Tuesday, December 19, 2006

On Avoidance and Exit Strategies

This semester I learned a very important lesson: Don’t be on campus on the last day to drop classes. At my institution, this is the last Friday before finals week, which seems awfully late to me. Students actually finish 14 ½ weeks of the fifteen week semester before realizing they are failing the class and need to GET OUT NOW!! When this epiphany occurs, they are required to get the signature of both their advisor and the instructor of the class before they can officially withdraw. Much franticness ensues.

Three different students tracked me down in a dusty corner of a deserted building where I was working so they could get their papers signed last Friday. The first was my advisee, who had finally learned enough mathematics to average his grade and understand that he was failing algebra. Next was my junior colleague’s student who wanted me to help him find her so he could drop her class. No, he didn’t know how to get in touch with her, he had lost the syllabus. He hadn’t been to class in weeks because he had been hospitalized with pneumonia, and didn’t understand why she wasn’t in (because she’s adjunct and she lives 60 miles away and doesn’t come to campus to “hang out” during her off days). When I told him that she lived in another city, he wanted her home address and phone number. Of course I refused, but he seemed undaunted, and raced off to find her with astonishing vigor, considering his poor health.

Last was another student looking for a different colleague, someone senior to me (experienced enough to know better than to be on campus that day!). The student was shocked that I would not call his professor at home one half hour before the deadline, and ask him to drive in to sign his paperwork. My colleague showed up exactly 40 minutes later, and we enjoyed an afternoon of quiet uninterrupted work together.

Message to students: If you can’t manage your time and energy well enough to pass your classes, you should at least plan your escape strategy.