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How do I feel better about failing a class?
March 23, 2011 6:17 PM   Subscribe

I just found out I'm failing a class I thought I was passing. How do I feel better about it?

Basically, I misunderstood the requirements for the class. I had to miss a day because of an emergency, e-mailed the prof about it and he informed me that he doubted I would pass the class anyway so the day didn't matter.

He then went over the requirements for the class vs what I'd been doing; basically, I completely misunderstood what was important in the class (didn't turn in assignments I thought were completely optional but weren't) and I've been failing this whole time I thought I was doing great.

How do I stop kicking myself for not being more diligent/more aware of this? I feel completely awful and like a complete failure right now. There's no way I can pass the class at this point and I just feel so, so down. The main thing that gets me is that the class was an Easy A and I actually did the assignments, I just didn't turn them in since I didn't think they were required.
posted by biochemist to Education (46 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Can you talk to the professor in his office or maybe send him an email? I'm sure if you explain the predicament and show him that you did the work, he'd cut you some slack. There's still time left in the semester.
posted by catwash at 6:21 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Being alive > passing a class. At least you can attend school. Atleast you weren't hit by the tsunami in Japan or the earthquake in New Zealand. In the grand scheme of things, an F is No Big Deal.

Take a breath.
Wallow in your failing of a class for a day.
Bake some cookies.
Move on.
posted by fuzzysoft at 6:22 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ask him what you need to do in order to pass and then do that.
posted by The World Famous at 6:24 PM on March 23, 2011


And if there's no way to pass the class (if that's what the professor tells you), then just find a way to let go. It's nothing even close to the end of the world. Seriously.
posted by The World Famous at 6:25 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Talk to the professor. Some of us are actually human beings! And it can only get better. It can't get worse - you're not going to get some kind of super-F.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:31 PM on March 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Has the withdrawal deadline passed already? If not, take the W now on your transcript and retake the class next semester or in summer term if possible.
posted by Asherah at 6:35 PM on March 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Do you still have the unturned in assignments? Bring some of them into your professor. Most are more than reasonable, especially if you're sincere. If you've attended most of the classes it looks even better. The fact that you emailed for a missed day means something too.

If that doesn't work, you said yourself that the class was an easy A, so taking it again shouldn't be a problem, just a hassle.
posted by hellojed at 6:35 PM on March 23, 2011


Here are some steps:

1. Talk to the prof. Find out if there's any way you can pass. Bring your completed assignments and be contrite.

2. Talk to your academic advisor. Is it too late to drop the class? Does your school have a deal where you can retake the class and have the grade replaced? Find out your options.

3. Figure out what's important to you. Are you learning a lot in the class? Is it worth sticking it out and learning as much as you can, even if you end up failing the class? Or is that a waste of your time, in which case you might want to let this class go and focus on your other classes? Just make sure you definitely can't possibly pass before you do that.

I don't think this is going to be the end of the world. I do think you'll learn something from it, even if it's only the importance of reading your syllabi carefully!
posted by craichead at 6:36 PM on March 23, 2011


I managed to not submit *anything* in an online class once because the classroom software was misconfigured and eating my work. The prof was OK with me demonstrating and then sending her a giant email of all six weeks of stuff I thought I'd handed in. Perhaps you could go into office hours, explain your misunderstanding, and present the work?

This approach does rather presume good relations between you and the prof, though, and may not work out for you.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 6:38 PM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nthing talk to the prof. I teach undergrad classes and if a student comes to see me and demonstrates that they (a) have learned the material and (b) are willing to do the assessable work, then I will do whatever I can to help that student pass. Sure, I'm not your prof but given that there is a non-zero chance of getting a good outcome from talking to them, that should be your first move. If that doesn't work out, take fuzzysoft's advice, and read all your course requirements much more carefully in the future.
posted by nomis at 6:45 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, I have spoken to the prof and he's the one who outlined the options/point values and concluded that there's no way for me to pass the class.
posted by biochemist at 6:52 PM on March 23, 2011


Did you explain to him that it was a misunderstanding, and why/how you misunderstood it?
posted by prenominal at 6:55 PM on March 23, 2011


Frankly, the professor sounds like kind of a jerk. He could have spoken to you about the missing assignments, asked you why you weren't handing them in. You had no idea that you were failing until you told him you wouldn't be able to make it to class. I don't even know how that's possible. And then, after you told him that it was a misunderstanding, he doesn't even let you attempt to make up the work. Sounds like he's a bad teacher.
posted by wondermouse at 6:56 PM on March 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Just previewed and saw that the prof said no-go. That sucks. I'm sorry. Still, you've already learned something from this experience, and having had this experience, you'll no doubt save yourself from having this issue in the future.

