Saturday, November 20, 2010

He Needs an Online Class in People Skills.....

I have an online student named .... Elmer .... who has driven me nuts this semester. It's a close race, though, between him and his mother. She's the kind who calls and leaves messages like, "Call me as soon as possible." She's also the one I wrote about a few weeks ago who called because she was confused about how to do Elmer's assignment. Elmer has been bad about calling at 4:45 or 4:50 on Friday afternoon, trying desperately to beat the 5:00 PM deadline. Not desperately enough that he would actually think about doing his work BEFORE Friday afternoon, mind you.

Elmer is a tad younger than my online students typically are, but he's at least in high school. I've got a couple of MIDDLE SCHOOL students taking online courses for high school credit, and they aren't as high-maintenance as Elmer has been. First of all, he has no concept that plagiarism isn't the way to do his assignments. He's been busted for it at least twice this semester. He's always contrite, but he continues to steal information off the internet to complete his assignments. Then he wants a chance to redo them.

In his latest egregious offense, Elmer copied an entire paper about the Elizabethan period in England and submitted it as his. Unfortunately, he was supposed to be doing a CREATIVE WRITING assignment. He was supposed to research the Elizabethan era and then write a "day in the life" as if he lived in that time period. I nailed him for it, was harsh in my criticism, and told him (or meant to) that because it was his second (or third) offense, there would be no opportunity to redo the assignment.

He emailed me with an apology and a sob story about his grandmother having knee surgery and his having to be at the hospital yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada. Then he asked if he could redo it for a 70.

Huh? Do you not hear read good, child?

I responded that just as I had told him the first time, it was out of the question. Then his mother called with her typical "call me as soon as possible" demand.

Seems I omitted that all-important word "no" in my tirade about not getting an opportunity to redo it. And naturally she called me on it, saying he was confused about the emails, thought he could redo it, blah blah blah. She didn't really address the fact that he had committed a very serious offense in the first place.

At first I stuck to my guns, saying that of course he couldn't redo an assignment that had been plagiarized. Then I considered the fact that I had made a terrible error IN WRITING, and all she had to do was argue it with the powers that be, and I could avoid possible ugliness by allowing Elmer to redo the assignment. His grade is just below passing right now, and by the time I drop one or two of their lowest test grades, he is destined to pass the class (barely) anyway. I told the mother I would allow Elmer to redo the assignment, and she was grateful.

I emailed Elmer, apologizing for sending conflicting emails. I reiterated that because he had plagiarized the assignment, he SHOULD NOT have had the opportunity to redo the work. But because I had made the error in the first place, he was getting what amounted to a free shot.

I've learned not to expect a whole lot from high school students. But I did expect a "thank you" at the very least. Perhaps even a sworn oath never to plagiarize again. A tearful explanation that he had learned his lesson and he knew he was wrong. A statement that I had forever changed his life for the better and he is now planning to enter the ministry and steer other wayward youth onto the straight and narrow path would not have been effusive.

You want to know what I got?

Here is his response: I accept you apology.


DJan said...

You are definitely earning some credit somewhere, for putting up with this couple of losers. Sorry, but they sure don't deserve it, and plagiarism has caused many to lose not only their jobs, but it's thrown quite a few in jail. That response was enough, to my mind, to cause me to fail him out of fairness, if nothing else.

Sorry, just had to rant a little.

Lilith said...

Glad to see him mommy is helping learn how to play the system! If he's so confused about online assignments and correspondence then he shouldn't be in an online class.

Maggie said...

I want to kill and his mommey for you. What an idiot.

Anonymous said...

his mom totally wrote that response!