If you’re like me (and I fear you are, and hope you aren’t), then there are times you aren’t very gracious about extending grace. Today I was the poster child for GGD, Grudging Grace Syndrome, and I suspect more than a few faculty suffer from it, especially at the end of term. This isn’t an online telethon—raising funds will never find a cure, only raising prayer. Fortunately, there are no busy signals on that hotline.
Today was the last day of class for fall term, and my standing rule is nothing turned in after 5 pm will be graded. The term is over. The teaching assistants need to get all papers in so they can get everything graded, so they can finish up and focus on their finals.
It is always a struggle for me to deal with students who have left themselves vulnerable to last minute disaster, whether it is illness or computer problems or some other problem that overwhelms their ability to meet that deadline. Worse is when I know students that have been struggling all semester and yet have ignored my attempts to reach out to them…until the last week of class when they appear out of thin air to beg for an extension.
I am not smiley at those moments. I am not happy to see them or even that they exist. And it shows, usually in both my face and tone, and I make no attempt to disguise it. Yet, I let them into my office, and when I’ve invited them to sit down, I push most of my frustration and displeasure away, and let them state their case. I then point out to them many of the ways they could have avoided this pickle, and I usually really make an effort to be as kindly factual as possible.
Then, we start working on a game plan to meet the deadline realistically with as much done as possible. Sometimes, there is no way for them to pass, even with an extension, and I have to help them realize it.
Here’s the kicker. Even though I start out very grumpy with them, they are astoundingly grateful. I had one student who will fail the class tell me at length how much he appreciates that I even took the time to listen to him and consider his situation, how most professors he’s had would have dismissed him. Others shared similar sentiments, even when I’ve dressed them down.
I’ll be honest—that blows me away. God uses even my reluctant efforts to bless them, and in return uses them to reflect His chastising grace to me, disciplining me with kind gratitude. Maybe I’ll learn one day.
The other thought that makes me shudder is if my interaction inspires gratitude, what must they experience from others that I cause relief???
Lagniappe: just in time for that final push in grading: The Five Stages of Grading