You may find that with this class off your weekly schedule (woohoo more free time?!), you'll be able to complete some project or creative endeavor that you didn't have the time for. Also, remind yourself that you are not the first person to fail a college class. Indeed, you're probably in pretty good company.

For your amusement: JFK's lackluster Harvard application. Whatever your opinion of him, no one can deny he was an important, influential person!
posted by smirkette at 6:57 PM on March 23, 2011


This is what people mean when they call a failure a "learning experience." Maybe in hindsight there were warning signs that you ignored. Next time, you won't ignore them!

A person hardly learns anything from a success. But failure? Oh you can learn a ton from that.
posted by ErikaB at 6:59 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


But yeah - look into what it was that even made you think those assignments were optional. In the long run, failing one college class is not going to ruin your life. But I do think the professor should've said something to you earlier on, I guess unless it's a huge lecture course where the guy doesn't know his students' names anyway.
posted by wondermouse at 7:03 PM on March 23, 2011


It might help you feel better to know this happens a lot. I have taught many classes of 150+ students (which means that contacting each student who fails to submit assignments, as someone suggested above, is not really going to happen). In every case there is at least one, sometimes two or three students who somehow misread the syllabus or didn't understand how the course worked. This often leads to the students failing. (I usually feel sorry for them and do anything I can within the university policy guidelines to give them opportunities to make up the work, but I can also understand how that might not be possible in some courses).

Anyway, you aren't the only one this happens to. And no doubt you will be extra careful about reading and understanding syllabi in future! (Hint: never assume anything is optional unless you are told so explicitly and unambiguously in writing.)

Just let it go.
posted by lollusc at 7:13 PM on March 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ok, so let's talk a bit about why this has you so bummed out. Is it just a general feeling that it sucks to fail a class that you should be acing, or are you worried that this is going to have some sort of long-term implications?

If it's the former, then I really think you just have to cut yourself some slack. Fundamentally, this is a story that reflects well on you as a student. You're smart enough to get an A in the class. You're diligent enough that you did the assignments, even though you didn't think you were going to get any credit for them. You did something pretty flaky, and you're probably going to have to work on not doing similarly flaky things in the future. But flaky is way, way easier to fix than either lazy or dumb. This is not a story that makes me worry about you. I bet you're a great student. You're going to be fine.

If you're worried about future implications, say for grad school, then we can brainstorm about how to deal with that.
posted by craichead at 7:17 PM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I honestly have recurring nightmares about this kind of situation happening to me. I get panicked, feeling like I'm missing assignments and am going to fail due to some stupid oversight even though I know everything.

If you have the completed assignments in hand, I would go to the professor in person with them all and grovel and beg for forgiveness and a grade above failing. Otherwise, I would check to see if your school allows you to retake a failed class and have the grade be replaced with the new grade or a better grade like a C or the like. A good number of schools do this, and it would at least take the F off of your transcript. Getting a W is also a reasonable option if it is possible at this point in the semester.

As for the feelings of crappiness, I would suggest
a) Figuring out about withdrawing or retaking, and determine your best course of action academically.
b) Getting weepy and pathetic with a good friend,
c) Eating some tasty food,
d) Spending all Saturday doing nothing but feeling sorry for yourself, and then
e) Go out on Sunday, run around and do something physical, and get all of that negative energy out, leading into
f) Getting on with your life on Monday.
posted by that girl at 7:25 PM on March 23, 2011


Take your assignments to the professor, show him you have done them, and see if he will at least give you partial credit. You need to push back on this, and it is not clear from your response in-thread if you have told him you have the assignments already done. I've never met a professor who was unwilling to let a student who had done the work and was willing to do more not figure out a way to get a passing grade.

And if you fail, it sucks, but you can take the class over. It feels crappy to contemplate, but you didn't do anything wrong. In the future, just be sure you know what's up with homework. If you see people turning it in, turn it in. If you submit online, make sure you have a way to know the points are accruing- my university has online gradebooks. Also: go talk to your advisor right away and tell them what's up- they will let you know what you have to do to make up a failed class, and they may go to bat on your behalf as well.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:28 PM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


You need to push back on this, and it is not clear from your response in-thread if you have told him you have the assignments already done.

