As my semester ends, I find myself feeling wise and generous and a tad smarmy. That and a hard cider in my hand mean that I’m feeling like offering you some advice, should you find yourself a college student.
1. No, I did not flunk you. You, actually, had all the control over whether or not that happened to you, and if you did, after much effort on my part to intervene, manage to fail my class it is a self-inflicted wound. I do not possess the power to “flunk” you out of hand–you actually have ALL the power over that event.
2. “Not flunking” does not equal “Getting an A.” Grades of “A” are earned in my class. A “C” or better is passing. It is my goal for you to pass my class. That “excellence” has been downgraded to “okay” is a regrettable state of affairs, and I stand fully armored and prepared to take excellence back and return it to at least the status of “pretty good.”
3. If it pleases you to snap at me in class or to behave defiantly or argumentatively in front of an audience, don’t let me interfere with your pathology. Understand though–while it will not affect the fair-mindedness with which I interact with or grade you, it *will* affect two very important things: Your standing among your fellow students, and The amount of my vast reservoir of “Instructor Discretion” that will be made available to you.
4. What is this “Discretion” business? An instructor has a certain amount of discretion in decision-making. This occurs in the realm of whether or not to make exceptions to stated policies and rules (as laid out in my exhaustive, tested-by-many-before-you, syllabus) based on extenuating circumstances. No exceptions are made for students who are rude, defiant, aggressive or disrespectful. Enjoy your sass, but if you do, accept your consequences.
5. You are not special.
6. No, really, you’re not. Neither am I. We are two players engaged in a dictated activity, and I am the one who makes the rules. Since I am a benevolent dictator, I have not only written the rules down in painstaking detail (your Syllabus), I have spent the first class period reading and discussing and illustrating said syllabus to you. I want you to know the rules so that you can win the game and pass my class.
7. This is special for the ladies. I am thoroughly unimpressed that you have reproduced. I, too, have reproduced. Three times! Having a child is not a handicap or a Free Pass. I don’t care that you had to pick the child up, stay home with the child, take the child to soccer and then to the pizza place and then frozen yogurt. This is a responsibility that you have CHOSEN. It has, actually, nothing to do with whether or not you turned your assignments in on time or came in late or Dog help us all, brought the child to class with you. There is no “reproduction exception” in my grading scale. Get your shit together and take responsibility for your choices, because I happen to be a strong advocate of choice, and you acting like you can’t do your homework due to your uterus is cramping my argument that you are actually a fully capable person and ovaries don’t make you a lesser person.
8. Timing is everything. An email a few days before class saying, “I am going to have to miss class this week because my child has step throat/a field trip/diarrhea, can I arrange to make up the lesson?” or, “I am in the university band/Typing Club/Choir and we are performing on X date” goes a lot further than jumping into my personal space five minutes before class to shriek that you cannot do whatever I am asking because: Other Thing and then demanding I capitulate to you, or showing up the next week expecting that I will have carefully prepared a special packet of makeup work and notes for you because you are special. The answer to, “Did I miss anything?” is always yes, but I was only obligated to teach it once.
9. Please communicate. Students who communicate with their instructors and let them know if there are issues allow the instructor the opportunity to help them. I am not holding your success hostage, I want to participate in it, but once you’ve failed to turn in a pivotal assignment for which there are clear consequences, there’s nothing I can do to help you. If, at the beginning, you had let me know that you were “adjusting to college after life on the street” or “battling an eating disorder” or “unable to shake the flu for six weeks” then, because I am human and do this because I care, I will do what I can to help.
10. College is a baby model of reality. I would be doing you a grave disservice if I didn’t give you clear expectations and then enact the consequences previously detailed. I like you enough to be willing to tell you the truth and believe that you can succeed. It’s up to you if you hear it or not.