(Happy Blogoversary to me… and to you! It’s been one year since The Chatty Professor began and I thought I’d celebrate with my first Vlog, and my very, very first post. Enjoy! And I can’t wait for our further conversations!)
Plead. Cry. Yell. Play victim. Apologize.
After 13 years of teaching, I’ve witnessed all sorts of reactions when students learn that they aren’t getting the grade they “needed.” But this was a first:
It was almost a “good” bribe, too: Student would babysit my kids or mow my lawn.
I don’t have a lawn. I do have kids. And it is hard to find a good babysitter these days…
Seriously, did Student think bribery would actually work? Apparently so.
I was not surprised that Student was upset with the final grade. All quarter, Student apparently had a particular outcome in mind. Student needed a certain GPA in order to get into a program at another institution. The final grade in my class missed the mark, but was, unfortunately well-deserved based on Student’s performance.
Of course, it would have been helpful if Student told me about the needed GPA early in the term. Maybe we could have actually done something about it–like hatch a plan for early review of work, continual checking of grades to see if Student was on track, etc. But in week 10 when finals are flying? Rewind is not possible.
So, desperate student = desperate bribe.
I’m almost surprised it didn’t happen sooner in my career. I’ve seen a load of tweak-out come week 10, all as a result of poor planning or life unexpectedly getting in the way, which, of course, happens to all of us.
What did I say to Student? Essentially, that a bribe was:
a) Something I could or would never accept (and as if I’d really have this person watch my kids!);
b) Highly unethical;
c) Highly unprofessional;
d) Cause for me to escalate the matter to my Division Chair if the dialogue continued, which could have far deeper ramifications for Student’s overall college career.
Fortunately, Student apologized profusely and accepted the grade.
While I’m definitely in disbelief about the approach, I am empathetic. Being blind-sided never feels good. Having that “Oh, crap! What am I going to do now?” feeling never feels good either. However, these feelings hopefully drive new behaviors and improved communication. As Maya Angelou says, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
How can Student communicate better next time?
Number one: Never, ever bribe a professor for a grade! This seems obvious, right?
Number two: Start a dialogue EARLY with a professor about the needed/wanted grade. Find out what that grade will require. Stay after class, make an appointment, send an e-mail, carrier pigeon, anything! Learn what needs to be done, do it, and keep tabs on progress. Sounds like a no-brainer, but too many students don’t do it and find themselves in a sweat at term’s end.
There is no place in college (or anywhere, for that matter) for bribery. Well, maybe The Soprano’s School of Mafia-Related Communication. And even there, the most artful bribe could get you whacked.