Guest Blog: Ed Cook: Teaching College – Sometimes I just don’t get it, sometimes I do.

I have been teaching Business part time at a mid-size metropolitan State University for nearly 20 years.  I love it. I wish I had my Ph.D so I could make this a career instead of an avocation.  Over the years I have taught adult-learners and conventional aged college students and encountered some brilliant students. I have also run into some dolts.  The brilliant ones would do well at Harvard or MIT, but the cost is out of reach. The dolts…well you decide.

Why is it that a student would go to each class, take a midterm exam (grade of A), write a 10 page paper (Grade of B), and then not come to the final exam, which made the person fail the class.

One student told me that he had to withdraw because his father had been kidnapped in Nepal.  Kidnapped??? Really???  In Nepal??? How do I confirm that???  Believable???

An undergraduate senior student last year did not turn in a term paper which was about 30% of the course grade.  His reason, “I didn’t have time.” He said he would complete the rest of the work so he would get a C-.  The second required paper is due and he does not turn that in.  You guessed it.  “I didn’t have time.”  Too bad that was after the withdrawal deadline because he did have time to Fail.  I have heard that excuse from more than that student but that guy asked if he could do some extra work to make up the papers he missed.  There was no extra work to do, but he probably would not have had time.

In that same class, a young lady who was an international student told me she was going to her home country to be at her sister’s wedding.  OK. Seven weeks later she reappears, having missed one of the required papers.  After she told me that she had troubles with her Visa getting out of Pakistan, I told her she was in jeopardy of failing because of the missed paper.  She started to cry, (I’ve seen that before too) and said she sent it to me by e-mail from her mother’s house in Pakistan before it was due.  I told her to check with her mother and send it again with the suffix .us after the e-mail address.  Sure enough, she had sent it, it was very well done and she went on to get an A.

I had a brother and sister in a class one time and I gave a take home final exam.  First time I ever had to fail someone who completed all the class work.  (See above the student who did not come to the final) Turns out they turned in the test and they were EXACTLY the same.  The multiple choice answers were all the same, even the ones they got wrong. The essays were all the same, same words, same punctuation, same everything.  Sorry, no cheating, even if it is a sibling…F.

At the beginning of each semester I tell the students that a missed exam gets a grade of zero and there are no make-ups unless they have a verifiable EMERGENCY reason.  I had a student back in the 90’s (Pre e-mail) who missed a mid-term.  He called the college got my number and called me. He said he was in a car accident, and asked to take the exam the next class.  He said he had ER doctor notes but he was ok.  I said bring the note and presuming it was legit, he could take the test.  Well he brought the note and a copy of the Quincy Patriot Ledger newspaper.  There he was on the front page, leaning against this hunk of metal that used to be his car that had been destroyed by a city bus.  He got an A.

Finally, the best story I have from teaching.  I had this adult learner student, about 26 or 27, in a Personal Finance class about 10 years ago.  She was a senior, nice gal, always participated good grades.  She was a trainee at a local restaurant chain, and was going to be the first person in her family ever to graduate from college.  She was very motivated. We are about to start the section on investing, and she tells her mother that.  The mother tells the student that her grandmother, who had died when the student was a baby, had left her some stock, and she pulled the stock certificate out of a drawer.  The student tells me this story the next class and she is bouncing up and down she is so excited.  She tells me that her grandmother left her shares of GE stock.  She looked up the price in the paper and it was worth about $150,000! After finding out the date her grandmother died and some other info, I told her the stock was worth MUCH more and she should go to her bank the next day, and rent a safe deposit box for the stock certificate.  I would do some research for her to find the value of her stock inheritance.  I told her to call me in a day or two because she was so excited that she could not wait the week till the next class. (I was excited too!) Well the stock dated back to the 1970’s, and after several stock splits and the wild success of GE during Jack Welch’s tenure as CEO, the stock was worth over $17 MILLION!  Needless to say, she did not need to worry about tuition payments.


One thought on “Guest Blog: Ed Cook: Teaching College – Sometimes I just don’t get it, sometimes I do.

  1. Ed, I wonder what ever happened to the student with the stocks…what did she go on to do with her life? Would be interesting to follow up with her 10 years later.

    Great post!

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