I am cognoscente that it was not within your responsibilities to involve yourself with my situation yesterday at ______. Thank you for your expression of concern and support.
I have anguished for many sleepless nights over my International Marketing class. I have consulted several Chinese Business teachers, H_____ and J______, my colleague A____, and yourself. It is a simple matter to fail a student, even five out of 63. It only takes the stroke of the pen.
But what does an “F” grade really represent? I choose to consider that it means that I have failed as a teacher with respect to that student. It is my grade. I realize that this is not the conventional way of looking at it but I think this makes me a better teacher.
I have used the Prentice Hall books for the past four years. They generally contain too much content for one semester and the content is usually difficult for the undergraduate Chinese students. This is primarily so because they are deficient in their English reading skills and have not been taught that the only way to improve those skills is to read more, until it becomes easier and even enjoyable.
I have found that the best way to use the Prentice Hall books is to have the students read the text material on their own, at their own pace. Then they go on-line to the companion web site and take the multiple-choice test at the end of the Chapter. After the computer scores the test, the students can email me the results and then go back through the text to review the areas they missed on the test. The instant class did this successfully for the first few Chapters but then they figured out that one student could answer the test, obtain the correct answers, and then everyone simply went on line and gave 100% CORRECT ANSWERS. They did this even after numerous explanations that the test scores did not count toward their grade but were simply for their own edification. I asked them to stop sending me the test scores in order to impress this point upon them. As a result, they stopped utilizing the test as a learning tool.
In class we discuss the cases at the end of each Chapter, applying the knowledge from the particular text. The students stopped reading the text and just read the cases at the end of the Chapter. If unlucky enough to be called upon in class, their answer was “my English is too poor to explain my answer. Can I answer in Chinese?”
Yesterday I started the class with a surprise quiz by giving the students the multiple-choice test from the web site. With one exception, half of the students got one answer correct by accident while the other half missed every single answer. I inquired of the students and learned that only a single student had read the text or taken the test on line. That single student got every question correct.
I informed the students that I would not waste my time trying to teach them when they were unprepared. I also reminded them of the statement in my written course syllabus:
“Always come to class having prepared your homework assignments. If you cone to class unprepared you may be asked to leave the classroom and you will be marked absent.”
Rather than remove all of the students but one from the room, I absented myself and warned them to take the opportunity to read the material. I also informed them that I was not afraid to fail every single one of them if they refused to do the work. I then left the room.
The class monitor subsequently came to my office and we discussed the matter. I reminded him that just the day before he had brought the five failing boys to meet with me and they promised to turn over a new leaf and study. They promised to come to class prepared if just given another chance. Well they got their second chance and blew it, threw it away.
I have exhausted the motivational possibilities, including telling them the story of my regretful former student whose funeral I attended in Wuhan last Saturday. I have now done everything possible to motivate this class, including scaring them by walking out on them and threatening to fail all of them.
Rest assured that I counted the personal cost before embarking upon this course of action. In fact, I agonized over my decision for days. I gave the quiz to confirm the need for such drastic action. I made the decision that the potential benefit to my students far outweighed whatever adverse consequences arose for me. I am determined that my students will benefit from their time in my class and that they will not pass through our institution unaffected.
You should know that the class monitor informs me that there have been some positive results already. He says the students realize that I was giving them “a wake up call.” These were his words.
Maybe I have bought trouble for myself, but last night I was able to sleep for the first time in days.