Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Reader Asks A Familiar Question

I had a student this semester--a single mother of two--who was going through a lot of personal problems. She was failing the class and I tried to work with her. She kept telling me how passing this class would allow her to reach her goals on time, especially important because she was on unemployment and had a limited amount of time to make this work.

In the end, she tried to make up much of the work she missed early on, but her answers indicated she didn't quite get it. On the day of the final, she told me she hadn't had time to write her last paper, because she'd devoted all her time to her other classes, but it was very important that she pass my class. I felt bad for her, and I gave her until I left my office that day, about an hour later, to turn it in. As I was getting into my car, she came running up, calling my name. Something had gone wrong with the file and printer, and all she had were some notes. She swore she'd written the paper.

A few days later, she mailed me the paper.I read it, but didn't give her credit. It was not of passing quality. Her final grade was a D. After the grades were posted, she emailed me to tell me that with the D, her GPA had slipped 3/hundredths of a point below what she needed to maintain her financial aid.

Now I feel that if I'd just passed her, I could have made her life that much easier at little cost to me. Was I wrong? Or should I have not even considered her personal situation (single moms always have my sympathy and respect)? What would you have done?