By Kristy Zieman
My goal as an instructor is to do my absolute best to teach my students the relevant content (and of course some important life lessons) that they need to know in order to succeed at their respective career choices in the future. Most classes are building blocks for another class and the students need to do well in these building blocks so that they can succeed in the next course and the one after that and so on and so forth. I make it a point at the beginning of the semester to identify those students that I think are going to need some extra help to make it through class. I watch their first few weeks of scores closely, especially on exams and quizzes to get an idea of what they are capable of. Those students that score below average start getting more interaction with me right away. After an exam I always message every student that scores less than 70% on the exam. I let them know that I want to meet with them outside of class so that we can discuss their study habits and see if there is something we can come up with together that will help them improve their next exam score. I know if I start with them early enough in the semester I will be able to get them on track and doing well in the class; of course I can only accomplish this if the student is also willing to put in the effort to work at it. If they are willing to follow my suggestions and work with me outside of class time to get extra tutoring and help then they are usually able to turn around their grades before we even hit midterms. They learn firsthand that when they are not succeeding at something that maybe all they need to do is approach it from a different angle to begin doing better. They also learn that extra effort in studying goes a long way when it comes to improving exam scores.
Sometimes I can do everything in my power to try and help a student do better in my class, but they just don’t improve. There can be various reasons why they don’t improve in the class and those reasons could be their fault or they may be no fault of their own. Typically, when I have this occur in my class it is because the student is just not putting forth any effort whatsoever to learn the material and succeed in the class, or the student is trying their best, but their best is just not good enough. Some students are not able to learn certain subject matter, like the health sciences, as well as other students are. My question is when do you have the tough talk with these type of students? When do you sit them down and discuss with them that their dream job may not be the right route for them? There comes a point in the semester when as an instructor we can just tell, foresee if you will, that a particular student is not going to pass the class. If this happens to be a student that you have gone out of your way to help succeed and they are just not cutting it, do you owe it to them to be honest and explain (in of course the most compassionate way possible) that they should drop the class and even think about possibly changing their major and their future job aspirations? Do you ignore the situation and let it play out all while letting the student waste their time and money on a class you know they won’t pass in order to get to a future job you know they likely won’t obtain? It’s not easy to have this kind of a talk with a student. To look them in the eye and tell them that maybe they aren’t cut out for a particular job arena. Even though it’s one of the toughest talks instructors will have with a student, I think it’s vital that we do it when necessary. I personally think we would be doing a disservice to these particular students if we didn’t have the tough talk with them. The hard part is figuring out at what point in the semester, and after what level of effort from the student is finally the time to realize it’s just not going to happen.