Yes, absolutely. Push harder. Make it clear you did the work and just misunderstood. Ask to do extra credit. Try to document it to the extent you can (e.g. via email) without being antagonistic. If you make no headway with your prof, talk to your dean or whoever is appropriate in the administration.

This was an honest mistake that could have happened to anyone, so your thoughts should go something like this: 1. forgive yourself for it (could have happened to anyone! honest mistake!) 2. show and tell anyone who might be able to help you that it was an honest mistake that you want to correct, because you deserve the benefit of the doubt. 3. if any and all attempts prove fruitless, know that it isn't the end of the world to get the grade, and you can make up for it. But don't skip steps 1 and 2.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:54 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes. Listen to oneirodynia. Listen to dixiecupdrinking.

You need to email the attachments or deliver every single assignment to your teacher as soon as possible. The sooner the better. Makes it easier for the prof to believe you were doing the assignments all along.

Go during the next available office hours or make an appointment if you have schedule conflicts. Talk to your teacher in person. You're asking the teacher for your grade to reflect the knowledge you got out of the class.

It may still work out fine.

And if it doesn't, that will be OK, too. You'll be ok. It sucks. Failing is hard. One of the skills that is important to learn in life is how to fail gracefully. Learning to live with it, learn from it, and move on - is something that comes from experiences like this one, and experiences much harder. It's a painful skill to learn. Know that you're not alone; know that you will be ok.

Hah. I just googled "the joy of failure" to try to help explain what I meant and it looks like people have written books on this.
posted by lover at 8:01 PM on March 23, 2011


If you think you can psych yourself up to do it, this is a great opportunity to practice being bold and even a little pushy because you have NOTHING to lose here, if you're already thinking there's no way to pass the class. Worst case, he's annoyed, but then you never have to talk to him or see him again.

If he's holding office hours within the next day or 2, show up at his office hours with all your completed work and make your best case for receiving at least partial credit, the minimum necessary to pass. If he hems, haws, or says he doesn't know what to do, actively prod him to your desired result and don't back down. Don't be rude, just politely, earnestly persistent.

If he's not holding office hours soon, then email him with the completed work and your best argument for why he should give you a chance. If you're scared to read what he writes back to you, just open his email and only read the last few words. That should be enough to tell you if it's a positive or negative reply.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:04 PM on March 23, 2011


From wondermouse:
Frankly, the professor sounds like kind of a jerk. He could have spoken to you about the missing assignments, asked you why you weren't handing them in. You had no idea that you were failing until you told him you wouldn't be able to make it to class. I don't even know how that's possible. And then, after you told him that it was a misunderstanding, he doesn't even let you attempt to make up the work. Sounds like he's a bad teacher.


At the college level, it is not the prof's responsibility to hunt down students to tell them whether or not they are passing. The very idea is ludicrous. If a student asks, I am happy to discuss his or her performance, but part of college is learning personal responsibility. What you're describing is something middle school teachers do, not college instructors.

As for the actual question, don't sweat it. It's okay to make mistakes, and it's okay to fail. It happens. I failed a class in my major as an undergrad and though it sucked to have to slink back in to retake it the next semester, I found myself more dedicated and motivated to prove to the prof and to myself that the failure was a fluke, a mistake. It was. What's more, you're taking responsibility for your mistakes, not looking for an out, and that is infinitely more respectable than name calling and finger pointing. Failing gracefully is an important skill.
posted by girlbowler at 8:31 PM on March 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


As far as passing the class goes, even if I did turn in the assignments I still couldn't get a passing grade because of missed classes. Granted, I didn't tell him I'd done the assignments already, so maybe that'd make a difference.

I wasn't registered for the class until after the first class, missed a second one b/c of no ride, and at this point I'm in the hospital supporting someone through their surgery and won't have a ride home until Saturday.

From his e-mail wording it sounds like he would have excused the days if I'd been turning in the assignments, but since I hadn't been it's a no-go since in his eyes I wasn't putting in the effort for his class. I could've sworn he said they were optional at the beginning of the semester, and not many people actually turned them in. But I think he meant you could attend every single class and not turn in the assignments and still pass, but if you missed classes you had to do them.
posted by biochemist at 8:34 PM on March 23, 2011


Oh, and thanks for the advice so far. I don't mean to sound ungrateful; I'm just totally stressed out with everything going on.
posted by biochemist at 8:38 PM on March 23, 2011


I actually did the assignments, I just didn't turn them in since I didn't think they were required.

