A Back Row Full of Macs

I am not feeling particularly thankful right now, but know I should be. On the whole, this has been a great semester, but it is also time to rake leaves.

I know I have to. I thought I took care of it with my last-day-to-drop email. All the same, here I am, having to explain why I cannot submit some students’ portfolios in my basic writing class. Along with it, I also have explain how a semester’s worth of revision simply cannot be done in a week or even two weeks. For students who missed enough class, they also missed how multiple drafting helps accelerate improvement in writing.

I have students in basic writing who have missed 20, 16, 13, and 12 classes. Not coincidently, all the work each has turned in was not passing. I now know that the WritingI classes set a blanket policy to fail any student who misses more than six classes. My syllabus had the option at three, but at my discretion. At this point, I am happy for that discretion because a blanket policy would have cut off students who turned things around partway through the semester. I am still undecided on how to address this in future syllabi for this class. Missing 20 is clearly unreasonable, but what about 13 in the case of a student with two bouts of emergency surgery? This is not as clearcut as I sometimes wish it could be. I am glad that I kept that all-important word “discretion” in the syllabus.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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