Sometimes an F Doesn’t Seem Like Enough

Q. I realize your blog is devoted to helping young people wanting PR careers, but I need to pass along a gripe about students who use a professor to help open professional doors and then shut down on their coursework from that same professor–e.g. me.  I’m unhappy about a student who did just that with my course. Despite his well-deserved F for failing to turn in most assignments, he is now engaged in a highly coveted summer job that I helped arrange for him early in the semester, and I would like the firm to know of my concerns so he doesn’t reflect poorly on the college or me.  

A.  You didn’t actually ask a question, but I’ll chime in anyway since I personally know how annoyed you feel. Although you may be concerned about how the student will perform during his job, FERPA laws prevent you from contacting the employer. You did what is permitted and expected by awarding a failing grade for failing work.

In an effort to better understand why some students shut down, I’ve begun asking students to help explain why they miss or turn in inferior assignments, fail to attend class and don’t engage in class discussions or team projects. I’ve been surprised with the candor of some students. Many are working full-time jobs that interfere with classwork, while others question their decisions to attend college and more than a few are trying to figure out if they are majoring in subjects that truly interest them. One admitted she had too many visits from family and friends on class nights, so she just didn’t show up–nor did she complete assignments. She also said she has no idea what she wants to do when she graduates next year so the failing grade likely will give her another term to assess her future goals, if any. As aggravating as it can be, we must not let ourselves get distracted by the few who don’t seem to care. I try to keep my focus on teaching, helping and watching top students launch what will be successful careers.    

My admonition to PR majors: If you’re serious about pursuing a career in public relations, realize that your college education is the foundation for your future success. The PR world is a relatively small community without Six Degrees of Separation. So, realize that your professors and peers are important components to your network. Don’t burn any bridges.

2 thoughts on “Sometimes an F Doesn’t Seem Like Enough

  1. 40 years after I took News Writing and Reporting in J-school, the professor I had shared his teaching materials with me when I taught the same course for the first time. Those connections we make in college can indeed last for a lifetime.

  2. Ron: I LOVE this post for so many reasons! I’m so glad you wrote about this topic. Life is too short to spend it saving folks who don’t want the rescue. Let us preserve our energy (and sanity) focusing on the hard workers, the diligent, the present, the curious, the polite, the respectful–all those who deserve our time and attention.

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