Sunday, January 5, 2014

"It's Not My Fault"

Today is the last day of the winter break for the school where I teach online classes, but it hasn't been much of a break for me.  This particular group of students includes several "not-my-faulters."  I usually get one or two per class, but this session is rife with them, and they haven't left me alone during the holidays.

The course syllabus and policies clearly spell out their general responsibilities and the specifics of each assignment, but the "not-my-faulters" are always shocked and amazed that I enforce the written policies and grade according to the printed rubrics.  Submitted a blank paper or the wrong assignment?  Left out half the assigned work?  Copied code from the Internet without citing the source?  "Yes, but it wasn't my fault!"  Oh, the homework brownies did it for you?  Give me a break.  "If you just call me, I can explain."  No, you can't.  Your power/Internet connection went down, your mother/brother/hamster died, you had a heart attack/went into early labor - that's terrible and I'm sorry for you, but it doesn't mean you should get full credit for missing, incomplete, or plagiarized work.  And BTW, repeatedly whining to me will not change that.  Nor will complaining to the University; they always back me up.  PLEASE complain - I double-dog dare you.  You'll be sorry.

I wouldn't be ranting like this except I am supposed to be preparing these students for life in the workplace, and employers don't accept much short of an incapacitating stroke for missing or substandard work.  I know - as a manager, I was the one who had to write performance improvement plans or fire employees who didn't get that message.  How did these people get to college without learning to take responsibility for their own actions?  What were their parents thinking???

Stuff happens.  We all forget, procrastinate, get sick, get distracted, suffer personal tragedies, screw up.  But when we do, we owe it to ourselves as well as those around us to say, "I'm sorry.  It WAS my fault.  I'll suffer the penalties and try very hard never to do it again."

[UPDATE: Right after I posted this I received a note from one of my other students who had just suffered a devastating loss.  She told me she was withdrawing from class because she knew that she would be unable to focus for the next few weeks, but would re-enroll in the near future and finish up her degree.  No whining, pleading, or excuses - just pulling up her socks and getting on with things.  She and the others like her are the students who keep me teaching.]

"You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of." ~Jim Rohn