We reached midterm last Friday and I finished entering grades for my classes this afternoon. Once again, I am at that precarious place between the pragmatic belief that people make their own choices [such as refusing to lift a pencil, or eyelid, during class] and the self-doubting worry that I have not done my best job in teaching [Do I make things too hard? Do I not give enough time to finish assignments? Is my aggravation showing??]
To be sure, just a handful of people are failing and it is only midterm but still; it's hard for this former Honor Society nerd queen to understand a shrug in the face of an abominable grade. As I remind my students, getting an F right now does not mean lost credit but it does mean everything they do from here on is piled on top of nothing; instead of building on a solid foundation, like at the fresh start of a new quarter, they are trying to build a decent grade up from the basement. But analogies are lost on many of them - We have a basement here? Why are we building stuff? When's lunch...
For every failing grade, I do ask myself about that kid and my interaction with him or her. I have to make sure I am doing everything I can to help which does not [an unfortunate surprise to some students] include actually doing the work OR giving a passing grade regardless; I have been asked to do both things. Occasionally by a parent. Which of course makes calling home a special kind of chore - am I going to get the guardians who a) truly care how their kids are doing and b) will hold their children accountable (please, baby Jesus)? Or might I have the pleasure of reaching The Lunatic, who rants at me about everything remotely connected to her kid (including details of how she sneaks out to have sex with boys in the backyard)? Or The Scoffer, who is certain the low grade is a result of my rejection of his child's special capabilities (which may or may not include being an Oscar-worthy liar)?
Sometimes I just pray for an answering machine.