Teaching Ethnography: post mid-term blues

So today one of my students comes up  after class to talk about his progress.  It’s something I wish he had done weeks ago, preferably after I had emailed him half a dozen times asking him why he hadn’t turned in ANYTHING this semester.  He disappeared right after the break, so I assumed he decided to take a late drop.  Then he came back to class last week an eager participant, engaged and by all externals, loving the class.

This is the first time I’ve had an enthusiastic disappearing student, but something like this has happened to me every semester for the last 15 years. There is always some student issue.  I’ve had my fair share of disappearing students who come back the week before finals and are incensed to find out that I won’t accept all of their unsubmitted work.  Once I had a student who informed me that I needed to create an alternative assignment so she could “make up” the eight weeks of the semester she couldn’t make it to class.  It happens all the time, and it always leaves me feeling queasy.  I genuinely like my students and I want to do what I can to help them.  But sometimes they mess up.  Spectacularly.  I’m a big believer in natural and logical consequences. But that doesn’t mean I enjoy seeing those consequences in action.

So every year as the weather gets warmer, the trees and flowers bud and the days get longer, I find myself getting the post mid-term blues.  I wish all of my students were able to dedicate the time and attention to my classes that they should.  I would prefer that they come to me to discuss problems before they’re catastrophes.  But that’s not the way life works in the world of undergraduate education, so I mete out justice, as gently as possible, and hope next time they’ll do better.

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