October 25, 2009

Clues for the Clueless #22

Posted in clues to the clueless, student stories tagged , , , , , at 2:04 pm by profart

Hint: Turn in all work you have, when you have it, and if at all possible, on time. Late work is extremely annoying to professors. We have to manage our time just like you do, and having work roll in late means we have to come up with new blocks of time to grade it.

I have had a huge number of make-up midterms this semester- more than I have had in ten years’ teaching put together. Midterms are a quarter of the final grade, you would think they would be taken seriously.

Not only have there been a mass of make-ups, but make-ups to the make-ups. I put together the make-up exam online, and had another group of students who failed to finish it by the deadline. I made the mistake of allowing students to do their essay at home- its two weeks later, and I am still waiting for some of them. We won’t be making that mistake again.

Then I have The Incredibly Unlucky Student. The student’s situation is a bit comical in and of itself. Either this student is an ace at getting away with shit, or they have the worst luck to ever hit a student in the history of the planet- but not bad enough to keep them from being a pain in the ass.

This is the second semester I have had Lucky, so I have the drill down now. Lucky appears in class, oh, maybe the third week of a semester, in time to be counted present in the federal paperwork. Lucky claims to have been sick, vaguely, and can even produce a doctor’s note if you so desire. Lucky then comes in late for the next week or two, straggling in and disrupting classmates. Lucky is coming from another class or from work, and does have quite enough time in-between to get here on time. Lucky is not stupid, and has had some education; they seem familiar with basic history and geography, in a world where most students aren’t. I have a vague suspicion that this is why Lucky is here- big fish in a little pond. Then the absences start again. Last semester, Lucky was in and out of doctors because of a mysterious condition that could have been serious, but turned out was totally not. Lucky was happy to produce doctor’s notes, which are notoriously vague. There were trips to emergency rooms, days in bed from dizziness and nausea, doctor’s appointments, and just “I felt too bad to come.” This semester, we have the lovely H1N1 to blame absences on and get vague doctor’s notes for.** So Lucky has, of course, had the flu for a week and a half. And then the morning of the exam, lo and behold, Lucky was in a car accident. They presented a doctor’s note about a shoulder injury, it was a little difficult to make out, other than “excused from school and work.”

So I bundled Lucky with the other third of the class who didn’t show up, bit the bullet, and put up an online make-up exam with a week to complete it. The day before it was due, our college’s computer systems were down for about 3 hours. Of course, they went down while Lucky was taking the midterm. And did Lucky contact me right away, or immediately after the systems came up, or even the next morning? Um, no. Lucky emailed## me the day after the exam was due to complain that they did not get a chance to finish the midterm.

The solution this student sees for this? Lucky wants me to just use the score on their final for their midterm as well. They see this as “fair.”

Ok, stop laughing. This student is serious. After all, they go on and on about what a good student they are, even though their attendance is poor, and how hard they worked. Hey, they passed last semester, right?

But wait- I look in my records, and realize not only do I not have the make-up exam they are taking online, I don’t have the essay, either. The one they were supposed to bring with them to the exam, remember? That should have been printed out in the car when Lucky was in the accident. Emailing it to me should have done immediately, or at the very least after I informed Lucky of the make-up exam when they showed up (late) for the next class.

The online midterm situation was easy. I reopened it, and emailed Lucky that I did so. I am sure Lucky will be whining Monday morning that they didn’t check their email, so I also let the whole class know that Monday at midnight is it- exams are done. If Lucky bothers to come to class, I can at least warn them in person, and email be damned. If not, Lucky can just take their ass to the dean and complain. With the latest update to our servers, I can actually see what work has been done on the midterm, so I’ll grade what I have and call it done.

I’m tired of waiting for students to decide to do their work.

** I wish I could insist a doctor sign a doctor’s note, or that it appear on actual letterhead, or something- I suspect a lot of these “notes” are just a word processor and a scribble.

## I seriously considered posting the email, but most of it a rant about how life is so unfair and why, and there was just too much personal information. When I cut it all out, it wasn’t all that coherent.



  1. Tom said,

    Medical excuses are vague, but they pretty much have to be that way. Medical privacy laws dictate that health care providers cannot disclose the details of the patients’ conditions, treatments, etc.

    I knew a nosy professor who tried to call doctors’ offices and find out the fine details about students who had brought in medical excuses. She suspected that there was no medical issue precluding whatever these students missed, attendance or assignment-wise, but rather they had merely scheduled routine check-ups or had gone to a doctor for minor health issue so as to obtain a note from their doctor. Of course, the offices could only inform her that a student had seen a doctor, and nothing besides. Frankly, I believe that medical confidentiality (which the Supreme Court upholds) trumps the potential for “Excuse Abuse” by college students.

    • profart said,

      I find doctor note excuse abuse to be EXTREMELY rare. As long as the note is from the doctor’s office, that is all I need to excuse the student. If they want to schedule routine appointments during their class time and miss the material, that’s between them and their conscience and whomever is paying the bill. However, I would like them to be actual doctor’s notes. With no letterhead or anything to go by, and with this specific student, it was really suspicious.

      Since this post was written, doctors in our area are now required to write the notes on some type of official form or letterhead with contact information, so I can at least call and confirm the student saw a doctor, or can see it came from a doctor’s office. A student wily enough to fake such a document… well, I usually see other issues, too.

      • Tom said,

        Ah, well that is different. I had assumed that a medical excuse would have at least been from someone in healthcare. It never would have occurred to me that a college would accept a student’s own say-so as an official excuse for missing class or being late on coursework.

        On the other hand, I once knew an unscrupulous schoolteacher who was able to take nearly an entire year off, paid with benefits, because a doctor friend of his had given his opinion that it was medically necessary.

        (Or a more pedantic note, shouldn’t that be “[…] whoever is paying the bill.” The “whoever” here would act as the subject, not an object.)

      • profart said,

        You are correct, it should be “whoever.” Shame, shame, bad ProfArt, not proofreading her posts, no doughnut this morning. 😦

        Doctors here were not required to put notes on official letterhead when the post was written (actually, before that- when the incident occurred). They could use forms, but the forms didn’t even have to say what office it was- because “it might compromise a student’s privacy”. That has, fortunately, now changed.

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