Then I have to wonder why you did them. This sounds very strange to me. What kind of assignments were they? As a teacher myself, this sounds highly suspect to me.

I've been failing this whole time I thought I was doing great.
What made you think you were doing great? I would be curious to know what kind of course this was.

wondermouse is wrong. Your teacher's behaviour might make him a bad mom or babysitter, but it doesn't make him a bad teacher. Professors aren't there to take attendance or chase you for your homework, either--you're an adult. Understanding the syllabus is a Day One thing. But failing a class isn't the end of the world--learn from this.
posted by uans at 8:41 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why did you do them and not turn them in? You should tell your prof you did them, and can turn them in immediately. If you have them all in-hand, it might be more convincing that this was a legitimate misunderstanding, and the prof might be more likely to cut you slack.

Are you taking other classes? If not, and if these life circumstances (people in the hospital, lack of transportation, etc.) are serious enough, you might be able to get some kind of special withdrawal from semester.
posted by elpea at 9:06 PM on March 23, 2011


The most important things now are:

1. Move on and get past this. Get over whatever negative emotions you have about it and find a way forward. It is what it's going to be and you can find things to do to make up for it or mitigate the damage. It'll be OK. Lots of people have something like this happen and they bounce back. Not the end of the world in any sense.

2. Learn whatever lessons there are from the experience. Based on your follow-up, it sounds like you knew you were not actually doing great - that you thought you were just barely meeting the minimum requirements necessary to pass the class. You seem to be saying that you understood that it would be possible to pass the class without turning in the assignments - not that the assignments were optional. Maybe that's the lesson here: Striving only to meet the minimum requirements to "pass" something is a recipe for disaster due to unforeseen contingencies. Yes, perhaps it would have been possible to scrape by if you had perfect attendance and test scores but had your grade dragged down to barely passing due to failure to turn in the assignments. But living life on the edge of possible failure like that is no way to be - even if all you care about is passing. If all you care about is passing, then strive for excellence and be content if you only pass. Striving only to pass - in classes and in life generally - is only a good idea if you're OK with the very real probability of failure.

Don't ask professors what is necessary to pass a class. Ask what is necessary to achieve the best possible grade. Strive for that and you're unlikely ever to fail.

But, since you apparently cannot pass this class now, let me give you something to help get over that disappointment: I had a class in undergrad that was just the worst. The professor was the worst, the time slot of the class was the worst, the tests, etc., all the worst. Halfway through the semester - long past the deadline to withdraw - I was in the middle of the mid-term exam, which the professor estimated would take about 3 hours for a student who knew all the answers without having to think about it. I knew the answer to part of the first of, if I recall correctly, five questions. I had no idea about any of the rest, in spite of my having studied diligently and always attended class. I mean no idea at all. Nothing. I sat in the examination room for a full three hours. First, I wracked my brain trying to think of what to write. Then, for about 30 minutes, I sat and devised an action plan for what I would do to recover from failing the class. My plan was detailed - including contacting academic advisors, talking to the professor, re-taking the class, etc. Then I turned in the exam, which was mostly blank, and went to my academic advisor's office to inform him that I was withdrawing from the class in spite of the fact that it was too late to do so. I told the professor, who told me that it would result in a failing grade. I accepted that. Then, as soon as my school would let me, I enrolled to take the class again the next semester. I approached the material differently the second time around and I made regular visits to the professor to talk about the material and make sure I was on the right track. I got an A. My GPA took a hit from that grade - a significant one. But I explained the situation in my grad school applications and pointed out that I had earned an A when I re-took the class. I got into the best grad school I applied to.

I don't think I've ever had a more liberating experience than walking out of that exam room knowing that I was walking away from the class and I had a plan.
posted by The World Famous at 9:06 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then I have to wonder why you did them. This sounds very strange to me.
Huh. It sounds completely non-strange to me. A lot of college classes are graded based entirely on exams. Students are given assignments that are designed to help them master the material, and if they're good students they'll do those assignments so they can learn the material and do well on the exams. It's not unusual, though, for a professor to say that it's your own business whether you want to do the assignments or not. It's usually a bad idea to skip them, but nobody is going to babysit you and make sure you do the work.
Learn whatever lessons there are from the experience. Based on your follow-up, it sounds like you knew you were not actually doing great - that you thought you were just barely meeting the minimum requirements necessary to pass the class.
That actually isn't how I read the follow-up. I thought what the OP was saying was that she misunderstood the professor. He said that it was possible to pass the class without doing the assignments, and she thought he meant that the assignments weren't part of the grade.

