Marginal Mary is a student in my accelerated Literature of Ancient Hamsters and Other Rodentia class. Mary is a capable student intellectually but missed several writing assignments and a couple of quizzes. Thus, when midterm averages came out over the weekend, she held a low C. She is capable of earning at least a solid B in the course; all she has to do is not miss assignments and follow directions.
When I send students their averages, I explain to them in detail that the midterm average represents only 1/3 of their total grade in the course, most students do improve over the second half, and any missing assignments disproportionately affect their averages now but will be much less jarring after the other 2/3 of the points come in provided they don't consistently miss assignments. This is all done in a nice, easy-to-read list form.
Mary immediately emailed me in a panic. OMG, I have a C- in your class! I'm thinking about dropping! How is this even possible? I want to meet with you immediately to go over every single grade in the class so you can explain this to me! Every grade is available in the LMS immediately after I post it or a quiz's availability ends. Then there's also the not-so-small problem that I'm not in at all this week since I have caught hamster fungus or some such disease that's been making the rounds at my college for the past month. I emailed the students and told them I would not be coming in but would be available online for appointments through chat. But that was good enough for Mary. I had to drag my sorry butt out of bed and meet with her in person. That was Not. Going. to. Happen. Her demand that I come to campus to meet with her came 30 minutes after I emailed the class to say my doc told me to stay in bed for the week, so I know she got my message before she tried to make me come in.
I explained to Mary that her biggest problem was missing assignments and that she could still make a B if she turned everything in. I also pointed out that she'd missed some quizzes. She informed me that she had in fact completed the quizzes and didn't understand why she had zeroes on them. These were quizzes due weeks ago. Now, at the last minute, she tells me something was wrong and it's my fault for not knowing that she did the quizzes. I should've just guessed, based on her stellar work ethic on the writing assignments, that of course she took those quizzes and the system messed up. She'd also had some problems with the research assignment, but it's done in a series of steps on purpose so there is time to fix problems. I told her what she did wrong in Step 1 so she could correct it for Step 2. Step 1 was a low-point assignment. Each subsequent step is worth more so they can learn as they go.
I manually adjusted the quizzes, which brought her average up by 2 points: still a C but at least a solid one. But this morning I woke up to an email telling me that because I refused to meet with her, I was being "uncooperative" and she had "lost the will" to finish the class. So now she's dropping, and guess who's going to be held accountable? I almost wish I had met with her and given her hamster fungus. The average run time of this illness has been about two weeks. Then we'd see how she felt about trying to finish the class with a fever, light-headedness, chills, and a cough that would bring up hairballs along with lungs.
I still don't understand how this happened. I explained everything clearly. I made myself as available as I can given my condition. Mathematically, it's very likely she would have made the B. But here I sit with yet another drop, another black mark on my record, and another impending conversation with an administrator about "What else could you have done to retain this student?" Why did she give up? Why is it my responsibility that she made that choice? When did education become about giving students everything they want and anticipating those wants? Why is it so unreasonable to expect them to understand what an average is and how it changes over time?