How not to ingratiate oneself with the instructor

I teach class as an adjunct at the local community college from MTWTh, from 1-3 pm. Today I’m giving an exam over evolution and biotechnology. The last exam was pretty rough. I made one that would’ve been tough for biology majors but this is a nonmajors course and the students don’t have as much background. Consequently, I told them I’d make it up to them by having this test be painfully easy and with opportunities for extra credit abound. So one would think that a student who’s barely pulling a D would prioritize this exam, right? Especially since I was kind enough to send out a reminder of the exam last week, with a study guide?
Apparently not. I got this email yesterday….

hey evil, is there anyway i can make up this test because i’m actually going to be leaving tomorrow. also, is there any homework that i need to be doing as of right now for monday?

Keep in mind that I got this question at 3:37 pm YESTERDAY. Plus, I don’t know where the student is leaving for, since I haven’t seen her in class since the last exam. Color me suspicious. Not to be deterred from her forthright pursuit of responsible behavior, I get another email at 7:40 am this morning:

evil,
i was hoping to see that you had received my email about not being able to take my test today and to schedule a time when i could. i really hope this isn’t an issue considering that i’m already at my destination!

Oh man, I must be pretty inconsiderate! I didn’t relentlessly check my email from when I got out of class until 10am this morning!!!! If only I had put off my doctor’s appointment this morning, I could’ve at least gotten back to her a few hours sooner!!! In order to rectify the situation immediately, I responded with

Rescheduling an exam actually requires me to do a significant amount of work since, as stated in the syllabus, I would basically have to rewrite the test. According to the syllabus, exams are also to be made up only in the event of a verifiable emergency. I’ll be happy to rewrite the exam if this is the case, so please present a doctor’s note or other paper trail.
If this is a personal reason, more of a heads-up would have allowed us to work out the opportunity for you to take the exam before leaving. Unfortunately I haven’t seen you in class or lab for at least a week so I have been unable to return your prior test scores, other assignments, or your mid-semester grade, or discuss this matter. As such, I am unwilling to give a makeup exam on such short notice.
Evil

Seriously people, be considerate of your prof’s responsibilities too. I guess it’s possible that this student had an emergency come up, but usually when that happens you state as much up front. I’m not going out of my way to make up a separate exam just so one person can go to a “destination”. It is unfair to me, and unfair to the other students in the class who studied to meet the normal exam deadline. And I’m already being generous with the points; make it a priority to be in class and get them.

11 Responses

  1. Ah! The good old days. I wonder if I was ever that carefree and careless? Ummm… probably, but I don’t think I ever blew off a big test either. Damn Kidz. And GET OFF OF MY LAWN!

  2. The good old days? I missed my grandfather’s funeral because it was the same day as an Organic exam, and i couldn’t reach the professor by phone. (This was before email was default, and obviously WELL before cell phones were affordable to anybody.) I could have left a phone message but i had no idea if he’d say yes or not, and the idea of failing the course was beyond my emotional maturity at that point.
    In retrospect, taking Organic over again would have been better than missing the funeral, but who at age 20 has that kind of perspective?
    Anyway, Evil, your policy is fair and just.

  3. Ah, the evils of email. Twenty years ago students could not pull a stunt like this because they would actually have to talk to you in person or on the phone to try to get away with it. When it suits them (they need to tell you something), students believe that email is a form of instantaneous communication. Then, when it suits them (when you need to tell them something), students believe that email is no better than regular mail.
    I have a line in my syllabus telling students that unless I specifically request an email from them, I reserve the right to ignore any of their emails for any reason. But, any email I send them carries the same weight as an announcement made in class. I justify it by explaining that they have one professor but I have 100 students.

  4. Par for the course; there’s one (or more!) in every class.
    To read enlightening discussions among professors about students, see:
    http://rateyourstudents.blogspot.com/
    and:
    http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php?board=25.0

  5. From my syllabus, on the subject of requests for extensions, which “will be granted only at the discretion of the instructor and in the face of extraordinary circumstances. Always remember that the instructor will be the judge of whether or not circumstances are extraordinary. Lack of preparedness, by the way, is not in and of itself an extraordinary circumstance. Extensions may be accompanied by a grade penalty. Nota bene: If you have been attending consistently and have been regularly prepared, I will be much more likely to grant an extension than if your attendance and preparation have been inconsistent. In addition, extensions on presentations are generally granted only if I receive timely notice. A last-minute phone call or e-mail message would not be considered timely notice.” On the last point, ditto for midterms and exams.

  6. From my syllabus, on the subject of requests for extensions, which “will be granted only at the discretion of the instructor and in the face of extraordinary circumstances. Always remember that the instructor will be the judge of whether or not circumstances are extraordinary. Lack of preparedness, by the way, is not in and of itself an extraordinary circumstance. Extensions may be accompanied by a grade penalty. Nota bene: If you have been attending consistently and have been regularly prepared, I will be much more likely to grant an extension than if your attendance and preparation have been inconsistent. In addition, extensions on presentations are generally granted only if I receive timely notice. A last-minute phone call or e-mail message would not be considered timely notice.” On the last point, ditto for midterms and exams.

  7. My wife spent a couple of years teaching. The final straw was an ‘F’ student who made such a ruckus about how it was her right to get an ‘A’ even though she hardly attended class nor took the exams nor did homework that my wife decided the agro was just not worth it. Suits were threatened and the upper management decided that was too much. If I hadn’t watched the exchanges myself I would not have believed it possible that any students today could consider it their ‘right’ to get good grades regardless of their actual achievements.

  8. Does the college have a policy that relates to dropping students who are missing? At my school, if someone misses class for n consecutive sessions (where n depends on the number of units and the number of times the class meets per week), then the instructor can file a drop request. In fact, we’re supposed to.
    That means whenever a student contacts us on the eve of an exam after having been absent since the previous exam, it’s a simple matter to reply, “Oh, I’m sorry. You were dropped for nonattendance. At least you don’t have to worry about the exam now!”
    The more discreet among us leave off the last sentence.

  9. A fellow teaching assistant suffered from a lousy student who demanded, over and over, to be allowed to re-take a test. We all got so sick of him that the rest of us would tell her to hide when we saw this jerk coming down the hall. I think she and the professor were on the verge of giving in when they discovered that he’d told her that the professor said the retest was OK with him, and he’d told the professor she’d said it was OK with her… never imagining that they might talk to each other. That was the end of his campaign.

  10. Back in the olden days, my grandfather did die, I trekked over to see the prof (one of my favorites) to let him know I could not be at an exam. He was very understanding, and said he would see me to take the exam two days hence.
    As I left, he said: “Be sure to bring a copy of the obit.”

  11. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were actually reading my e-mail. I’m teaching an 8 week course this summer and despite my telling them on the first day that the course would be very difficult because of the fast pace and also that there would be absolutely no make-up exams, I’ve had people jetting off to all corners of the world, missing tests, homework, and up to 1/4 of the lectures and all of them are utterly incensed that I have not been typing up notes and quzzes for them to do on the beach or writing a new test for them to take because they missed the scheduled one.
    I would have thought that summer students would be more, not less, serious about their classes than they are the rest of the year.

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