The take-home message, anyway, is to read the syllabus. If the syllabus doesn't spell out the policy on handing in assignments, then the professor did screw up. I bet, though, that it was on the syllabus and the OP just didn't read it carefully.
posted by craichead at 9:13 PM on March 23, 2011


He said that it was possible to pass the class without doing the assignments, and she thought he meant that the assignments weren't part of the grade.

Yeah, that's a big, clear misinterpretation.
posted by The World Famous at 9:15 PM on March 23, 2011


I would try to follow up with him by email or in person, bring the assignments you've done, try to see if there's any chance.

But if there's no chance:
It's still okay. Lesson learned, keep better track of what's actually required. I flunked classes (easy classes!) in college for stupid administrative-misunderstanding reasons and I still got into grad school. Take a deep breath, this one class won't stop you being able to meet your goals. You can probably re-take it to replace the grade on your transcript, if you are inclined to -- check your school's policies about this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:21 PM on March 23, 2011


I did the assignments because I love the work and do it anyway in my spare time. The class is an elective I took to get better at a hobby
posted by biochemist at 9:21 PM on March 23, 2011


Do you have an academic adviser? Have you talked to your adviser about this? If not, you should be doing that as soon as possible. He or she should know better about all of your available options, and the best path to take.
posted by that girl at 9:24 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Uh... why is this question about feeling better about it? Why should you feel good about screwing up? Wouldn't you rather fix the problem or move on?

Feel crappy about it long enough that you learn from the experience, and then move on.
posted by Kololo at 10:07 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


You sound *way* too passive about this; you're so embarrassed about not meeting your own standards that you're not communicating properly (I've been there). Just know, it is completely acceptable -- even expected -- for you to clearly and concisely tell/write the professor everything you have/have not done and why.

It might be easier to lay out everything to a trusted advisor or a faculty member who can speak to this professor and also vouch for your work ethic. But you have to do something! Sure, as many people have noted, class failures happen, but I cannot tell you how many people who've been failing with no excuse, but have had the ovaries/balls to go to the professor and beg and bully until they're swinging a C minus. I'm not advocating this sort of thing; it really disgusts me in fact, but you're not in their situation: you're the type of person whose grades really do deserve a second look.

Furthermore, your professor really doesn't have good reasons for the situation you're in. A "dirty little secret" of academics is that failing students almost always reflect badly on the teacher. If you weren't turning in a great deal of work, but you were doing fine on the work you did do, why didn't the teacher say anything? That's the kind of thing your teacher's boss is going to want to know. It is fairly common for students to miss the first class (due trying out different classes, enrollment issues, that sort of thing), but it is absolutely a requirement at any accredited school that all class deliverables and requirements be clearly laid out in a manner continuously accessible to students, teachers, and supervisors. Accredited schools are audited on a regular basis, partly to ensure they're doing this.

Frankly, if your teacher doesn't accept the work you've done, you absolutely have cause go to his/her supervisor and lay out what you've done this semester. [Again, you or someone who can advocate on your behalf must first clearly lay out everything to the professor, without leaving any of your achievements out.]
posted by lesli212 at 10:25 PM on March 23, 2011


If you weren't turning in a great deal of work, but you were doing fine on the work you did do, why didn't the teacher say anything? [...] If your teacher doesn't accept the work you've done, you absolutely have cause go to his/her supervisor and lay out what you've done this semester.

In general lesli212's advice to stand up for yourself and try to get a full hearing from the prof is good, but these two ideas are misleading. In most colleges and universities in the US at least, it will be in your professor's discretion whether to accept your work late. Assuming these assignments were laid out in the syllabus or on the course website (etc), and you've missed the deadline, the professor doesn't have to accept them. The professor also doesn't have to be in constant touch with students telling them what work they've missed - this varies a lot by school, so at a small school you might expect that but at a big school that's just not how it works. I don't think going into this with an attitude of "the prof is out of line" will help.

