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Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Litany

With two weeks left to go in the semester, things are winding down. Unless someone fails to turn in a portfolio paper, or does not show up to the final,  grades are mostly set.  This, of course, is cause from drama for those who are going to hop aboard the FAILroad. Thus, the Litany has begun.

The Litany is the last gambit of the student who knows a) they're going to do badly, and b) it's beyond too late to do anything about it.

The opening feint of the Litany is sickness. Whether it's personal or familial, someone spent the semester fixin' to die (in one memorable case, it was a grandma, and for the third time). Hospital visits/admissions, massive amounts of drugs...all prevented Precious Snowflake from completing classwork. Usually this feint can be blocked by asking for documentation of any type. A doctor's note (from a doctor that does NOT have the same last name, thank you), hospital paperwork, anything. No docs, no grade bump.

The secondary assault usually involves stress/anxiety/overwork/the Freshman 15....take your pick. It boils down to "College is haaaaard, and I didn't realize that I had to manage my own time and schedule appropriately!" Honest bonus points awarded to the guy who flat-out admitted that he partied too hard and studied too little, and deserved his "D," but was hoping for the best.

Whatever strategy is adopted, the fact is, no one can go back in time and do what needs to be done: work harder.

Sadly, they lesson won't be remembered next semester, either.


  1. Our grading is complicated, with a LOT of numbers to be punched in. Mistakes happen, and I have several safe guard procedures in place to make sure grades are correct. Once they have all played out.... I still get a few questions. "How can I get a better grade (a)without doing any work, and (b) before my parents see this grade".

    My typical answer always begins with "Step one, invent a time machine.... Step two...".

  2. It was always entertaining to watch my classmates who had blown off coursework for most of a term try to make it all up in the final couple of weeks prior to the final. I knew one guy who actually sat down and figured out just how well he had to do on the final in order to get a C, and that was all the effort he put into it. I wouldn't be worried, but he was pre-med. Somewhere, he may be working an emergency room right now.

  3. Yep, no wonder all the visiting profs like teaching at a military base... Many's the time I heard, "Oh how I wish I had a few of y'all on campus!"

    And I DO believe you're right, they'll screw up again next semester and be gone after that, but it won't be THEIR fault...

  4. DaddyBear: "I knew one guy who actually sat down and figured out just how well he had to do on the final in order to get a C, and that was all the effort he put into it."

    That's not really uncommon. There is a point of view which holds that ten years after, no one will ask what grade you pulled in Stats 233... so, if 70 is a passing grade and you got 71, you studied too hard. The objctive is to pass, get your ticket punched, and move on. You see that attitude a lot in the business school types

  5. When my son was in high school, his motto was "D is for Diploma". Then he went to college, at an engineering school no less, and he learned that bull shit like that won't fly. He studied, learned math even, and did well. Now as an adult and a father, he understands the value of education.

    Sadly too many kids don't learn that lesson until they are out of college, with a useless degree, and no marketable skills.

    And of course some never learn that lesson and are condemned to a life of underemployment or worse, politics.

  6. My freshman year in Mechanical Engineering I had a real hard case prof for my mechanical drawing class (old school with drawing boards, t-squares and pencils). This man was universally hated by every student who had him in class. He was very tough, extremely demanding and humorless. Drop out rate in his class was close to 50%. I watched several students try various methods of sucking up to him, or getting grades bumped, or extra time for assignments from him - they were all ultimately, at best, disappointed. At worst they ended up embarrassed or humiliated.

    I showed up for our final exam in the class with my right arm in a sling. I had dislocated my shoulder that morning blowing off a little steam playing a little football with some friends. I didn't even try to explain to the man what had happened. I knew that I would be cut no slack, or given no quarter.

    So I gritted my teeth and managed to get through the exam by standing next to my drawing table to change the angle that my arm rested on the table. I was in a lot of pain and barely managed to get three of the four drawings on the final finished. When time was up the prof collected all our papers, and told me to stay at my desk while the rest of the class packed up all their stuff and left the room. When they were gone, he closed the door, handed me back my test and said "OK, I have watched you for the last 2 hours and I am convinced you are not faking, you can have some more time to finish that last drawing."

    I asked how much time and he told me "Start drawing and we'll see if you manage to finish it before you pass out." I finished it.

    Over the next three years recommendations from that man got me two different summer jobs as a draftsman and a job with the department my senior year when I needed the money just to stay in school. I asked him once why he did all that for me. His reply was - "You paid attention, you learned, you worked hard, and you didn't ask for favors or special treatment even when you had a good reason."

    I learned a lot more than drawing from him. I learned that no one was ever going to give me anything I didn't earn. And anyone who did, was probably not doing me any favors.


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