When Does Sympathy End?

As a teacher, I want to support my students in their learning process. As a feminist, I understand that life’s demands can get in the way of other obligations. So I try to be reasonably accommodating, especially at the beginning of the semester when students are waiting for loans, GI bills, etc. to post to their accounts. I try to be sympathetic when students have family issues, when day care falls through, etc. But. There comes a point in the semester (usually right about now), where my sympathy starts to dry up. We are six weeks into the semester. Midterms will be held during the next two weeks. If a student hasn’t been able to get enrolled properly, buy the book, catch up on missed work from buying the book late, or complete some other major assignment, maybe, just maybe, this means the student is not up to taking this particular course this semester.

I hate to think that. One of the things that I love about my current institution is precisely that I get to work with students whose lives can be messy and complicated — and for whom an education is thus more meaningful than for students who take going to college for granted. But at a certain point, when students start holding back the class or causing more work for me, I find myself losing patience, especially when what started as reasonable accommodations starts to feel unfair to the students who are getting things done on time and playing by the rules. Which means it’s time to crack down and start giving students the “get it together or consider dropping” speech (one I hate to give, but do so as it can save them from the dreaded F). What about you? At what point in the semester do you find your sympathy starting to fade? How much leeway are do you give students before it starts to feel unfair to the others? How do you draw that line?

[Photo Credit: Flickr User CurlyCreative Commons license]

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