Again - it's worth collecting your thoughts, collecting all the assignments you've done, and emailing your prof to request a meeting where you can talk this over. Tell him you had done all the assignments at the time, and you've been doing them even though you thought they were optional because you're geniunely interested in the course and improving your skills. Ask if you can bring in the work on [whatever day you're back on campus].

But if it turns out he won't budge, don't despair. Failing sucks, definitely, but keep it in perspective - it's one course, it won't prevent you reaching your goals (if it is a problem, you may be able to take it over to up the grade - check your school's policy). Be polite and professional in your exchanges with the prof no matter what the outcome; possibly you'll need to take another course with him later and you don't want to burn bridges.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:02 PM on March 23, 2011


As far as the question asked about how to feel better.

I don't know if this applies to you; I went to a rural school with a fish hatchery near by. When ever I failed something big, or generally fucked something up I went there. I would spend an hour feeding the fish and enjoying the outdoors. It took some time for me to realize why I used this as my therapy, but it eventually struck me.

When I feed the fish, I could make 10,000 fish go crazy. Like really insane to get the food, funny thing is, even if I do not feed them, they still get fed. I could make their whole life seem dependent on that one piece of food. But in reality, everything was fine, they were safe for another day and just did not understand.

We are all the fish, you will get fed.


The other implied side of this question, How do I keep from ever doing this again?

Read the whole syllabus. Carry it with you. Know the break down of points by heart and understand exactly what grade you must get on each assignment to get an A.

I can't tell you how many times I have watched people forget to do important things and really fret the small stuff not knowing the exact weight of each assignment
posted by Felex at 11:13 PM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you need to eat humble pie on this one. It looks like you kinda screwed up in a couple ways - missing at least three classes, maybe missing another one this week, not turning in assignments all semester.

I apologize to the professor without making excuses. Keep it to the point. Then ask what you need to do to pass the class. Have a couple examples in mind. Is it a basket-weaving class? Say you'll volunteer to teach a class on basket-weaving to the elderly at a retirement home. Weave baskets with non-traditional materials and present them to the class. Weave the biggest basket and get your name in the Guinness Book of World Records. Just have something in mind so that the professor doesn't need to do extra work due to your mistakes.

For the future: in case you haven't already learned the very valuable lessons here - stop missing classes. Get a rapport going with the professor early on so they are more likely to notice if something is going Very Wrong. Make friends with some people in your class so when they talk about those exercises that are due every week without fail and are totally required, you can find out earlier.
posted by amicamentis at 5:27 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Give it one more shot. Email him with all the assignments you've done as an attachment. Explain that you did them, you just didn't turn them in as you thought they were optional. Apologize profusely. Let him know you're willing to do any extra-credit assignment or any extra work he wants you to do.

Also, don't just skip out or anything, but can someone else stay with your friend so that you can get back to class ASAP?
posted by hazyjane at 5:38 AM on March 24, 2011


I agree with those who say the way to feel better is to figure out what you've learned from this. It sounds like you could use a crash course in certain kinds of college gamesmanship. I mean, basic things you can do to keep from wasting a lot of time. Most of them have to do with due diligence like reading the whole syllabus and asking right away if you have questions, going to class or at least finding out what happened in class (i.e., get to know another student), learning how to read between the lines of exam questions, and stuff like that. Oh, and smart choice of courses. It's hard for me to tell what kind of college course would help you keep up with a "hobby" but it may be that this was a bad kind of course for you. (The worst college experience I had was with a course everyone said was a gut. It was a topic that interested me, but the combination of semi-technical material and lackadaisical teaching-- hence the "gut" designation-- left me very confused about what we were actually supposed to be doing. Be careful when you pick outside your major.)

Also, depending on the kind of college it is-- undergrad? big university?-- steer a middle course between the people who are telling you that the professor owes you something in this (they don't) and the those who say you can't get any help from them. It may be that you can as long as you don't ask them to relax their standards completely. Do make sure you don't bullshit when you talk to them. (For example, do not do any new work now and present it as stuff you did a month ago. I am not saying you're not being truthful; just resist temptation to embellish your case because believe me, that drives teachers nuts.)
posted by BibiRose at 6:00 AM on March 24, 2011


wondermouse is wrong. Your teacher's behaviour might make him a bad mom or babysitter, but it doesn't make him a bad teacher. Professors aren't there to take attendance or chase you for your homework, either--you're an adult.

