Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Hate Field Trips

I got a note this morning from a student who's supposed to take a midterm in my class tomorrow letting me know that s/he's on a school sponsored field trip, and oops, was supposed to let me know, except the organization left yesterday, so s/he'd like to know if it's possible to schedule an alternative.

The note's polite enough.

But seriously, why do school organizations schedule their field trips during the weeks in the middle of the term, when we have so many midterms scheduled? (Okay, I know that with the variety of courses, there are always exams of some sort happening in one or another class. But still, it seems like the middle of the semester would be a time to avoid trips, doesn't it?)

Normally, I get notified by students going on such trips a week or more in advance, and I know it when I'm writing the midterm, so I do a second one at the same time or maybe I'm lazy, and I arrange for the student to take the exam the day before s/he leaves on the trip. And I collect his/her exam. That way, even if I'm lazy and don't write a second exam, the odds are that s/he isn't going to remember everything exactly enough to pass along information to mess up the class. (Maybe that's wishful thinking. Probably.)

But having a whole classful of exams (students keep their exams, because I change them every time I teach a class and I think it's good for students to see how I do things and also to have the exam to save along with their bluebooks should they care to) with one student who hasn't taken the exam yet would be way more wishful thinking than even I'm willing to go with.

What I'd like to do is read the student the riot act, but what's the point.

Or hit reply to the student's email, CCing the faculty advisor, offering to arrange to reschedule the exam. Except I'm sure the faculty advisor told the students to arrange for exams ahead of time, and there's really no point in playing some mean spirited game against the advisor.

So, what I'm going to do in all likelihood is wait a bit to calm down, and then email the student about arrangements and spend an extra hour or whatever writing this student his/her very own special snowflake exam.



  1. I usually feel a little better in these situations if I write a sort of "You should have asked earlier" message to them (while still giving the makeup or whatever)...

  2. I hear you. As my class sizes have crept up, the number of make-up midterms, quizzes and exams has exploded. I will regularly have ten to twenty students needing makeups due to illness or class trips.

    It can be maddening when there have to be three or four different versions of a midterm or quiz in order to accommodate the pre-planned absences, the students who write in class and the students who're sick, making it up later. Urgh!

    So, while midterms and quizzes are easy to mark, I'm not always keen on the administration thereof!

  3. Anonymous2:09 PM

    Hm. I just say no when they don't give me advance notice. Then they don't go on the field trip. End of story.

    Among people not giving advance notice, the field trip has always turned out to be optional and a nice try for the student to get out of the exam/presentation ze had scheduled that day, upon further consultation with other students or the adviser. Students going on important field trips or sports events always seem to be able to give the advance notice or more required by the university.

  4. I think it's more than fair to say "I don't give make up exams", but you have to say it in the syllabus. When someone has a good reason for missing an exam, I will sometimes say X other assignments will count more. I usually have lots of assignments, so one exam missed is not the whole thing.

  5. Anonymous5:08 PM

    p.s. My DH gives oral retakes only.

  6. I hate writing makeups. Instead, I use the regular exam (my exams combine multiple choice, short answers, and essays) and delete all of the multiple choice answers, turning them into short-answer problems instead. Then I write one or two new essay questions and make the rest of the grade based on the essays.

    In other words, the makeup test is a hell of a lot harder. Students learn very quickly not to miss exams.