You know what that means, boys and girls? A sudden flood of email from students letting me know they are sick today, or have some other major conflict, and can I please take it on Friday, and gosh I’m sorry. And I get so mad.
Because I want to write back to them and tell them to never ever feel bad for being sick or stressed. I’m not here to make anyone miserable or force them learn stuff while I hold a whip over their head, and if you tell me you’re struggling or have encountered unavoidable problems, my job is to say OK…what can I do to help you get through this? If it just means giving you a few days to overcome, I’ll always say yes. Just do it. Don’t apologize.
Now we are working within a system here, and that system says I have to evaluate you and say something about how well you’ve mastered the material in the course. I also know that I have to incentivize keeping everyone focused and working steadily to keep up with the material, because last-minute cramming is a terrible way to learn, but ultimately all I care about is that you know it all well enough to be competent in the next course in the curriculum, and that you at some point graduate with broad knowledge of biology. That’s my goal! Making you take an exam while sick is not part of that.
Some people do have this idea that I’m supposed to train you in servility and fitting into capitalism with bosses telling you what to do. I’m not a boss. That’s not my vision of the teacher-student relationship. If I’m told I’m doing students no favor for their future in the workplace by cutting them some slack, that isn’t telling me I need to change — it says we need to change the world.
So get better and go do that.