Teenagers literally have no understanding of cause and effect. They also do not understand the correct usage of the word literally. But I digress.
Students believe they can correct a semester’s worth of mistakes in a couple of days. They believe that a final or essay which is worth 10% of their grade can compensate for having a 26% overall. They also have problems with math, apparently.
I once had a student come up to me and ask me what he could do to pass my class. It was the last week. He had 3%. Literally.
I told him he could hop in the DeLorean and go back to the beginning of the year and try caring this time around.
Then he got hurt.
They want extra credit. They want to hand in assignments that were due in February. They want ME to grade weeks’ worth of work in hours. They do not understand why I do not want to do this.
When I was young and beautiful, before my heart grew cold, I used to cave. I would take piles of work and drink cup after cup of coffee and grade into the wee hours. And often, the work was terrible, as though it had all been done at the last minute or something. And then I would be put in the awful position of needing to fail the student anyway.
That is why now I just put on my understanding face as I listen to their excuses and their pleas. Then I say, “I am sorry.” I explain that showing up for the last three days of my class, after missing an entire persuasive essay unit and a portfolio self-assessment, will not cut it. I wish them luck in the future.
Then I go home and I still feel bad. I know I did the right thing, but somewhere inside of my Grinch-like soul, a little voice says I should just give them another chance. I always feel terrible when someone fails my class because I feel like there must have been something more I could do. I should not have let that boy with the 3% fall so far behind. Somehow, if I were just a better teacher, they would be better students.
Then I remind myself that I am not the cause of every effect. I remind myself that to believe I am is both narcissistic and unhealthy. I tell myself that by letting them fail, I am putting them closer to understanding that in life, we are often responsible for our own outcomes.
At least until someone invents a working time machine.