My heart is a tiny piece of coal…

One of the things that college faculty become well-acquainted with are excuses.  After teaching for a few years you recognize that the same old excuses come up again and again.  I don’t pay too much mind to excuses.  My students know there are limits to my flexibility and my patience.  They know that I will cut them some slack, but won’t allow them to take advantage of the system. For me it is all about integrity and fairness.  If you don’t do the work, it is my opinion that you should just own it – I respect that more than a half-baked excuse.  I also expect my students to understand that out of fairness I cannot allow those with excuses to continually be allowed to extend deadlines while others meet them in a timely manner.  Thankfully, over time that has resulted in less excuses.

I am lucky though in that I don’t have any high enrollment classes at the 100 level.  There can be 100-200 students in those classes.  It is impossible for faculty with that number of students to keep track of various students’ excuses.  They are forced to create a policy and stick to it.  But policy or not, excuses still find their way to faculty and after awhile faculty become somewhat immune to them.

This evening I read a student post on Facebook that shared an email from one of his professors.  The professor teaches an online class and sent the following email to the class.

Class,

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia for you: only one person is getting a C in this class, and it’s a 79%, so I don’t even know if that counts as a real C. The class is evenly divided between As/Bs and Ds/Fs. So it’s like you are either doing stuff you should be doing or not. If you’re not, you’d better start, because we are reaching that critical mass where you won’t be able to pull your grade up — the opportunities just won’t be there.

Right now, you can work double time and pull your chestnuts out of the fire, so to speak. But in a couple of weeks, well, that’s when I start getting the emails wondering what can be done about your sad grade, and sometimes they are HEARTBREAKING! “Oh, this is the last class I need before I graduate!” “Oh, but my gerbil died!” And then I have to crush those people, saying stuff like “Well, call your grandma and tell her to get a refund on her airline tickets, because graduating isn’t on your agenda anymore. Maybe she can find a new favorite grandchild.” And “Gerbils are gross rodents.”

I am a hard woman. I’ve been at this gig for 20 years now. My heart is a tiny piece of coal.

The student who posted the email thought it was an awesome email and I agree.  I laughed out loud.  I appreciated her candor and her sense-of-humor.  Hopefully, her students will do what they need to do so that grandma doesn’t need to seek a refund for her airline ticket…but, at this point it is up to them and they are on notice – she is, after all, a hard woman. ;-)

Classic faculty response!  Thank you unnamed professor for laying it all out there like that for the students.  I will be giggling about that for the rest of the semester…and I’ll probably pee my pants if someone tells me their gerbil died. ;-)

Day one thousand three hundred and ninety of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

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About Ms. C

I teach at NDSU...but I remain a student of life with all the enthusiasm that entails. My favorite saying is, "Sometimes you have to take the leap and build your wings on the way down." In the new forty that is what I am doing...building my wings.
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