With the drop date approaching, it’s time to have a series of difficult conversations with students, ranging from “you need to pick things up a little if you want to do well” to “you can’t possibly pass.” I always find this hard, because as a student I was basically always mortified to discover that my professors knew I existed. But I’ve gotten good feedback from these conversations, too — and the percentage of floundering students who have no earthly idea that they aren’t doing well, let alone failing, is astounding to me. How much hand-holding is too much, of course, is the age old question — and if I advise them too well, and all the failing students drop, will that make my grades look artificially high?
Nothing is without questions at this stage in my career, I am learning.
I’m finding that realistic expectations and perceptions are a real difficulty for my students. Trying to explain that a B- is not in fact a bad mark, but instead demonstrates just above satisfactory competency in the material, is really difficult. There are grade inflation problems everywhere, of course, that make it really difficult to keep C meaning satisfactory, B meaning good, and A meaning excellent. And preparation is a problem. Students who coasted through their high school English classes with creative projects and oral presentations are stunned to get to post-secondary school and discover that they have no idea of how to approach formal essay writing. And it takes a lot out of a person to be the gatekeeper in the first-year literature class saying that yes, your ideas are good, but no, that’s not quite enough.
I internalize too much of their own anguish — that’s part of it. When does that wear off?