The Late Late Late Question

One of the things that can drive an instructor crazy is the ability of a student to ask a question way too late. I’m always getting things from students too late: assignments, papers, and e-mails. Questions are particularly troubling when they are of the kind that indicates the student didn’t know about something or other and that the instructor should show some type of mercy regarding THIS student in THIS specific situation for THIS reason. I love helping my students, but at the end of the day the students have to help themselves. At the end of the semester it is even more important that they help themselves (and hopefully they’ve helped themselves the entire semester anyway). After the semester is completed, however, there is nothing that the student is able to do. This is when they ask the question too late.

“I know I turned in that assignment during the first week of class… and that paper… and I took that test… and…” When the semester is done and you have a student saying thatyou are at fault for not properly grading their assignments or losing their work some instructors might simply blow them off. While skeptical of students who claim to have done everything only to have had me lose it all, I always give them the benefit of the doubt and search through my e-mail and junk mail as well as all of the paper items I keep lovingly stored in manilla envelopes per assignment. Since I double check these things each time I submit grades I have yet to locate something I “missed,” but the possibility is still there so I double-check with each request. This question, however, comes in a variety of forms. Sometimes it isn’t a student who is lying. Sometimes it is a student who is honestly seeking help for a semester where they know they didn’t do any work and are hoping to find forgiveness within their newly found enlightenment. Sometimes it takes more complicated and complex turns. However the inquiry is formed there is one thing that is certain: there is such a thing as “too late,” and most of the e-mails I receive with questions after the close of the semester are correctly in that category. Advice for next semester: read the syllabus, monitor your progress constantly, ask questions early.

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