Letter to a Malingerer

A student, who put forth little effort, wrote me begging for a higher grade:

I am N.Y., Classmate told me that I didn’t through this semester grades, I don’t know if this is true, but I am very worry and sad, before my English is not good, but I already very study hard this semester, I finished Praxised, every time I will come to class, never absent, Not too bad the final examination, I still can be hand in my homework on time, although I do homework is not good, but I’m trying to do. I’m very sorry for the last video copy events, I later won’t do that. It is really a big blow for me, half a year’s efforts to change back the results, my grades didn’t pass. I contact with English is short,I live in a poor town, high schools do not attach importance to English, My English has a gap with other students.Now I doubt myself is foolish,I am going to mad, I don’t know myself how to do later, I don’t know that I can’t learn English, It caused a lot of psychological pressure for me, I hope that through smoking to solve, but that is very bad, I don’t know what to do, I hope you can reconsider my grades,thanks professor.

Hmm. He got less than a 70% on the final so that’s not so good, I’d consider it a poor grade if I got his grade, but then that’s a subjective response. His homework was always done in a rush with minimal quality. There’s no way I was going to change a grade that was properly calculated. Here’s how I replied:

Dear N.Y.,

I can appreciate your desire to make the problem of a low grade disappear, yet it is in crisis that we grow and learn to meet challenge. I can’t make the problem go away. The best thing for you to do is to change your viewpoint and take another course of action.

Yes, you’re in a tough situation, but through this experience you can learn a lot.

  1. I suggest you tell your parents everything as soon as possible and as honestly as possible so they see you as a responsible young adult. As you speak with them this is a good time to bring up your struggles with English and your acknowledgement that you need extra help, beyond the simple “I’ll try harder.”Make them understand that in order for you to really learn English well, you must take extra lessons a few times a week. Berlitz in Beijing would be the best choice, but there must be some good choices near your home time. You also should buy Rosetta Stone and continue with Praxised.com.
  2. You’ve already identified the problem’s source – cheating. So you just need to stop cheating in all areas of your life and learn that cheating only offers the illusion of an easy path and obviously offers more pain than it’s worth. Remember that.
  3. You’ve also identified the other issue – the gap between your English and your classmates’. Even the top students will have to improve a lot to be able to understand a college course in their major in English. Everyone with less that a 90% grade should take extra English courses during the vacation. In addition they should study a few hours a day so that their diploma has real meaning.
  4. You mention pressure and I can understand how you’re feeling that now. However, pressure is what makes us grow. Without it we stagnate. One of the most important thing for you to do is to learn to deal with pressure, since it’s a part of life. Thus this problem is a gift, which can lead you to gaining life skills.

All the failing grade means is that you have to take an extra test next term. I think that’s an amazingly easy way to get credit for this course. If you were in Korea or the U.S. you’d have to take the course again, which, of course, makes a lot of sense.

My brother flunked not only a class, but was kicked out of school, not once but twice. After that he joined the army reserves. The army training transformed him so that he had the maturity to return to university, graduate, get a job and go to law school. Now he’s a successful lawyer. Perhaps that story could be an inspiration to you. Perhaps an option like the military makes sense for you.


Prof. Kelly