Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Too cool for school
Although its hours have been trimmed by the current state budget crisis, my college's Tutoring Center continues to serve as a lifeline for many of our students. Each semester, therefore, I make a point of ensuring that my math students are aware of the facility's existence. I don't just tell them, I show them. Thus it was once again that, during the second week of the semester, I gathered up the entire class and took them on a “field trip.”
It puzzled my students when I announced it, of course. I told them to leave their books and papers behind in the classroom, which I would lock behind them. We would take a few minutes to stroll down the sidewalk to the Tutoring Center, which was only a couple of buildings over. Short field trip. Once I mentioned where we were going, some students nodded their heads in comprehension, grasping my purpose. Other students, however, had a different reaction.
One came up to me, backpack in hand, clearly ready to make a break for it.
“Is this required?” he inquired.
“We're all going to the Tutoring Center,” I said, in oblique response.
“Yeah, but do we have to? Is it an assignment?” He was nothing if not persistent.
“We're all going to the Tutoring Center and we'll be back in a few minutes to start on the next topic,” I said, demonstrating a charming obtuseness.
I don't think my student was charmed. He got to the point.
“Does this affect our grade? Are we getting participation points?” he asked.
I looked right at him, allowing my surprise to show.
“‘Participation points’? In a college class?”
We returned to our classroom and launched into the lesson for the second half of the class period. The point-grubbing student sat quietly in the back, apparently ruing his decision not to skip out. At least I assume so, since in the next few days he developed a habit of nonattendance or early departure. When our first exam came along, he achieved the class's low score, missing a D by several points. (In fact, his score in the thirties might reasonably be characterized as an F-minus-minus.) He had never come to my office hours and he had never darkened the door of the Tutoring Center again.
I guess he really needed those participation points.