Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Addendum to a Semester

It happens every so often.

Can't predict when, but sure as rain it is bound to happen: a delinquent student tries to wiggle out of the work for the class, the airtight syllabus, and lawyer their way into a decent grade.
If we go back to this post and read, we see that this was coming. "Perhaps my student shall return. I hope so." states the February 13th entry.

After two weeks, he did return. Then, he pulled a three week Houdini. I had colored him gone and have been enjoying the half hour for guitar practice.
Tonight, after my 7:30 student left, I was ready to "have a go at the box" as Julian Bream so unpoetically says it. It may sound boring and dreadful to you, but a room without distractions, a metronome, my guitar and my Herdim pick in hand- it is a joy to get some practice in. Bliss was not felt for long. I heard a sound and to my utter surprise, said student wonders in. I couldn't believe it. Still, he has this lesson time and has a right to come in; even if he has been three weeks in absentia.

"I thought you had dropped," out it comes from my mouth before any filter can grab it.

"Well, I tried but they wouldn't let me." The Drop/Add train left the station three weeks ago.

He gets his guitar out, sits and starts talking. I listen. He talks. Then it begins. Sensing where we are going, the syllabus is under fire. The syllabus is fireproof and is the result of twenty years of teaching. I have sealed the hatches, people.

He begins the negotiation:

"So, if I play Aura Lee and Amazing Grace, I can play the jury."
"There are four pieces for the jury."
"I thought Sam said two."
"The syllabus says four and Sam is playing four."
Then the motif of the conversation: "I understand what you're saying."

In other words, strike one. We continue to play the game.
(I want to say, "Please, I know where you are going with this. I have written that syllabus so airtight, that nobody is going to wiggle out of it. Leave now, while I'm still calm about this. Don't ruin my good opinion of you.")

"Let's see where you are with the pieces. Play something." If the kid is up on the pieces, then that changes matters a bit. It doesn't give him a free pass, but he may get out of the F zone.

It goes OK, but there are crucial errors. I am still playing teacher by helping him with things he should have known many weeks ago. This is all way too late. Experience has taught me that this is another delinquent student ploy: lure the teach into teaching, instead of evaluating what is really happening. Play the student "who just doesn't get it." I know this one very well, time to stop this. This is old hat. This must stop. Valuable prac time is dripping away.

"The truth is, you are making errors that should have been resolved weeks ago." Pause. "You don't know the music."
The motif returns: "I understand what you're saying."

Strike two. One more.

Then we come to the five absences, all of them unexcused. I get a copy of the syllabus and read the part about absences:

Attendance: Students who have more than three unexcused absences will have their final grade lowered by one (1) letter grade. For each unexcused absence thereafter, the letter grade will drop by one as well. An unexcused absence is when the instructor is not notified BEFORE the scheduled lesson time. Notification after the lesson time will not be considered excused. Family and/or medical emergencies and the like will be reviewed and considered.

He has five in the hole. I suggest even if we take two and say they are forgiven, that still leaves three. He begins the absence clause dance, "If I have three unexcused absences, then that means..." He is trying to interpret the syllabus by parsing the words.

"If I could get a B, then my grade point average wouldn't be as low." I am stunned by this. I cannot stand this game and lower the boom on this charade:

"Dude, a B isn't even on the table. You and I both know that you have not done the work for this class."
I don't think he realizes the snorting bull he is trying to back into a corner. Keep pushing to your own peril.

Strike Three. You're out. (I can't shout, scream or express my true feelings. A professional eats his contempt. Like most twenty-somethings, he doesn't know the impact of his words. He's tried a Hail Mary with full knowledge of his own failure to complete the course and it's failed. )

The motif returns: "I understand what you're saying."
"And yet you continue?" is my thought.

All the while, I smile and try not to show the contempt I feel for this disgustingly obvious hustle. He knows what he's doing. I really liked this kid. Now, I am afraid this changes things a bit.

I do not want to take up this precious half hour by student grade haggling and the relief comes:
"If I take an incomplete, in this class, then I will have to come back and take the class again, but a D and an F are both considered the same here in terms of GPA."

If the incomplete can be taken, he can bail without penalty, otherwise he realizes that he has an immense amount of work to do that may only add up to a D anyway. Dude doesn't want that. But it's not about his wants. He hasn't done the work. In the real world, he'd be fired. He's cooked.
I leave him with the only hope he has:
"Email me if you get the go ahead on the Incomplete." It is his only shot.
In the professional world, the teacher would have thrown a fit, berated them and thrown them out. In the world I studied in, one did not make excuses for lack of preparation. I have to bite back my anger and write it off.

I learned a long time ago the horrid hustle that comes out of those students who neglect to drop a class they just didn't have time for or could care less about.

My class is only one hour credit.

But it don't come cheap, baby.

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