Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My student weaves a tangled web

And drops more than a stitch!

The passing of the drop deadline always occasions an emergency or two. The more amusing examples consist of students who really screw up the simple business of dropping a class. These poor people suddenly realize that they're going to get F's in the classes they've been neglecting if they don't bail out before the deadline. We teachers haven't seen them in several days or even weeks, but suddenly they're back on campus and want to talk to you. They come to classes where they've long been strangers and ask you what to do, so you give them instructions on how to withdraw from the class.

Some of them follow through, but a few manage to dither about and don't file their drop requests. Their names remain on the roster, doomed to get F's to average into their GPAs. Funny thing: Had they stayed away, those students would have been dropped by me anyway for nonattendance. I always purge the class rolls on the eve of the drop deadline. But by showing up during the week leading up to drop day, they are back in attendance and have assumed the responsibility to drop themselves.

The poor things can't even drop a class correctly. If they did it via the school's website, they could drop without ever setting foot on campus or seeing an instructor.

One of my undropped students caught me after class the week after the drop deadline to plead her case, citing special circumstances. Her counselor, she said, had just told her that the class was not required for her major, although he had previously told her that it was. She was horrified that he had not told her sooner, because she would have dropped before the deadline had she known.

I commiserated with my student and suggested she meet with her counselor again to examine the possibility of filing a petition for a late withdrawal. After all, if the counselor had misinformed her, he should be willing to help her make it right. My student was hesitant.

“When I met with the counselor,” she explained, “he told me that the only thing we could do now would be if you gave me an incomplete.”

That was a head-scratcher. Could her counselor be that dim?

“A counselor should never tell a student something like that. An incomplete grade cannot be given to a student unless he or she is doing passing work at the time of the emergency withdrawal from class. Did you tell him your current grade?” She nodded. I didn't feel it necessary to press the matter as to whether she had informed the counselor that it had become mathematically impossible for her to pass the class. Her F was most secure.

“You see,” I continued, “a grade of incomplete is like saving a game that you plan to finish later. But our class is a game you're losing, so an incomplete makes no sense. You don't want to pick up where you left off, in a deep hole. You want to start over again with a clean slate. Or, in this case, you just want to drop it because you don't need it.”

She seemed to understand.

“So I need a special drop petition from my counselor?”

“That's right. Go back to the counseling office, see your counselor again—or ask for a new one, if that would make you feel better—and get the paperwork started. Since it's after the formal drop deadline, a petition is your only option.”

There was a long pause. She was racking her brain for something and not finding it. Finally, she asked me a question:

“Could you tell me where the counseling office is?”

Oh. The counseling office where she had allegedly been given bad advice by her counselor that morning? How soon they forget!

Another pause as I regarded her with a carefully bland expression. Then I gave her directions (the counseling center was right near where we were standing, just one building over). She thanked me quickly and bustled off.

I still don't know if she had any idea how completely she gave herself away.

2 comments:

John Armstrong said...

One of the few things I like about Yale college is the residential college system. It provides a much tighter network of administrative support for the undergraduates. The upshot is that I don't have to deal with any of this crap.

"How do I drop a course?" ask your dean.
"I can't make the midterm!" ask your dean.
"I have some petty concern that has nothing to do with the actual material of this specific course." ask your dean.

Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

What does Ashlee Simpson have to do with any of this?