As I showered just now, I somehow recalled a video meme I recently saw via a friend on Facebook. I didn’t much like it, and found it a poor use of such a great clip, but I’ve remembered it nonetheless. The words were along the lines of “when you just barely make your paper deadline”. The clip was Captain Jack Sparrow gliding perfectly onto the dock, as his ship disappeared under the water, sunk.
For whatever reason, this reminded me of the time in college when I did not make a sort of deadline.
It was my second year, in the Fall semester, and for one of my French classes. I think I had planned out studying for the test, and things had come up rather last-minute, completely destroying my study plan. It was probably a combination of that and the usual heart’s tug of ‘Let’s get distracted by everything other than studying.’
So, I found myself cramming desperately the night before and the morning of this test. I eventually just looked at myself, called it all ridiculous, and checked my teacher’s office hours. She would be in her office the half hour before class, which was not long from now. I kept studying, though in a completely different mood. Either I would get what I was dearly hoping to get, or I’d likely fail the test. And I could handle either (though I certainly had a preference).
I arrived at her office with an inner nervous, sweaty hands kid residing in my stomach, and a true sense of ease at what I was about to do.
I told her quite openly that I, by full fault of my own, was utterly unprepared to take the test today. Yes, I could come to class and take it, but it would create a waste of her time in grading it, as it would be filled with various levels of nonsense. I requested that she allow me to take the test later in the week instead, and asserted that I accepted any removal of points from my grade, should she see it necessary.
And she agreed. She asked – seeing as how I went to a fabulous school, where teachers actually get to know you as a person, and their care for you shows unfailingly – about whether something specific had happened, if I were all right, or if it were just a standard ‘Oh. My. Gosh. I messed up!” (Yes, I did make it clear that my situation was of the not-so-proud “Oops” category when she initially asked.), and then accepted my request to take the test later. I believe we agreed upon Friday, so that she still could grade it and give it back with the others on Monday… something like that, anyway. (I then rushed back home and resumed studying for the next two-ish days.)
I think that experience – although I’m not sure I’ve thought this until now – had a strong impact on how I handled students as a teacher. I remembered always that students have lives outside of the classroom, and that my class was not always the most important part of life for my students (and not simply by the students’ decision, but by global agreement), which sometimes meant that assignments went forgotten one night.
Essentially, I always expected the best of my students, and I remembered that they were only human. And, so far as the grading went, if they cared enough to admit their error and to make the request for an extension or redo, as I had done in college, then, so long as the situation were doable, I was willing to accept (or negotiate for acceptable terms). My students all knew this. They also knew that I accepted humanness, not laziness, and that I am an expert at distinguishing the two (slash knowing when they’re totally full of it). 🙂
Yeah, I love teaching. It’s like being a parent, but you get to kick them out whenever they’re driving you nuts. (I was about to say ‘And the spending money on them and feeding them part,’ but then I remembered that we actually constantly spend money on students, and I almost daily, if not hourly, shared my food with kids. One student regularly popped into my room throughout the day one year, asking for food. Good times. Good times.)
I feel like this went a little tangent-to-tangent (whatever that means), but that’s okay. So rolls my brain, eh?* 😀
*I’m not even Canadian. I just like the sound of that