Friday, December 31, 1999

a survey of my "F" students

[Originally published at 8:35PM on December 1, 2014.]

What a contrast with my previous college!

At the Catholic University of Daegu, every single one of the classes I taught had "F" students—usually at least two, but more likely four or five per class. These sad sacks were the dregs: they showed the least amount of care about their own studies; they had little or no concern for their own futures; they possessed not even a glimmer of actual intellect. Had they been allowed to do so, they would have spent every class session with their stupid noses buried in their goddamn cell phones.

Coming back to Seoul, and specifically to Dongguk University, where the students are of substantially higher quality, I've been pleased at the caliber of my current kids. Now, it's true that some of my DGU colleagues warned me that classes with duds are possible, even at Dongguk, so it's conceivable that I, as a newbie, just happen to have been dealt an unusually good hand for my first semester here. But I suspect that my classes represent a more or less random cross-section of the Dongguk student population, and the contrast with Catholic is nothing less than remarkable.

I have exactly one class with "F" students in it. Imagine that.

Originally, there were four "F" students, but one student dropped the course when he realized he was nose-diving. He wisely got out of Dodge to avoid having a black mark on his record. I sometimes secretly wish that my other three "F"ers did the same, but they haven't done so. In each case—and this is what makes the students' "F" status so frustrating—the kids all did "B" or "C"-level work on their midterms. So it isn't the major tests or a true lack of brains that is the problem: it's their fucking homework and project grades, coupled with a slew of absences and a shit work ethic. So all three kids are failing on two counts: they're getting automatic "F"s for having more than six absences, and they're getting academic "F"s for having been slackers about their homework and their projects.

By the end of the semester, my students will have done ten homework assignments and two projects. Up to now, my students have done eight homework assignments, and most of them have homework grades of around 80% or more. My three failures have done, at most, three assignments, and their homework grades are around 13%. As for projects, of which there were two this semester, one of my students didn't even bother to do his second project. The "F"ers who did turn in work turned in material that was little better than garbage. I grudgingly gave them minimal credit for their obvious lack of effort.

One of my failing students texted me about his grade and what he had to do to make it up. He told me he'd be leaving for his obligatory military service next week, so he needed to take his final exam before leaving. When it became clear that, no matter what he did, he was going to fail anyway, he decided simply to ride out his remaining one or two days in my class with an "F." He'll retake the class in two years, when he's back from military training. I can only hope he'll have learned some maturity by then, and he'll be willing to actually make an effort in class next time. May those drill instructors beat the slacker attitude right out of him. May he learn a sense of urgency and gain a sense of responsibility, care, and obligation.

That leaves my other two failures, neither of whom has responded to recent emails and text messages warning about impending "F"s (I had given written warnings around midterm time as well). This lack of reply is par for the course. One thing I've noticed about slackers and "F" students is that they aren't responsible about communication: they're forever missing emails or failing to answer calls and texts. Like true passive-aggressives, they neglect and forget things right and left, often feigning an inability to recall having been given a memo or having had a talk. I've got these two jokers in class tomorrow, so I'll ask them why the fuck they haven't replied to my messages, despite having been told to reply to them. The excuse that "I didn't receive your message" is increasingly flimsy these days: on a cell phone, arriving email messages raise little flags. If you don't check your email or your text messages, the flag remains at the top of your screen, and I know for a fact that young Koreans are way too addicted to their cell phones not to check for incoming calls and messages. So I'll be inspecting my students' cell phones as well.

Very likely, all of this effort on my part will prove useless. Slackers will be slackers, and sometimes not even an "F" is enough to kickstart some kids into diligence. At a guess, these two will blunder cluelessly onward, getting their "F"s and writing whiny, complaining evals. Luckily, Dongguk doesn't include evals from "D" and "F" students when it calculates a teacher's eval averages, so I won't have to worry about low ratings from them.

It's a shame to have any "F" students at all, but I suppose that, even at a good college like Dongguk, such students will nevertheless exist. Ah, well.


No comments: