(You can't see me, but here at my computer, I am doing a little happy dance, spinning the chair.)
Since returning to teaching, I have taught 5 years and one semester. The one semester is this one that has just finished. In those eleven semesters, I have noticed that each one has its own character, its own mix of peculiarities, despairs and triumphs.
This semester has the distinction of being the one where I had the highest attrition rate. I began with 26 students in each section. When the students sat for the final exam today, I had 17 in one section, and 13 in the other! (WOW! 50% attrition.)
This semester also had the distinction of being the one where I had the highest incidence of plagiarism--I had 3 different students who included wholesale sections in their research papers that they failed to quote and failed to credit. My very clear policy is that such an infraction results in a zero for the assignment. One student was very angry when I returned the research paper with its zero rating.
All the final exams are now graded, and the grades calculated. And I know you are all waiting to hear how the macaroni cheese student did. She did not pass--enough said. She is convinced that I had it in for her (I did not).
So, why you might be thinking along about now--why is this blog titled "face the final curtain"?
Well, I began hearing a melody in my head this afternoon.
And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
Hum hum hum.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which Im certain.
I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and ev'ry highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
I am being a little melodramatic--and I am not Old Blue Eyes singing my final swan song before the curtain call.
But I feel as though there were times when I was doing it my way this semester.
Student asks--why must I observe MLA conventions?
Student asks--do I need a cover page for my research paper?
(This right after I had said--include a cover page for your research paper).
Student asks--does the cover page count as 1 (toward the count of a 10 page paper).
Student sends me an email THE DAY THE RESEARCH PAPER IS DUE--and says, he can't make it to class (and of course can't turn in the paper) because he has to fly to mid-country for a family funeral.
So, I said--give me a copy of the airline ticket as written proof.
Student says--I threw it away.
So, I said--well give me a copy of the return ticket.
Student says--I can't; I rode back with my parents!
Student sends me an email the NIGHT BEFORE the exam and asks--how do I get on the library website to look at the course material stored there.
I answer--I went over that several times in class; I am NOT going to email you directions the night before the exam.
Student writes a paper that sounds just a bit too sophisticated.
I ask--please bring the source book you used to next class.
The student NEVER returns to class.
Student tells me--I missed class for 3 days because I was in an accident and hurt my foot.
I say--ok, bring a doctor's excuse.
Student brings in excuse--it says the doctor approves being off ONE day.
So, I declined to excuse the other two absences.
Student NEVER returns to class.
Student with a lot of potential comes to class, but doesn't turn in any papers.
I point out--you can't pass the course without writing the papers.
Student says--I know. Then stops attending class.
Student says--isn't there anything I can do to bring up my grade.
I suggest--do the work assigned.
Student says--I know, but I have a lot going on in my life right now (such as, his girlfriend is pregnant). But I want to do some extra credit.
I decline--do the REGULAR work.
Student stops attending class.
But for each of these students, there are ones like this--student who got into legal trouble early in the semester, buckles down and does well on research paper and final exam.
Or student who returned to school after losing job. During the semester, his father died--but he missed only one class. And came back full of enthusiasm. And as he said goodbye today said--I learned so much in your class.
Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.