Last night, I received another email from a former student begging me for a B. Like the student I earlier wrote about, this student likewise did not get into a top university and needed the B in order to gain admission this fall. As with the last student, this was a grade I posted in May. And as with the other student, this student completely earned his C and was lucky to get it.
To his credit, however, he did not invoke dead grandparents or car accidents, but his brother (whose email followed hard upon) mentioned prejudice, teasing, and his brother's amazing brain.
So instead of writing back to either the brother or the student (I will, I just didn't want to send the email I wrote up immediately, as in my old age I have learned to "save as draft"), I wrote to the top university. This likely was a mistake, but what I noticed in the email the brother attached to his own was that the top university states something to the effect of "your application may be subject to cancellation."
It's the "may" that does it. It is the "may" that instigates the flood of emails that arrive just about now, right before the opening day of the top university.
The university's email did state that that the student should have remembered or been aware of the fact that he needed to get a B or better in his 2 English classes, but then it provided the opportunity for the student to launch right into me.
They need to change their wording. Certainly, the student can ask for me to change a grade, but I think that the university should be a bit more clear. What if the admissions officer wrote: With this grade, your application is terminated.
What if the email read: We told you what to do, and you didn't. Re-apply next year.
What about: You aren't ready to learn here. Your English needs another year. Try again.
No may's involved. It's over.
I have become a favorite teacher for many international students, and, in general, the experience has been good, sometimes great. But when I ask them to do a first day writing, I find out that most have them have been in this country for less than a year. They have powered through introductory classes, and arrived at this critical thinking class with maybe two college level classes under their belts. In an English class, it is possible to pass without being able to write as well as you might think because English teachers are all about process. Most. I do have one colleague who starts at an A and lowers the grade every three grammatical, sentence structure, or punctuation errors. Needless to say, the type of students drawn to him are different than those who come to me.
I'm not necessarily happy with this situation, but I've done the best I can with those who sit in front of me every semester. I've learned a great deal from them, and enjoy their hope, desire, and motivation to move across the world and try something new. My goodness, I would be dead from fear in Korea and China, taking a college level Korean or Mandarin class. Everything is so frightening, and yet, their intrepidness needs to be tempered with a sense of reality. If you can't speak the language, how will it be to study molecular biology at a top level university? I agree with the university's policy, and yet they throw the student back to us, and not in a good way.
In these cases of the desired grade change, I have never had a student whose grade I have wanted to amend. Both of these students this year did sub par work. Neither, truly, can speak English with correct grammar or fluency, much less write in grammatically correct sentences. My classes, though, are a great deal about effort rather than perfection, but neither showed much effort, either. I have learned that I cannot change much about my students' grammar in 17 weeks, but I can get them to write and read a great deal, exposing them to the practice of English, the flow of writing, the way in which we can communicate in an essay. I give them the opportunity to earn an A by constant revision and tenacity, and yet, these two particular students missed many of these opportunities.
With hope for you (I know this can't be enthralling) and me, this will be the last email of this year. And maybe, the top university will get rid of their "may." May it be so.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org