Friday, December 09, 2005

A Plea on Behalf of Academic Support Staff

This week, I've been scrambling to deal with Finals Week at my seminary. This happens every quarter, and I talked about this phenomenon some during the Spring Quarter. In that previous post, I described how students are often confused about what to do with their papers once they've finished them. This is an ongoing frustration, and I certainly would ask any of you out there reading this who are professors to provide instructions to your students as clearly as possible. We who are on the receiving end of these frantic students appreciate it.

Another common problem, that I failed to mention at the time, is that a surprising number of students don't put the name of the class, the professor, or sometimes even their own name on the assignment. This causes delays and frustration for pretty much everybody concerned.

I'm also continually amazed at how many students scramble in at the very latest possible moment trying to get papers turned in "before the deadline." I have less sympathy here. I have a life, too, and would like to return to it at 5:00 pm. I am also not equipped to handle last-minute requests for Incompletes, which (at our school) must be approved by the professor and turned in to the Registrar's office before the deadline for the assignment itself has passed.

One of my college professors used to always admonish us to plan ahead for printers to fail, computers to crash, traffic to be heavy, and for any number of maladies to occur, giving ourselves plenty of lead time in case such catastrophes fell upon us. (And, as we all know, things do happen!) It wasn't so much that my professors were sticklers for rules (as I confess that I myself often am), and in fact, they were generally more than willing to grant "grace" when told of unforseeable circumstances. Rather, they were trying to spare everyone involved undue stress, including not only the professors and the support staff (thanks!), but the students themselves, who can work on their assignments more fully prepared for whatever may come their way.

That advice has served me well throughout my academic career, and at the risk of sounding overly preachy, I would encourage others to plan ahead in this way. Even if it doesn't grant you (assuming "you" are a student) the stress relief, it certainly will provide me with less stress from having to deal with so many people knocking down my door at 5:00 pm!

(And please have your assignment assembled before you arrive at the office!)

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