Sometimes at the tiny tail end of the semester, just as the very last assignment is due, a student will bail out of the class and disappear.
Maybe she will not come to the last class meeting. Maybe he will not turn in his final essay. If it's an online class, maybe she will not post her final story.Some of these emergency exit routines make sense. This could have been the student barely hanging on by a thread the entire class, despite words of encouragement or my flat out, "What in the hell are your doing?" questions. But despite my advice which might have been to drop and retake the class, the student stayed on past the drop and then withdraw dates, and then decided to disappear, taking her F with her.
But at times, students who have been there the entire class, showing up regularly and turning in work disappear, too. Enough is enough, he thinks. 16 out of 17 weeks and I'm outta here.
I'm not surprised about the first student. She probably had reasons to stay that weren't about her learning anything but rather about keeping her car insurance. Or keeping mom from kicking her out of the house or making her get a job. She stayed in for most of the semester, won't be on academic probation yet, and she still doesn't have to pay a gas bill. But the second student confuses me, and it's always a surprise when they poof into the ether.
As a university student, I was a neurotic, obsessive A type, showing up early and always, turning in everything and asking if I could turn it in one more time just for further ideas. I was never late, never absent, always on time. I rarely received a grade lower than an A, even in environmental biology and library science.
But at Diablo Valley College, back around circa 1979, I was sitting out in the quad, smoking my Virginia Slims, pushing my long, blond Farrah Fawcett hair behind my shoulders, and looking around for cute boys. I went to class maybe once a week, and when I did, I fell asleep or daydreamed about a life that didn't involve listening to crap I didn't want to hear. In my three semesters as a student at the college at which I now teach, I passed two classes. The first was a sociology class that I did go to more often than others because the teacher never woke me up when I drifted off. The second was human sexuality. I actually went every single day because the teacher was wacky, moving all the desks out of the room and providing us with pillows to sit on. We watched movies of people having sex, learned the trajectory of semen in the vas deferens (who knew?) and listened to guest speakers who told us of their varied sex lives. More important for my writing career now, was that the teacher made us keep "sex journals" that we turned in every Friday (don't think about how creepy that is to take home 30 sex journals on Friday evening for the weekend). At the time, I wasn't having much sex, but I wrote up some doozies, instilling in me the need for beginning, middle, and end. Even with all the fun material and writing experience I got a C. In fact, the two C's I received in these two classes kept me from being valedictorian at my graduation from college.
What a bonehead, but I do know how babies are made,how an orgasm occurs, in detail, and I even have the test results to prove it.
So all the times I bailed, I bailed in the first month. The two times I stayed, I stayed until the end but only in corporeal form. My brain was somewhere else, mostly at home, in bed, with a book.
I have a hard time figuring out the bailing that is different, the kind that comes after success. Every semester, I beg my students not to be the successful bailer, the one who does all the work and then leaves, the one who succeeds and then fails with too much damn style. A whole bunch of A's and then a hole of absence, the semester closing it up in 3,2,1.
"Come back, "I say to them now. "You are almost there."
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org