Mess Up

It’s important to admit to your failures as a teacher, small and large, and so when I realized that I hadn’t actually made the assignment in Google Classroom this afternoon, I muttered apologetically, “Sorry, I mess up.”

“Yeah, you messed up. You messed up my grade,” came a voice behind me. I knew immediately who said it: I’m a teacher, and it’s almost a requirement to be able to recognize students’ voices for any number of reasons, but also the young lady has a distinctive voice. It’s hard to miss C.

She’d just checked her grade while waiting for our work to load, and she discovered that her grade had dropped from a D to a F. The reason was simple: she hadn’t done the work earlier in the week when I was out with a sick little boy, and she hadn’t studied twelve Greek and Latin stems sufficiently to pass a quiz on them.

“I turned in several articles of the week just earlier this week,” she had complained.

“Yes,” I had agreed. “And since you turned them in late, they are a secondary priority when compared to other work that students turned in on time. It wasn’t a priority for you to turn it in on time, so it’s not a priority for me to grade it, I’m afraid. If you turn it in on time, I get it assessed quite quickly.”

It hadn’t been enough, and she’d been fuming, so when I admitted my silly mistake, she used it.

There’s a part of me that says, “What kind of thirteen-year-old thinks she can talk to an adult that way?” There’s a part of me that wonders how she could possibly think that anything positive could come of being aggressively disrespectful like that. There’s a part of me that wonders just what she thought my reaction might be. There’s a part of me that questions if she’ll ever learn how to deal with disappointments more effectively. There’s a part of me that wonders if she’ll spend all her life blaming others — it was my fault that her grade was so bad and not her fault for not preparing for a painfully simple quiz or for not turning in work on time.

What really made the situation frustrating for her was that she, as a basketball player, can’t play if she has grades below Cs. She missed a game because she had a D in my class; now she’s got an F in my class, and the prospect of playing again anytime soon seem painfully remote. And her frustration was understandable but directed at the wrong person.