The semester has reached that merry time when students suddenly realize that I have been conducting class for several weeks and collecting grades during that time. From now until the week of final exams I will asked variations of the same question: “Why am I failing?” My darling students, except in rare cases, one or more of the following is the answer to your query.
- You don’t come to class. Even the times you are physically there, you are not mentally present.
- You don’t do work, in or out of class.
- You don’t take notes.
- You don’t read.
- You don’t follow directions.
- You don’t ask questions.
- You don’t care.
Students, or at least many of those I’ve encountered, live by what I call the Deus Ex Machina principle. They believe that some magical force will intervene and make them pass the class. These are the most common reasons students believe they will not fail:
- The final exam is worth so much that if they make a good grade on it, despite failing every other test all semester, it will bring them up to passing.
- There is enough extra credit available to bring their grade (be it a 2 or 40) up to passing.
- They can turn in all the work they haven’t done all semester and I, so grateful to have it, will negate my ‘no late work policy’ and only take a minor deduction.
- They can rewrite papers and retake tests until they are passing.
- I curve grades at the end of the semester so everyone is passing. Or I will drop whatever grade(s) hinder their desired outcome.
- I will sympathize that my class is something they don’t need and will never use again, so I’ll pass them because my material is irrelevant anyways.
- Some authority figure, like my dean or their coach, will intercede and make me pass them.
I think this Deus Ex Machina attitude is also why students fail. The connection of work and outcome is not made. Instead, somewhere fairies are making golden points that will be added to their grades and bring them up to passing. After all, that’s what’s fair.