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A clause for pause November 9, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, societal commentary, teaching.
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I got into a discussion with a colleague where I mentioned that, when necessary, a student’s behavior will be a consideration when it comes time to assign final grades.  This colleague said I couldn’t do that because the grade should be based solely on their coursework.

What this colleague doesn’t understand is that almost every semester, I have had one or two students who felt that they were ‘in charge’ and could tell me what I could and could not do in the class.  The most egregious examples were students showing up drunk, who felt like they could start yelling at me, or felt like they were entitled to argue with me endlessly once I had made a decision on something.  Every. Semester.

A couple years ago, I began adding a ‘behavioral expectations’ to my syllabus, stating that students needed to treat other students and the instructor respectfully.  I also outlined behaviors that students frequently have questions about. (No, I don’t mind if you eat or drink during class.  You don’t need to ask me to go to the bathroom.  If you come in late, don’t disrupt the class, etc.)  I needed students to realize there were basic expectations, and more importantly, that I am not a pushover.

This isn’t me attempting to micromanage their behavior.  The idea was to get across that I could tell them they were done with my class if they started being very oppositional, disruptive, or even threatening.  I got very tired of students who felt it was acceptable to badger me until they got the grade they wanted.  All of these scenarios have occurred at one time or another, and I, for a long time, felt powerless to do anything about it.

What I find questionable is giving a student an A, which many people take as a stamp of approval, when the student fought tooth and nail to avoid meeting the minimum qualifications of getting that grade or has created a difficult learning environment for those around them.  I’m not a conformist, but I do believe in showing people basic respect.  If they cannot do that, then they have not met my requirements to receive a grade that essentially says I strongly approve of how they have performed in my class.

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