A few days ago, Miss Manners (Judith Martin, Nicholas Martin, and Jacobina Martin) fielded an AITA-style question from a reader who teaches college. It was a doozy.
The reader complained 🕛:
First, the students have been unmotivated, coming to class unprepared (if at all). … What really gets me, however, is their constant stream of emails: ‘I wasn’t feeling it, so I didn’t come to class today, sorry.’ ‘I needed a mental health day so I skipped our discussion.’ ‘I was too hung over, so I slept in this morning instead of coming to class.’
Finally there was this one: ‘I’ve been in a funk all weekend so I didn’t manage to do the assignment on time, but can I still turn it in?’ This email is the subject of my second issue.
This student has known about this short assignment since the first day of class, 14 weeks ago, thanks to the syllabus. She was not doing well in class even before this incident. But when I complained about this email, some of my fellow instructors pushed back and said I should have offered her information about counseling services. (That information is also in the syllabus, and available through many other means around campus.)
I suggested that it was assuming too much on my part, and that a ‘funk’ is not a serious condition—it sounds to me like a pity party being held by a freshman experiencing her first finals week. …
What I found rude was my colleagues’ pushing so hard against me. I’ve spent an entire semester with this student, and I’ve already made many accommodations for her, despite my displeasure at the excuse-making.
Miss Manners was not having it—neither the criticism from the instructor’s colleagues nor the poor email etiquette of the students.
“And what has [your flexibility] taught them?” she asked, rhetorically. “Your concern,” she continued, “should not be whether your students come to class but whether they master the material and fulfill the assignments. Unless they are exhibiting bizarre behavior that should be reported to mental health experts, the rest of their lives are not your business.”
She complained, though, that “sadly, you may not have the support of the university in grading students according to their achievements or failures to perform.”
As you might imagine, I have thoughts.
But my thoughts are complicated.Continue reading “Miss Manners on College Deadlines”