Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Mood: annoyed

Last Thursday I had my last classes at one place, and handed the grades in on the same day. I managed this by working frantically the entire weekend before that, and on Wednesday evening, and by going in early and staying late. I left the house around six thirty and got home after eleven, which left me pretty well as knackered as that duckling.

Handing in the grades meant traipsing all over campus to the various faculty offices, because there is no central office for this sort of thing. There used to be, but things get sillier and sillier at that place as each faculty pulls in different directions, jealously guarding their power. A couple of years ago they even physically moved their offices so they're not in the same building as each other any more. It is now like working for several universities rather than just one, and is, as I think I've mentioned before, incredibly irritating.

Anyway, I rushed around all over campus to catch offices before they closed (they all close at different times, and you have to get the order right), handing in different bits of paper to different people, and ended the day by having a beery dinner with colleagues. When the long day finally ended I was exhausted but extremely pleased with myself for having achieved what had seemed like an impossible goal. I hate doing the grading after the last day. It means I have to do that horrible long commute once more just to hand in bits of paper, because we are not allowed to post them, even by registered mail. The other problem is that the grading deadline isn't actually until late August sometime, and I keep procrastinating it. It hangs over me all vacation, like a bad smell. And the OTHER other problem is that I like to tell students their grade on the last day, so that if there are any complaints or problems they can talk to me about them instead of going through one of the various offices. The administrative staff are always unpleasantly hostile when that happens, even if (ESPECIALLY if) the grading problem was their mistake and not mine.

Excuse me while I go off on a tangent.

At that university they have had a computerized grading system for several years now. Nobody uses it, however, because it is optional. If we do use the computerized grading system, we still have to hand in the handwritten grades as well. Every year they cut down another forest in order to print an incredibly detailed booklet which they send to all the teachers about how to use the fabulous new computerized grading system, and every year several hundred teachers chuck their booklet into the round filing cabinet because the computerized grading system is so horrifically complicated. And, more importantly, OPTIONAL. And EXTRA. ("Look! Here is a fabulous opportunity to use the latest new computerized grading system from 1985 and double your workload!")

The level of computer technology at that place will soon be at 1986, I reckon. For the past three years, instead of getting our student evaluation summaries on paper, we have been getting them on paper AND on a floppy disk. A floppy disk! Many of us had forgotten what they looked like, and the faces in the teachers' room when we opened our envelopes were priceless. ("Hey, look at this, guys! It's a . . . it's a . . . it's a FLOPPY! Did you get one too?") When you dust off your floppy disk reader and plug it in, and insert the floppy disk, you are miraculously presented with a blank Excel document. (And yes, my floppy disk reader does still work. I tested it.) Every teacher (who actually has a floppy disk reader) has the same experience. Some use Windows, some use Macs, some have English systems and some have Japanese systems, but we all get blank Excel documents from the university, every year. The first year we mentioned it, and were told that the document was FINE and there must be something wrong with our computers. (They're too new, probably.) These days we just file the floppy where floppies belong, along with the computerized grading system instruction booklet.

End of tangent. Where was I?

Oh, yes, the grades.

Today I got a very unwelcome envelope in the mail. It was from the university and contained a cover letter and a medical certificate for a student whom I had told, three weeks before the end of semester, that IF he came to the last three classes and worked hard, and IF he handed in his homework, and IF he did all right in the test (second-to-last class), then he would pass. He did the homework, and the test, and the results weren't great but were just enough to squeeze him through to ALMOST a passing grade. Then he missed the last class.

So I failed him.

The medical certificate explained that he had missed the last class because he was being treated for a corneal ulcer, whatever that is. (Dr Google...? Oh. Eek!) The cover letter, which says not much more than yoroshiku onegaishimasu ('please be nice,' sort of), means that the university expects me to pass him. He was absent four times because he couldn't be arsed getting out of bed. But he was absent the fifth time because he had a corneal ulcer. WELL JUST LOOK AT THAT! A VALID EXCUSE! PASS THE POOR BOY YOU HEARTLESS FOREIGNER!

So tomorrow I'll be doing that horrible commute one more time, to change one bad student's grade to something he does not deserve, because If I don't, I'll have to justify failing him. And I really don't want to have to do that, even though he actually should fail. it's just too borderline a case to waste my vacation arguing about.

Besides, I'd lose, one way or another, and it's not worth it.

I do resent it, though.

Still, he's quite likely to be in my class for the second part of the course next semester. If he carries on the way he did in the first semester, I'll fail him for that one instead, only more thoroughly.

I'll make sure there's nothing borderline about it.


Lia said...

Sometimes you have to fail students to make sure you'll have someone to teach next semester. Doesn't sound like that kind of situation, though.

"File the floppies where floppies belong" - my feelings exactly. And I still have a floppy drive.

Badaunt said...

We have no trouble getting enough students for next semester - these are required courses for all first and second year students, and it's a big university.

Isn't the floppy thing amazing? We can't figure out whether they had a lot of old floppy drives lying around or went out and bought them especially.

Pkchukiss said...

I have a classmate who's attached from a senior class to repeat a particular module that he failed previously. Trouble is, he's missing for half of the lessons during the semester, and the course teacher didn't took to his absentism very kindly. She gave him a straight zero for a project presentation, even after he pleaded with her to give him another chance.

The most interesting part about this is that we had the end of module test today, and he didn't turn up. Now, I'm wondering whether I should be feeling guilty for not getting his mobile number in the first place, and calling him to remind him of the test (I'm the class representative, you see...)