I recently had four students drop, and I think another's about ready to bolt (so far, his two research paper assignments are late). I call these students my "43%-ers" because that's about the average score they were keeping.
The last 43%-er to recently drop started crying when she looked at the score of her most recent essay (not an illustrious showing, shall we just say. I stopped grading her errors on page two after the count hit 26). She waited for me outside the classroom, and we talked about her paper. She became angry, accusing me of stupid requirements that "no other teacher on this campus" would require her to do. Some of these (there were a few) were:
- writing in a consistent point of view (POV) I don't allow them to use "you" in their papers--call me old school but I think formal composition is a good skill to have tucked away
- requiring a thesis (which she kept referring to as a topic sentence)
- insisting on structure in the paper.
The final shot was she pointed to her paper and said, "I could turn this paper in anywhere else on campus and get an A, but you? you?" She sputtered. "If it weren't for you, I'd have an A in this class right now!"
There were a few other things said, and I felt bad for her. Bad that her meager effort was not getting her what she wanted. Felt bad that her 9th grade skills were not enough to help her pass a college-level English class. Felt bad that a young woman who had missed roughly a third of the class sessions and was nearly 15 minutes late every day thought that just wanting it would get it done.
I can't help a lot of things. Her grades stood, and that's why she dropped. She's gone, but I'll be in that classroom again today. I'll show them MLA and thesis construction for argument and formal POV and topic sentences and insist on proper spelling and punctuation and sentence construction.
Just like the rest of my fellow teachers, remembering that, if not for us, all the students would have A's.