Teaching Lessons: Compromise

There are times in teaching where it is important to hold a hard line. When you are enrolled in one my courses you are learning about fiction and poetry and nonfiction. You are also learning about grammar and sentence structure and style. In addition to all the academic material, you are also learning organization, responsibility and accountability. You will come to class prepared. You will participate. You will complete the in-class and out of class assignments. You chose to be here, so it is up to you to make it work. I will do everything in my power to help you succeed, but at the end of the day, you have to do the work. And it is hard work.

That being said, sometimes compromise is necessary. This morning I opened my email to find a message from a student who has not attended class since October 1st. Before October 1st, her attendance had also not been the best. When she was in class, she participated and completed her work, but upon reviewing my attendance records I found that out of the 17 class sessions we’ve had so far, she’s attended 8. In her email she provided an in depth explanation of her absences, but assured me that she would not allow these setbacks to keep her from achieving what she set out to do. 
Well, here’s the bad news, that’s already happened. 
I am sympathetic to all of her problems (too numerous and personal to detail in this post), but at the end of the day it is your responsibility to do the work and you’re not doing it. That being said, I’m constantly looking for ways to work around a students issues. If there is a way to make it work for them, I’d much rather at least try to solve the problem. In response to this student, I shared her situation with my chair and asked for her advice. We both agreed that she had missed far too much work to pass the class she was currently enrolled in, but we decided she could enroll (late) in the 8 week section of creative writing that I just started teaching (this week) online. I emailed the student and explained the situation to her, so we’ll see what she decides to do.
I feel good about this plan because it provides the student with another option that will hopefully allow her the end result that she wants. It also allows the student to make a choice that is right for her, so the responsibility is still in her hands. I’ll admit that sometimes I am forced to make decisions for my students when they are unable or unwilling to do it, but I’d rather they make the choices themselves because that’s how the real world works. 
I am hopeful that no matter what this student decides in respect to my course, that she is successful in her future endeavors and that she is able to overcome the obstacles that currently plague her. 

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