First Semester Insight: Pass and Fail

Before all hell breaks loose this second semester I would like to pause and reflect for a little while on the various stuff regarding first sem. Right now I’m taking this “waiting time” (because I’m also coordinating an academic event and right now we’re playing the waiting game) as an opportunity to pour my thoughts on screen.

Maybe it’s the passing of time, maybe it’s the experience, but it seems that these days I have more confidence, more conviction when I give a failing mark. I remember during my first year of teaching when I couldn’t focus well when I kept thinking about someone’s future and feelings (we all should, most of the time — we call it empathy). Will I be the reason for the student’s delayed graduation? What will the parents think? Will grudges surface? Is this normal? But through the years I’ve been reflecting on possible outcomes if I let the problematic students pass (e.g. just giving him or her the “D” or “C” mark). I tried to imagine the repercussions: they’re all very unfavorable. Letting them pass, a.k.a. taking the ‘easier route,’ is unfair for everyone. Everyone.

It’s never easy. In fact, as an instructor, giving someone the mark of failure feels very, very painful. Awful even. You think we enjoy this? Hell no! To decide the fate of a student has always been difficult, especially when the decision leads to a more unreliable path. There’s tension, doubt, self-loathing — we pound our heads trying to imagine alternatives, their future. We review our records, but the numbers remain the same: they’re still low. It just didn’t reach the required quota. We have to do it because it’s necessary, because it’s honest.

So far only around three or five have approached me about it. The rest remain silent. But sometimes, when chance gives me the opportunity to speak with those who failed, a closure happens, and the healing starts.

Hey, it’s okay, second chances are always there. You gotta try harder next time. You do know why you’ve failed, right? Didn’t I tell you to review this and that? What’s going on? Hey, it’s not the end of the world, just a setback. Talk to me. Talk to me. Talk to me.

Yesterday I just realized that most students fail because they’re distracted. The cause: not knowing what they want in life; not enjoying the course they’re in because their hearts are not really into it. And there are those who have personal difficulties, who are not aware of the pain. The true lesson begins when one awakens from their inner stupor.


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