Monday, July 23, 2007

On the seventh day he rested

Sorry, Mom!

I wasn't courting their favor, but most of my students seemed pleased when I postponed the exam on multiple integrals. It was clear they needed more practice, so rescheduling the exam from Thursday to Friday just made sense. I warned them that it would slightly increase the time pressure on the next chapter, but they were living in the moment and delighted at the stay of execution.

Except for G. He was overwrought with dismay. G came up to see me after class. Friday was not a good day for him. His mother was leaving on an international flight to her native country on Friday and G had promised to drive her to the airport.

“Could I please take the exam a day early?”

Sorry. That does not compute. My exams are almost never ready a full day in advance. I usually tweak them right after the class's review session on the day before the test. My student was distraught. No one else could take his mother to the airport. She relied on him. He had a serious family responsibility to discharge on Friday. He had promised.

“How about Monday? Could I make up the exam on Monday?”

That was not a good plan either. On Monday I would return the exam and review the solutions with the students. G was not doing so well in the class that he could afford to miss the post-exam post-mortem. Fortunately, there was an ideal solution.

“You can take the exam Saturday morning. Our math lab is open for a few hours on weekends and I can give the lab assistant a copy to hold for you. Go in on Saturday and tell them the class you're in. They'll pull the exam and put you in the testing room with it. I'll pick the test up from them Monday morning. You can come to class as usual Monday and not have to miss the post-exam review session.”

G seemed nonplussed, but he eventually nodded his head. I sent him to scout out the location of the math lab to make sure he would know where to go on the weekend. I congratulated myself on having dealt with the problem in a fair and effective manner. On Thursday night, as I assembled the exam, I carefully set aside a copy for G, complete with a cover page letting the Saturday math lab exam proctor know how much time to permit for the test. All was well.

On Friday I showed up for class my typical few minutes early and got things squared away for the big exam on multiple integrals. My students came streaming in, fewer late stragglers than usual because of the special occasion. Then G strolls in.

I don't know if he spotted the expression on my face. I believe one could have called it a scowl. I quickly rearranged my features into my typical benevolent mien. It was obvious what G had decided. Mother could go find some other ride to the airport. No way was G going to mess up a Saturday morning by taking a calculus exam.

G did not say anything to me about his unexpected appearance. If he's smart enough, he'll know there is no reason to say anything to me in the future about unavoidable family obligations. No one will be listening to that one.

Perhaps he and I both learned a lesson.


G did not bother to turn up for the post-exam review session. After all, when you pull a high D on a test, why fret over the solutions? (Mom would be so proud.)

1 comment:

PlatoisDerrida said...


I teach in the humanities and regularly see the same type of behavior from my students. Rather than assign make-up tests, I usually inform students that they will need to write two or three one-page out-of-class essays each on a different theme, topic, or question we have discussed in class. Almost without fail, the scheduling conflicts evaporate.

Go figure,