Sometimes I think my classrooms have been taken over by the reincarnated souls of golf course duffers. They're an increasing presence among my students. I suspect something is going on in elementary, middle, and high schools that is percolating into college. A conversation will illustrate the point:
“Gee, Dr. Z, I didn't do very well on the exam.”
“Yes. As the person who graded it, I am aware of that.”
“I really need a better grade. Can I take it again?”
“I'm sorry, but for obvious reasons I can't just let students repeat exams. For one thing, I don't have the time to rewrite the exam so you can retake it.”
“Oh, that's okay. You don't have to rewrite it. I could just take the same one over again.”
“Don't you see a problem with that? We just went over the exam in detail in class and put all the solutions up on the board. I can't use that exam again.”
“No, you can! I would do really well this time. I know I would!”
Gee, you think? (I know: Even in this case it's no guarantee.)
This never used to happen. Now it occurs a few times each semester, as disappointed students seek redemption by asking for do-overs. Most of them seem sincerely perplexed when I tell them it makes no sense to give them the same exam a second time. It's a math class. Not a memorization and transcription course. We solve problems. We don't memorize solutions and regurgitate them.
The spam ate my homework
Technology has opened up new vistas for the scholastic mulligan. These days I begin each semester with a simple assignment:
Write your instructor an e-mail by Friday. Include four items in your message:That last item is important. Students who don't use their campus e-mail accounts to e-mail me typically have handles that don't match up in any obvious way to the names on my roster. I mean, how am I supposed to know that HellGirl666@evil.com is Jane Doe?
- the name of the course in the subject line;
- your reason for taking the course;
- the topic of the latest post on the course website;
- your full name.
This assignment on Day One is a good way to collect e-mail addresses and to see whether your students know how to follow instructions. By the end of the first week I have replied to each student individually, welcoming him or her to the class and announcing the number of points earned for the exercise (depending on the degree of compliance with the four items):
Welcome to the class, Debbie. To get full credit for this assignment, you needed to include the course name on your subject line, explain why you are taking the course, report that the latest website posting is about peer tutoring opportunities at the Learning Center, and include your full name.Whereupon I get this:
You forgot to report on the content of the course website. Your score is 9 points out of a possible 12.
Hi Dr Z! I'm sorry I forgot to check the website. It says "Student Tutors Needed at LC Now". Can I have the 3 points now? Debbie DeludedI'm afraid that Debbie was disappointed. At least she didn't cut-and-paste my message and send it back to me with a request for full credit. She did her own typing!
Debbie and the handful of others who promptly resubmitted their initial assignments after I gave them the answers do not, however, win the prize for my favorite student message of the past year. I have to bestow the palm on someone else, someone whom I've never met:
Hi, it's Sandy No-Show. I'm enrolled in your calculus class. But i didn't come the first week of class, i was wondering if i can still continue taking this class?“Still continue taking”? In what universe does missing the first week of class position a student to ask about continuing to take it? I wrote back to gently inform her that I had dropped her ass from the class. But not in those precise words.