Caring Too Much
This evening, Friday night of Thanksgiving weekend, I received a text message from one of my Teaching Assistants. “Hi, Dr. Wilson. Can you call me when u get a chance? We are having issues in [class]”
I was in the middle of something, away from my computer, and wanted to check email before calling him, to see if there was more information there, as I like to have all of the information possible before discussing it with those involved.
It wasn’t meant to be. About five minutes later, the phone rang. I jokingly reproved him, “I thought you wanted me to call you when I had the chance?”
There is a student in his section who is struggling in a big way in class and the TA has worked closely with him trying to help him get through the course. To complicate matters, graders had lost his first paper and gave him a zero for the assignment, which wasn’t brought to my attention until recently. I had the staff fix the problem. Unfortunately, this student, like many others, seems to see all of this help as implicit permission to take liberties with the normal policies of the course, and is displaying irresponsibility and seems to be assuming he won’t be penalized for it.
My TA was extremely frustrated about the situation. He was calling out of this frustration after having a lengthy email conversation with the student today. I sympathized with him. This is his first semester teaching, and he was struggling with seeing his investment in this student being ‘wasted’ by the student’s own refusal to get on track, even with all of the help. My TA wants this guy to pass, but was seeing him continually self-sabotage.
I shared a hard lesson I learned through many frustrated phone calls with my dad, a retired professor at a junior college. As an educator we should care, and work passionately to equip our students to succeed, yet we must learn to keep a certain amount of detachment that will let us continue to evaluate student performance objectively. We need to keep firmly in our mind that the grade a student earns represents their mastery of the material, not our efforts or desires for their success. Whether we help them a lot or ignore them, their grade must reflect how well they meet the course objectives.
God loves us so incredibly deeply that He sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins, our failure to meet His course objectives. Since the stakes are so high in Life, He not only gave us the key (Scripture), He took the test for us (Christ’s Life, Death, and Resurrection). Yet, His justice insists that each pass the test. So, if one of the students refuses His help and fails the test, He is obliged to fail them and reject their entrance into His kingdom. He does not love them any less. He provides adequate opportunity for each to access needed materials, yet their choices on the exam are their own, and He objectively abides by it, even though the failure rends His heart.
As educators, we have an amazing Model, but it is an incredibly difficult example to follow. Righteousness demands we take it to heart, though. Whether they realize it or not, our students are critically dependent on us balancing justice with love, even in chem lab.
Day 29 Praise: Praise to the God of Integrity who demands nothing of us that He has not done first Himself.