12 June, 2013

Down In Flames

As I enter my last year of teaching, special memories are popping up every so often. This one describes a meeting I had with a father and son when I was Dean of the College.

The son had failed a couple of classes and had told his father that he thought he was passing until the final grades came. Dad wanted to know how this could happen. Why didn't the faculty warn him he was in danger of failing?

"Gee," I said. "I don't know." I described to him our Mid-Term Deficiency System as it was called then. The system was optional for faculty, but if they wanted to warn students with Ds or Fs at that mid-point of the semester and suggest some possible remediation before it was too late, it represented a non-official way of doing that. Some faculty used it, but I was aware that many did not.

After explaining the sytem and apologizing to the father. I looked toward the son to confirm he has received no warnings. He again said he had not.

That's when I opened the folder I had before me and produced Mid-Term Deficiency Reports for the two classes the young man had failed. I said, "You never received these?"

The father understood immediately that his son had lied to him, caused him embarrassment, and wasted my time (which was not, btw). That's when the father apologized for taking up my time and said he needed to have a conversation with his son.

Now there's a conversation I would have loved to have heard.