Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Caregiver Carrie

Carrie, your story is not at all uncommon. And, contrary to what you might be thinking, I am not an unfeeling witch who does not know the meaning of family, of love, of responsibility. Au contraire, my young friend.

And yet.....NO. N.O.

NO, I won't excuse the three weeks’ worth of work you have just missed, including your exam and first essay.

NO, I won't let you make them up now.

YES, I heard you when you said your mom, sick in the hospital, needs you with her 24 hours a day.

YES, I also heard you when you said that under no circumstances will you fail this course, or accept any other outcome than my either accepting late work, or (your preference), excusing the work.

See, here's the thing, Carrie. When people get sick, even parents, even children, you still have to take care of your responsibilities. I am curious why you did not inform your professors that you'd be missing class and not able to hand in work. I am curious why you have not attempted to keep up by sending me your essay via e-mail. I am curious why this is the first I am hearing from you.

Look, I don't know what your mother has that requires you with her all the time. I mean, I know you are not a nurse, and she is in the hospital where there are paid caregivers. I have had family members, close ones, get sick, and I managed to come to work (for the most part) and to be in touch on those occasions when I could not be there. And yet, far be it for me to decide for you how to live your life.

If you need to be there with your mother, and you cannot spend even one minute doing class work, then that is a decision that may well be both worth it and necessary. But it is also a decision that has consequences. One of them is that I cannot allow you to make up your exam, or to hand in your essay, or to make up any of the homework that you have missed. That is all spelled out in your class syllabus. I hope you are able to pick up from where we left off, and if not, I will certainly grant you a late withdrawal due to your extenuating circumstances.

That's my final answer, and I am sticking to it.

-- Professor Bella

 

14 comments:

  1. Stick to the guns! I'm learning that lesson myself this quarter. Last time through was a nightmare because I forgot to lay out my late work policy. I paid for it dearly. Not this time.

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  2. Rant: life skills, people! College isn't just about getting the work done (or not done). It's about learning to negotiate life. And usually, life sucks and that's just reality. And sometimes reality means taking time off from college if you've chosen to put time and attention elsewhere.

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  3. I understand the professor's decision, but I think that a better life lesson would have been for the student to actually be permitted, even encouraged, to make up the work and fail anyway. That way, she wouldn't be able to blame anybody else. Seeing that it's just not possible is better than seeing that it is not permitted.

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    1. HI Monica! That may be, but if I don't follow my own rules, I get a million stories about exceptional things that have happened that make a student deserving of an exception to my policy. And if I have made one exception, I have absolutely no good reason to refuse to make another one. I simply cannot manage my own time that way (correcting things long after they were due) and I actually think it is a good life lesson that when someone presents you with rules, they just might be serious about enforcing them. Often, that turns out to be true in this thing called "life."

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    2. I wish Monica was in my class so I could fail her trollish ass.

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    3. Hey now. Her comment wasn't unreasonable. She said that the student still fails, right? We can quibble about the details but we can all agree on that part.

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    5. Yes, the student fails or, at the very least, there is just too much work and stress and too little time to do a good job. After all, the student is likely behind in other courses as well and meanwhile even more work is piling up. Nothing can replace lost time and the effect of gradual learning over several weeks.

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    6. I'm with Bella. I don't allow late work because I personally cannot keep up with it or track group work and student progress that way. With the classes I teach, ideas and skills build on each other, and it's not a matter of simply turning things in and checking them off. It's a matter of scaffolding and learning from one skill to the next and guiding students as they go from one skill to the next. So it takes more effort to track student progress. And once that chance is missed, it's hard to start from scratch with someone who misses. I can say it's akin to a dance class where if you miss Week 2-3, you can't catch up at Week 4 and will always be lagging behind...

      But I get what Monica is saying in that now she will always blame the professor for her failure rather than herself. I'm not sure which is the bigger life lesson, though.

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  4. Monica definitely has a point about the difficulty of keeping up. I doubt mom's condition is going to suddenly completely right itself, and if the student has been having trouble concentrating already, then catching up with a backlog of work while keeping up with the ordinary busyness of the end of the semester doesn't sound like a likely scenario. She really needs to be able to drop, preferably without too much financial loss.

    I wonder -- does any company sell tuition insurance, along the same lines as travel insurance? If it were reasonably priced, it could be a very good idea for students in this or similar situations, or who could find themselves in similar situations (which, of course, means all students, since no one is immune from illness, injury, and death). Life does happen, but life happening does also sometimes prevent one from concentrating on other things, and one really has to do the work to get the education. Any approach that pretends that isn't the case isn't doing the student any favors in the long run.

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  5. Coming to class after not hearing a peep from you for three weeks won't cut it. I tell my students at the beginning of the semester that while it is not my intention to "throw them under the bus" when a dilemma arises, they could at least keep me apprised of their issues. I will work with them! Needless to say, they often run and hide instead, to their own detriment.

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  6. I just offer cases like this to take an Incomplete, just as if they'd been ill themselves.

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  7. At my institution, we hand this over the the Office of the Dean of Snowflake Advocacy. The nice people in the office can negotiate with the student for an incomplete or make-up, or not. It avoids opening the sluiceways of non-legit excuses. If a student is trying to play games over multiple terms and/or multiple courses, the ODSA picks up on it right quick, which is harder for individual faculty to do.

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