Finals week for a teacher is like being the hero of an epic–you will be tested. Students seem to awaken from some sleeping spell they have been under for the past few months and realize they are a.) in your class, b.) that class requires work, and c.) they haven’t done that work. While they are not the majority, their voices ring through you, drowning out all other sounds.
Many call for the deus ex machina (“What can I do to pass?”/”I know I haven’t taken all the tests or completed all the assignments, but I really need to pass this class.”/”I turned in this assignment that you have no record of and I have no record of. Can I have credit?”).
Others strike at you, insulting your class, you, your children, and anything else they can think of. They tell anyone who will listen that you burn monkeys/commune with the devil/are heartless/are unfair/hate students/hate them/are uneducated/are a communist/eat babies and that’s why they are failing your course. Sometimes their pleas might be so dramatic you’ll get a call from your dean wondering what sort of baby eating-monkey burning-communist tomfoolery you’ve been up to.
There is also the great joy of having to fail the final paper or project a student completes because it’s plagiarized/half the assigned length/off topic/doesn’t follow guidelines. Each time you enter those failing grades, it’s like setting a timer on a bomb. When will the email demanding an explanation for their failure arrive? In three . . . two . . . one . . .
Whatever their cause, these students will test your patience. They will test your policies. They will test your integrity. They will test your sanity. You may want to give in, to round that 64 up to passing just to make the emails/phone calls/minutes perched in your office stop. However, somewhere through the fog of coffee and grading, you will try desperately to hang on to your principles all while telling yourself you would be doing them no favors by giving in.
This semester feels like a beating, more than in the past I think. It seems the drama is more intense, the papers more taxing, and the to do list never ending. These are the times Starbucks beckons to me. But I won’t quit to become a barista. Instead I’ll take a few days, read a few books, and start all over again.