The semester comes to a close. My temper has been short lately. My patience has been short lately. It will be good to have a change and necessary to take a break.
What is it that makes this time of the semester so difficult for everyone? Part of it is, undoubtedly, sadness that we won’t much see this group of students again, since on the most part, we truly like them. Some of it is the high paperwork load that comes with wrapping up a semester. Some of it is the grade-grubbing and begging. I’d rather help students work hard and learn than give them grades that make them sad. But my job is to report what happened over the course of the semester, according to the rules laid out in the syllabus. There was the option of coming for help before the last week before the final exam.
I am also questioning myself. I made my final optional, but in order to insure that students came to class and learned the last material, I insisted on no unexcused absences for the last week and a 70% score or higher on the final homework. I think 3 failed to make the score on the final homework. One, in part, because he handed it in late. Another just did poorly. One of the two didn’t show up for the final. The second scored poorly pulling a borderline C down to a D in my class. A rule is a rule, and I know that it is part of my job to enforce rules. Though sometimes we make judgment calls on things. Let them walk away with a C and be done. The consequences of not knowing the material will catch up. Of course, sometimes that is the wrong thing, and it is better to accept responsibility for handing the consequences out rather than delaying it for some other instructor. Right. Wrong. Hard to tell. And maybe there is no right or wrong here, there just is what is.
Many students struggle with the concept that actions have consequences. Fair enough. But sometimes better to leave well enough alone. Also fair enough. Perhaps for next time, if where I am going to be teaching in the future allows optional finals, I will find a way to change how I notify or change the policy in a way that is gentler on everyone’s spirit.