Sorry, I don't think so. Again, unless this is a giant lecture class where the professor barely knows anyone's name anyway and thus doesn't care about individual successes or failures, it's not beneath the professor to see that someone doesn't seem to be doing required work and ask them why, especially when combined with poor attendance. Maybe it's different in different colleges, but I went to a fairly small school and could easily imagine most of my teachers bothering to ask a student if they were really interested in taking the class when they don't seem to be showing any effort.

This isn't about blaming others for your own failures - I am not the kind of person who does that nor expects other people to. But, like lollusc said above, a professor even expects this sort of thing to happen in large classes. If this always happens, and it's an accident, why not remind students of the policy, even if not on an individual level?

biochemist, all that aside, it also sounds like maybe you didn't take the class all that seriously. Perhaps this professor is generally aware that people try to coast through this class, and he's beyond caring (which I still don't think is right, but that's a separate issue). In the future, when you sign up for classes, try not to think of them as an "easy A" and like minimal work will be required. Even if you somehow think an assignment is optional, if the teacher is collecting them, turn them in! And if it's this common for you to miss classes, like simply because you didn't have a ride on any given day, make sure you are very aware of their attendance policy. That sort of thing is a big deal and will be for your entire life. Best to learn now and try to make sure it doesn't keep happening.
posted by wondermouse at 7:38 AM on March 24, 2011


A "dirty little secret" of academics is that failing students almost always reflect badly on the teacher. If you weren't turning in a great deal of work, but you were doing fine on the work you did do, why didn't the teacher say anything? That's the kind of thing your teacher's boss is going to want to know.
You know what's an even dirtier litte secret? This kind of thing really only goes on at expensive private schools. Part of what you're paying for is the kind of hand-holding that makes it very, very difficult to fail. Large public institutions can't afford that kind of hand-holding, and students there sink or swim based on whether they can figure out how to negotiate the system. It's one of the built-in sources of inequality in the American education system, and people almost never talk about it. It's pretty glaring, though, to those of us who have functioned in both systems.

I have no idea what kind of school Biochemist attends, though, and that would make a difference.
posted by craichead at 7:46 AM on March 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, biochemist, reading your followups, they sound like excuses for you not to put any effort into fighting this. Which is not something you have to do if you don't want, but be honest with yourself: you're just letting things happen, and then behaving as if there's nothing you can do. In reality, missing a first class because you were not even in the class- uh, that happens all the time. People sign up late for classes and that is normal. The professor is pointing out your absences because he also believes you haven't done any work, because you haven't told him that you have.

If you don't want to take the class over in the future (which you will if you fail), put a little extra work in now. If you don't want to do that, at least own the fact that you are the one responsible for how all this turns out, instead of acting as if you are the victim of circumstances you can't control. I'm telling you this straight because I've done the same thing in the past myself. However, professors really are not interested in helping students who won't help themselves.

In the future, read and keep all your syllabi and schedules. You should have had a grade breakdown showing how much homework counted toward your final grade. If you don't get these things because you weren't there the first day, ask for them. You can't get through university without being proactive, even if you're happy to just get Cs.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:05 AM on March 24, 2011


craichead: You know what's an even dirtier litte secret? This kind of thing really only goes on at expensive private schools.
I think it varies school to school, but it's more prevalent than anyone would like to think. I do know instructors at big state schools who've "massaged" grades because of pressure from supervisors, parents, students, or some combination of the 3. That's why I argue that it (almost always) can't hurt; I really really hope OP decides to push the issue. I still don't see how it's possible for requirements to be so very misunderstood, even by someone who joined after the first day of class.
posted by lesli212 at 7:47 PM on March 26, 2011


I sent an e-mail apologizing, explaining some of the misunderstanding and that I had done the assignments. I didn't get a response for awhile and I opted to drop the class since it was the last day to drop and I didn't want to risk missing that deadline.

I didn't ask the prof what the minimum thing I needed to do to pass is; he gave a speech on the second day about how easy the class was and what you needed to do to pass. I could've sworn he said the assignments weren't required, and there wasn't really anything contradicting that throughout the semester since only about four people or so in the class turned them in. I dunno, maybe it should've been a sign when more people started turning them in toward the end of the semester, but hindsight is 20/20.
posted by biochemist at 12:46 PM on March 27, 2011


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