Anything I Can Do For A Better Grade?


It is that time of the year when the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the semester is ending, and the students are asking, “I know I missed a lot of classes and didn’t complete some of my assignments but I was wondering if there is, you know, anything I can do now to get a better grade.” It is tempting to recommend “invent and use time machine.” But perhaps these words from George M. Felis (UNC Wilmington) are more edifying:

Maybe I shouldn’t admit this as a professor, but a significant part of what you demonstrate by earning a college degree has nothing to do with what you actually learn in college: completing college is partly about showing that you have the discipline to show up and do the work—whether you want to or not, whether you’re interested in it or not, and regardless of the distractions life presents—because whatever career you pursue, the first and most valuable qualification you can have is the discipline to show up and do the work, no matter what. That’s why many employers preferentially hire people with college degrees even when the work doesn’t require a degree — and that’s why I would be acting unethically if I let you pass this class even though you didn’t show up and do the amount and quality of work required to pass it. Finally, although I doubt you will appreciate this perspective now, I also honestly believe I would be doing you a disservice if I helped you avoid the negative consequences of your own choices and actions — because in the long run, no one can.

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Steve
Steve
7 years ago

From the student’s perspective there is no harm in asking, which is why we see so many such requests.

My favorite ones are those that ask if they can do any make up work. Then I ask them how many classes they have attended in the last month, or what the last few readings were about. After the awkward silence, I wish them an enjoyable summer and mention the wonderful course options on next year’s schedule.Report

KateNorlock
KateNorlock
7 years ago

I like the kindness and spirit of replies like that of George Felis, but I believe we ought to be less apologetic about telling students that our courses include practicing sustained engagement over time and demonstrating commitment to repeated efforts and incremental improvements. That really *is* “what you actually learn in college” as much as is the gaining of additional information in memory. My spouse has a biochemistry degree, and can attest the many labs and reports were part of learning, not a regrettable series of obstacles to an end-result. I understand why my students take a utilitarian approach to learning — how can I have the resulting grade — but I stick with virtue ethics in my response.Report

Derek Bowman
7 years ago

While I am sympathetic to the spirit of these remarks, I’m uncomfortable with the implication that our primary job as college instructors is to train and certify people as good corporate workers. There are times when bending our policies to accommodate unexpected events and all-too-predictable human frailties can be used to create incentives and opportunities for learning that otherwise would not take place. Of course by the last week of the term, those times have usually already passed.Report