21 May 2005

Oh, yeah?

As you already know, yesterday was a banner day for e-mail. But before DC and I had our entertaining exchange, the message below was in my e-mail inbox when I arrived at school. The header was "I Don't Want to Fail."

I will not be in school tomorrow till about lunch time, I have to go to the doctors in the mourning. And I need to know what I need for this quarter to get to you before you leave. I am expecting that you are going to leave like Mr. So-and-So to correct the A.P tests right. So I want to get everything done this weekend and get it to you on Monday Mourning. I will also be there before first period on Monday to finish that Final Exam if that is ok with you. I really want to graduate and I dont want the reason that I dont to be that I couldnt get caught up. Yes it is very hard to but I am trying my best for all my classes. So I was wondering if you could get anything together that i need to do this weekend and I can pick it up from your classroom after 6th period. I know that Lab 6 i have to do and that is all i know. Any notes you can leave me would help in any way, because i am not sure you stay there till 6th period. Thank you for time and energy because I know this is not that easy in your case or my own.

Sincerly,

Ms. Failing Senior (FS)

Let me give you some background on Ms. FS. She has missed 52 out of 71 school days this semester. She has turned in 1 assignment during the entire semester. One. Last time she asked for make-up work was the very last day of third quarter. I took pity on her, rounded up all the assignments that I could, made notes on them, gave her a grade printout, etc. She had all of Spring Break to do the work. She didn't do any of it. FS does have some medical issues, but last semester, she missed frequently because of them and still managed to pull out an A-. She's not a dumb cookie. She's just made a whole lot of bad choices this spring.

Why the difference this semester? She is "emancipated," meaning that she turned 18 and now writes her own notes for school, etc. She wants to be recognized as an adult in charge of decisions related to her schooling. (In the fall, mom was very conscientious about helping her daughter get work and complete it.) I know that Coach Brown has noted some similar problems with his seniors.

I did e her back later in the day. I told her that from what I could see in her records, she wasn't in any danger of not graduating if she didn't get credit for AP Bio. She has plenty of science credits. There is nary a D or an F anywhere on her transcript. She is managing to pass the two courses she is in that are required for graduation. I pointed out her attendance and lack of responsibility in getting make-up work. Finally, I told her that even if she made up all of the assignments for 4th quarter, there would not be enough points to pass. I thought that her time and energy would be better spent focusing on her required courses. I wished her well.

The part that I didn't tell her was how insulting it is to both me and her classmates that she thinks she can just do two batches of work and get a grade. Other students have personal issues, too. My life is not as stable as I would like. But we make the effort to get out of bed, go to school, and do the best we can. And if we can't make it, we start in the very next day seeing what it takes to make things better. Meanwhile, it was also insulting that she expected me (yet again) to drop everything that I had going in order to get her what she wanted that day. After all, I just sit around all day, right?

I've seen many students throughout the years who are convinced that turning 18 magically confers "adulthood." What they don't seem to understand is that they are accepting more responsibility and less freedom to do as they please. They are more accountable than ever for their actions. They need to have a great degree of self-discipline.

I don't like telling kids "no" and I certainly don't get a kick out of putting an "F" on their transcript. But in a case like this, when I kid decides a few days before they end of the semester that they don't want to fail, I just have to ask "Oh, yeah?"

1 comment:

Fred said...

Great story. That's how I wound up teaching AP Government - the prior teacher gave up teaching seniors.

I felt his pain this year. Three of my seniors share similar traits to the one in your story.

Results? Two "F"s and a "D".