Wednesday, May 30, 2007

the Fs

Several students I like will be failing this time around. Failure, in our department, doesn't carry much weight: it simply means that, in principle, such a student should not be allowed to go on to the next level of English, and that they should repeat the level before continuing. You'll notice that I phrased this imperative in the form of a guideline; this is because, even though the procedure for handling an "F" is a matter of policy, there will be a ton of exceptions to the rule. You know why: this is Korea, where everything is negotiable. Students will come to our department's front desk in Room 206, rage and fume about their previous prof (the one to whom they so recently said, "We love you!"), claim the "F" was unfair, and then demand the right to move up a level, "F" notwithstanding. That, or they'll cast dignity aside, make puppy-dog eyes, and beg until the office staffers give in.

Even though my "F" carries almost no weight in the larger scheme of things, I feel bad about failing students who showed potential during the term, but who also proved too spotty in their attendance. We don't peg our grades to student attendance, per se, but attendance matters, especially if a student misses a crucial test day (or three, or four). Most of the "F"s will be handed to students whose recorded quiz and test grades were quite good, but who missed so many other quizzes and tests that their overall average suffered.

It's said that grades are often misleading: how can a single symbol represent the results of a wide range of subjective and objective factors? I agree that grades are perilous, but I still think it's fair to hold a talented student back if part of what the grade reflects is a lack of drive and self-discipline (as is often the case).

So it's with a heavy heart that I ready myself to break the news to some of my students: You failed. You need to take Level 1 again. Try coming to class more often next time, OK?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My kids say this is actually normal. That most teachers use sticks though. The second is a video showing the opposite with Chinese kids beating up their old teacher. And, I thought it was bad in the U.S. when I had to deal with this nonsense. It's getting bad here in S. Korea though. The kids know they can get away with more with their native speaker teachers and with their Korean ones. How many native speakers will call their parents? I will via the boss and it has calmed down my troublemaker kids somewhat. However, my native speaker counterpart in the local public school is having a really tough time b/c of lack of respect and attention from his male students. My better kids are advising me to stay away from the public school system. My hagwon is in one of the worse parts of town, so the kids are a lot more rambunctios.


John from Daejeon