Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Don't Bother Crying Me a River Because I'm Wearing My Hip Waders

This week marks the sixth week of classes here at my university and is nearly the halfway point of the semester. Next week is the last full week before Spring Break. So a professor would think that she is well past the point of having to deal with the student who appeared on the class roll but never bothered to show up to class. This morning at my 8:00 class, however, a student I had never seen before came into my classroom and introduced himself. I always have one student on my roll who for some reason has registered for class but has no intention of ever coming, and this guy was this semester's winner. I never expected him to show at this late date.

Now, this guy was desperate to find a way to begin attending my class and pass it, and he came to class armed with several ill-conceived arguments with which to plead his case. First he tried the "I-really-thought-that-I-had-dropped-the-class" appeal. Since obviously the computer system somehow wanted him to remain in the class even though he thought he'd pushed the right buttons to drop the class, he wanted to know if he could begin attending class and make up the work he had missed. I said absolutely not. There's no way I'm going to allow someone to come in at the middle of the semester and have a chance at passing this course when everyone else has been coming to class from the beginning. He then began to try to break me down. His next tactic was to give me the "but-my-GPA-will-suffer" story, saying that if he dropped now, he would get a grade of W (Withdrawn) which would harm his GPA. Of course, this is not true. A grade of W simply shows that the student dropped the class after the drop deadline. The only way that he would be harmed is financially if he were to drop below full-time status. Upon inquiry, I learned that he is enrolled for 15 credit hours, so dropping my class would render him no harm.

Next, he tried the old "my-mother-will-be-very-disappointed-in-me" trick. He wanted to attend class and do the rest of the work (assuring me that he's really good with writing and grammar). I told him that there's no way that he can pass because he's already missed too much work. He said that he'd rather attend class and do the work and fail giving it an honest try instead of not coming to class at all because his mother would be disappointed in his dropping a class. I told him that as an 18-year-old, he is able to make his own decisions about what classes to take and what classes to drop. Of course, he then applied the "but-my-mom-is-the-one-who's-paying-for-school" appeal, which had no effect on me whatsoever. I shrugged my shoulders.

Who is he trying to kid? I know that once a student gets a foot in the door, he'll do whatever he can to try to change my mind and allow him to pass the course, so I gave him no opportunity. I told him that attending class would do him no good and that he'd be better off just sleeping late in the mornings. He finally realized that no amount of illogical argument would get me to allow him to attend class, and he left.

If these students put as much effort into their academics as they do coming up with excuses and sob stories, I'd have some of the best college students ever. But I wouldn't get to share their antics and laugh about it with you.


Tony Arnold said...

I am amazed, but should not be. I am seeing some of the advantages of having attended a private college (Vanderbilt) and being an adjunct at one (Lipscomb). You don't see much of this behavior due to the $ investment. Sort of weeds out the zero motivation students, and if parents are going to push such a student, they usually have enough sense not to do in with private tuition. They push them on the state schools.

I got lucky. Senior engineering students aren't too much trouble concerning attendence and motiviation. However, if they think you are wrong and they are right, you have a fight on your hands when it comes to subject matter.

But I am the same way, so I can relate. :-)


JMG said...

Yeah, I get the ones that couldn't make it in private school! Their parents pull some strings and get them into my school after their spoiled kid flunked out and wasted a bunch of money somewhere else. Then the kid acts like he's doing me a favor when he actually does his assignments.

This sort of academic apathy has started showing up in some of the kids that receive the lottery scholarship as well. Nearly every student at my school gets some sort of financial aid, but they don't become concerned about their grades until the last part of the semester when they realize they're in danger of losing their scholarship. I had to start putting a statement on my syllabus to tell them that I'm not going to get concerned about their grade at the end of the semester if they have been uninterested up until that point.

I can't really complain, though, because for the most part I have some really good students. They just don't give me any good blog material.

Tony Arnold said...

BTW, to everyone, I was not making any comment about the majority of students attending state schools. I was just pointing out that the tuition factor provides a natural filter for the non-motivated student.

They are forced on the state school where the educators and the majority motivated student body are forced to deal with them.

That sure reads better than my first comment.

Scott Smith said...

23 years after graduation, I still have a recurring nightmare that I'm back in college and have only just realized in time for the final that there's a class I was supposed to be attending all semester. Maybe it was yours!

Tony Arnold said...

I have those dreams too. But when I adjuncted this fall it changed to where I was the professor and forgot to show up.

Luckily I have not had the naked in class dream as a teacher yet. I hated those dreams when I was in school.


JMG said...

I also have the professor who forgot to show up to class all semester dream. I guess it never goes away.

Scott, it wasn't my class. I haven't been teaching that long!