Saturday, December 2, 2006

Last minute mania

At 6:40 a.m. I sit in front of my computer on a Saturday morning wondering if the semester will truly come to an end. Next week is the last week of classes and then finals but I still have trouble seeing the "light at the end of the tunnel". For the last two weeks, my inbox has been very active. Not only have I been receiving the usual administrative, committee, listserv, and research related emails but a new breed of student email called "last minute mania" has infiltrated my inbox.

Some start with "What did I miss?" Okay, sounds quasi-reasonable until I look at my attendance records and see that they have failed to come to class 6 out of the 8 classes in the last two months. How am I supposed to address that question? Well, read the second half of the textbook? I maintain a pretty strict attendence policy. The university allows for two absences (or 3 hours) without academic penalty. In a course worth 250 points, I deduct five points per unexecused absence. I just want to point out that if a student tells me ahead of time or has a plausible excuse afterwards the absence becomes excused. Most don't bother to notify me. Additionally, I make my attendence policy very clear throughout the semester. At the end of the semester I get emails about "I missed a class". Usually, this can be loosely translated into I missed so many classes I am going down a letter grade - can you help me with this. Again, not an easy one to respond to. My personal favorite is "Will this be on the exam?". No matter how many times I let students know what they are responsible for this still occurs. I provide a review sheet and a jeopardy style exam review in class all to no avail. "Please let me know what I need to study for the exam" appears in my inbox without fail. But the one that truly wins the award is a student who wisely took the time to come to see a colleague of mine during office hours. He asked him why he had missed the final exam. His response was something to the effect that he was unfortunately incarcerated at the time and provided his release papers. Hmmm. Does that qualify for an excused absence? I still have a week and a half to go until the final exam. Let's see if there are any creative souls in my classes his semester.

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