But as much as I want to think next week is going to be a complete cinch, I know that's a lie. I know what happens during the last few days of a semester. That time is officially scramble time for all the students who half-assed it, stopped coming, flunked every quiz I ever gave. Suddenly, there's a rush of dead grandmas, broken cars, sick kids, and work demands. Students will sing their sad little songs--false songs, pitiful songs, unoriginal songs--and I will have to sing my own. It will sound a little like this: Please refer to your syllabus for a list of course policies regarding absences and the timely submission of essays! Cha-cha-cha!
Of course, not every slacker follows that route. I had a student this semester who was a rare sub-species of slacker. He didn't waste time vomiting up acidic excuses for absences. He didn't need to. He was never absent. He also didn't waste time trying to work me over about the essays he didn't hand in. He didn't turn in a single one. After the second zero I recorded in my grade book, I came back to him and asked what was going on. Why wasn't he handing in his essays? Didn't he understand that his grade would be determined by those essays and not, say, his spot-on attendance? When I said to him, "Hey, Student, what's the deal with not handing in your essays?" he simply shrugged and said, "I don't know. I just didn't feel like doing them."
Now, listen. I've got to admire his honesty there. Instead of seeing this moment as his in, his way to maybe make up some heart-twisting story about his beloved childhood dog who'd just been diagnosed with cancer and given three weeks to live but was struck by a car before he was taken down by the tumor, this student just shrugged and turned back to his computer.
After his third zero, I had to tell the student there was very little chance of passing the class. Even after I'd let him know he was riding a train straight to F-town, he kept coming. He showed up for every class and sat dutifully in front of his computer, sometimes staring at it so hard I thought he was trying to conjure up words out of thin air.
The only class he missed was our last class this week, when he would have been responsible for turning in a portfolio of his revised work and his final paper, which was worth a considerable part of his grade. But he didn't show. Of course, what would he have done if he had? Would he have shrugged at me on his way out? Would he have thrown me a wink to say, You know the deal.
Oh, I know the deal alright. And sometimes I wish some of his fellow students would follow his lead. Not by neglecting to turn in their essays, but in shrugging their shoulders and saying out loud, "Hey, you know what? I just didn't do it. Didn't even try. Give me a zero, and let's move on."