Several years ago, I had a student named “Karen” (not her real name, but she did give permission for this story). Karen was the perfect student, always respectful, hard-working, leader, intelligent, and popular with students and staff. Overall, she was a teacher’s dream to have in class.
Karen, along with several other students, made a habit of coming in my room before school, spending lunch in my room, and paying after school visits before she headed home. Additionally, as I had Karen in class for three years, I got to know her parents really well. Her dad used to coordinate the logistics of concert nights and cable television broadcasts and her mom was very active with distributing uniforms and planning our annual out-of-state trips.
It was always sad when students departed at the end of the year, sadder when they left for good, and especially sad when it was a student with whom I had formed a bond. She and her parents had even approached me to offer free babysitting services! We never took them up on the offer, but the offer was an extension of a great relationship between a teacher, student, and parents.
Although I heard from Karen a couple of times a year during her high school days, I had moved on to helping other kids and she had moved on to advanced studies and preparation for college. However, I still kept I touch with her parents. They were terrific people and my wife and I enjoyed their company. In particular, though, they continued to support our band program by helping other parents learn the ropes.
Near the end of Karen’s first semester of college, she called me at my office. While it was certainly great to hear from her, I could tell that she appeared to be in some distress, which, I assumed, was the purpose of the telephone call.
Karen did not waste much time getting to the point of her telephone call. She told me that a professor was giving her a “D-“ in one of her classes, even though she had maintained an “A” throughout the semester and even though she had earned a “B” on her final exam.
Clearly, this did not make any sense and I assumed that it was simply an error in the professor’s grade book. I dispensed my advice to Karen, which included telling her to speak with the professor about her grade. She told me that she had already spoken to him and that he had told her that her grade of a “D-“ was final. He also told her that if she pushed the issue, he would fail her for the class and report her to the office at the university.
An unusual story suddenly became much more dramatic, at least in my mind. How could a professor give an “A” student a “D-“ and then tell her to, in essence, keep quite or he would fail her?
Karen was attending the same university that I had attended in when I pursued my first college degree. As such, she thought that I might know the professor and she hoped that I would intervene with him. I had to tell Karen that I did not know her professor, but that I would be willing to make a telephone call on her behalf.
(So, did I call her professor to get the grade changed? Please come back next week to find out!)
Paul W. Reeves