First the good news–The J is STATESIDE!!!! He could be back in his home city by Sunday! That means there’s a chance that he could be here in a week! Wouldn’t that just be grand?!? He called me last night from Maine. The USO had brought a bunch of cell phones for them to use to call their families to let them know they were nearing their demobilization base, which he should have arrived at late last night/early this morning. The sooner he gets to home city, the sooner he gets to me. Oh happy day!! I absolutely cannot wait!! I’m not holding my breath, but to think that I could see him in a week is just amazing. The government has to fly him up here, and I guess since it’s his home of record, they can’t really drag their feet too long in getting him up here, so we’ll see. But still, he’s STATESIDE! And right now, that’s all that matters.
Well, I don’t know if the issue with sticky student unpleasantness is over–I’ve not heard hide nor hair from said student since last week when I think I pissed zie off. I don’t know if it’s over, or if something major really is brewing and will just erupt once the business of the start of the semester is over. I have a security detail now. It’s nuts.
I have a problem student. Zie is not a bad kid, not like that kind of problem. See, okay, here’s the deal. Our little college has this nice little program, we’ll call it The Lighthouse Program, and students with disabilities (primarily of the learning kind) can pay extra for this program for extra help. They get mentors for reading, writing, and everything else. Most of the ones I’ve encountered who use this program use it mainly because they have little to no self confidence and are probably used to being called "dumb" that they feel they need it. For some I’m afraid it’s a crutch and they don’t actually reach their full potential because they think they have. I know some *need* the program, and I know it’s designed to do good, but sometimes I think it does more harm than good. Here’s why: on the flip side, there are quite a few students who because they are in the program can be in college. But some of these students really shouldn’t be in college. I don’t want to sound harsh, or sound like I’m against the ADA or that I think students with learning disabilities don’t deserve to go to college, but face it, there are students, with learning issues or not, who don’t need to be in college. And sometimes I feel like this program, under the guise of helping them, actually sets a lot of them up for failure, and I think some students get pushed through because who wants to be the asshole who fails the kid with a learning issue? Also, while I am sure the mentors mean well, I think a lot of them do the work for the student either because they think they are helping or they and the student get frustrated during the tutoring process. I’ve had a handful of students come in with drafts, and I’m like, "uh, who’s writing is this?" Stu: "Oh, my mentor just rewrote the intro for me." Me: "YOU need to be writing this paper, not your mentor." So there’s that.
Even though I think my classes are pretty rigorous, they’re probably not that rigorous for any other college, but here, the comments about my syllabus are always "wow, this is a tough class." And it should be. I mean, I’m not under any delusion that I’m at Brown or even Grad City U (not to suggest that GCU is on par with Brown, say) or something like that, but still. But all the students thus far that I’ve had in The Lighthouse Program have been able to pass, and pass with at least a B. But this semester, oh man, I don’t know what to do with this kid. Zie is on academic probation I think because zie failed a class or two last semester. Zie has major short term memory loss and reading comprehension issues (which, zie announced to the entire class on the first day, so I don’t feel like I’m breaking any confidentiality issues here) among other problems, and zie’s mom is hospitalized. (Geez? Sound familiar? Except zie’s not in the honor’s program). The problem is, I don’t think zie actually really tries. I spent an hour the other night suggesting ways in which zie might try to succeed in the class. Mark the text. Work with your mentor. As soon as you’re done reading, write down what you think the author is saying. "No, I just don’t understand it." Me: "Mark specific places you don’t understand for us to talk about." Stu: "Yeah, I don’t want to sound stupid and ask that in class." I don’t want to be mean, but seriously, I don’t have time, nor is it fair, for me to give zie private tutoring on the material, which is what I know zie wants. Zie also can’t fail my class because if zie does, zie has to leave college. After going over the text in class yesterday, one student raised hir hand and said (because I must have looked flustered like "are you guys even getting this?") that zie found the reading really hard and bombed the quiz but that zie felt better once I went over everything, which I was like, "whew, because I didn’t think I made this any clearer, so it’s good to know I did my job." And ProblemChild said, "Yeah, I have no idea what you just spent the last hour saying."
So at what point does my responsibility here end short of spending all of my non-teaching on campus time giving Stu a private class? I feel like zie has to meet me halfway or something, but I mean, when zie says, "I don’t get it," and I say "okay, let’s try this… okay, how about now" and zie replies, "nope, still don’t get what you’re talking about" and I say, "well, what exactly don’t you get. Why is this unclear" and zie says, "Everything. I don’t get any of it because it’s hard," I really don’t know what else to do. I’ve given an overview. I’ve broken it down by definition. I’ve broken it down by concept. I’ve broken it down by practice. I’ve even tried drawing New Criticism to take a dramatically different approach (it’s an intro to theory class). I’ve put it in terms of science, math, and art, to cover the major interests and try to make it make sense. If zie is struggling with this, then zie is going to flounder when we talk about Structuralism and the like. They were even "practicing" it at the end of class, and zie’s response to the assignment (which I thought the Bible passage would be the easiest because everyone takes a religion class, and my colleague spends a lot of time looking at the Bible and other religious books as texts to be broken down and examined not just for content but how the language is used and the like, and zie just had that class!) was: "Yeah, I don’t like poetry. The language is too hard. I don’t get this at all." I mean, I don’t want to give up this early on, but I also don’t want zie to get the impression that I’m going to do the work for hir.
As a result of this short term memory issue (which I believe zie has documentation, but there’s nothing on the accommodations that deal with that), zie has already told me that zie is going to fail the midterm which sort of isn’t fair because zie has to pass the class.
The other issue is that zie freely admits that zie sometimes plagiarizes but it’s not zie’s fault because zie gets into the zone and has short term memory problems so when zie is writing, zie doesn’t remember to cite or where the info came from or really believes that zie’s rephrased it in zie’s own words, etc, so yeah. I’m so dreading the paper.
I just really don’t know what to do with this. I want zie to be successful, but is it fair to expect the student to take responsibility for zie’s own learning? I don’t want to seem impatient, and I don’t want to have a bad attitude about this, but it seems like zie is just straight out blocking my attempts already with "yeah, I don’t understand any of it." Am I being too harsh? Any suggestions on what else I can do?