher grade averaged into her final grade, she was pleased. And I managed to keep a straight face and cheerful, straightforward demeanor throughout the exchange.

  14. @BlackDog - I teach a science, and I still get the "but I can't do maths" or, if I ever include actual algebraic equations in a class (which happens. I must have been Very Bad in a past life, because I get to teach statistics-for-BasketWeavers), they come up and say "this isn't fair, this class isn't about Basketweaving". Sigh

  15. Remember, the Geneva Convention requires a prisoner-of-war to tell only name, rank, and service number. I therefore just say, "Come to class. Do the homework. Pass the exams!" If they try torturing me, with excessive whining for example, I keep saying, "Come to class. Do the homework. Pass the exams!" And I never ever EVER make statements disloyal to the United States of America, or to academic freedom or integrity.

    (In case you haven't realized it, this post was made partly in jest---but not entirely.)

  16. I find that most of my students know that they cannot pass the class when they ask the question. They are just trying to weasel some pity points, which I have none to give, since they are not listed in the grading policies on my syllabus.

    I generally have some snarky answer to give, like, "To pass the class, you need to take it over next term, and actually do the work next term."

    I am not here to validate the lazy.

  17. But you've got to crush their spirits, Joe! You've got to tell them that they are unworthy of the the institution, better off in the Army, mentally feeble, feckless, wastes of space. Why? Because we can, and you know nobody else will do it.

  18. I got so sick of answering that question that I put together a spreadsheet that will do the math for them. They only need to enter the points they got on all the assignments.

    They're still surprised when the final exam won't magically make their 65% into a B, but at least they are mostly doing it not around me.

  19. You people are horrible! You should not be teaching anyone, given your nasty disrespectful attitudes. You all should be ashamed of yourselves.

  20. you people are why America is so fucking stupid


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