The Health/Grade Dilemma

Discussion in 'General Education' started by AlwaysProf, Apr 13, 2008.

  1. AlwaysProf

    AlwaysProf New Member

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    Apr 13, 2008

    I'm a 11th grade teacher for AP United States History. One of my students, who has always been an A/A+ student, came up to me and said that it was unfair that he got a D this quarter. He is a valedictorian and had straight A's taking 5 AP classes, clearly a studious and very hardworking student. His reason for it being unfair is because of his own health issues that has been going on for several months now.

    He told me that he had joint pains and inflammation that persisted for more than 2 months. He went to many doctors to see what was wrong, but the lab results were normal. He is now being seen by a rheumatologist that examined him, gave him a list of possible diseases that he might have, and told him to come back sometime this month. Other doctors told him that it might have been caused by bacteria or a viral disease. His joint flares has sometimes caused so much pain that he is unable to turn the car key or do simple tasks without fearing the pain. Even the door knob of his room is patched so that he did not have to turn it. Sometimes, he could not even walk because of how much his hips hurt him, either regarding the joint or the ligaments or muscles around them. He really thought that he had arthritis due to all of the grinding and physical expression of his painful joints. The fingers of his hands are somewhat deformed (hyperextended at the joint). He pages of symptoms that he has experienced and it seems like he has gone through a lot trying to figure out what he has and what treatment he could undergo to heal himself so that these pains and symptoms would go away. He also had constant intermittent muscle aches and pains. He had to spend many hours every day doing yoga (which even hurts) and stretches.

    This, according to him, has affected him mentally and academically. He had to go research his own health on how to treat general inflammation, read several books by doctors, and had to go through his own plan for rehabilitating his joint pains. This included exercising more (through swimming), doing range of motion exercises, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet. This took a lot of time out of his hands and he was fatigued easily, unable to be able to complete all of his work. He just couldn't stay awake any longer. These symptoms, of course, worried him greatly due to the fact that his mother had a close relative that died of SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus), an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks itself and presents many of the arthritic like and inflammation symtpoms. He was worried about it being JRA (Juvennile rheumatoid arthrtis) and over 100 disease and possible symptoms that exhibit arthritic pains. It obviously took him off course academically.

    Now, he still has joint pains every once in a while but it seems like the inflammation is pretty much gone. He has recovered about 90% from his previous symptoms but his grades have dropped significantly, espeically in my class.

    Since he is telling that all of this is unfair, and is definitely concnered about his grade in my class, resulting in a D, I'm confused as to what I should do here. I understand that his illness was unavoidable, something that we experience many times throughout our lives. Do you guys have any opinions on what you think should be done about his grades according to his presented health issues? However, given that many arhtirtic disease have symptoms that come and go, sometimes even going through remission, it is hard for me to decide whether or not this situation is indeed unfair. This student is very honest and has a reputation that is regarded as excellent. He had gotten only one B throught the course of his high school years, the others being all A's. He work was perfect consistently and he always did well on my tests (getting 95% on the final). What should be done?
     
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  3. Joyride

    Joyride Comrade

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    I'm not sure if I'm reading this wrong or not, but it sounds like the D is not from missing class. Did he do his assignments? It's a shame if he didn't tell you earlier what was going on with his health, but I can see why he would not want to. I've been through similar problems and it's....... utterly frustrating because you can spend thousands of dollars on medical bills and still not know what's wrong. The diet in itself definitely affects you. Can you offer him some make-up work?

    Oh, and by the way, from what I've heard so far, it's difficult to test for auto immune problems. They mask blood test results.
     
  4. sub&mom

    sub&mom Companion

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    Apr 13, 2008

    This is such a hard one to answer without knowing what exactly he scored what on. I would certainly think about giving him the benefit of extra credit, or excused assignments during this awful time for him. And the fact that he scored a 95 on the final brings me back to the fact that grades are somewhat unfair. If all along he was struggling and scoring poorly on projects, and quizzes, etc. but in the end he learned what he needed to learn, it seems his grade should reflect that.

    Now take this with a grain of salt, I'm a sub.....and a parent.....not a teacher who is in charge of grades, so my opinion is just that. But I felt compelled to respond!
     
  5. AlwaysProf

    AlwaysProf New Member

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    Apr 13, 2008

    He has missed more classes (mabye 3 times?) this semester (during the period of his illness) than before, in which he has missed only 1 or none at all. His assignments have been done poorly and his test scores are low and I can see that little studying was done. I suspect that this is all due to the time that was taken away from his health problems and the fatigue brought upon him due to his own rehabitation program that he devised himself (since doctors were annoyed at his problems and knew little to help and since arthritic symtpoms usually need to take at least a few months to be able to distinguish itself from the huge list of diseases), for he was an excellent student. I know that he has compromised a lot of sleep before and dedicated much time to studying to keep his straight A's and #1 rank. He was definitely a competitive and self-motivating student.

    I would think that him not telling me earlier is due to embarrasment and just to the fact that he might fear that he is bribing me or asking something of his teachers to let him slide, or even not believing him. He told me that he has had periods of remission, when his joint seemed to be better and without much pain. However, other times they have hurt him and weakened his ability to do tasks. He had to change his entire desk space to cope with the pain. He also has had many other injuries that seem unusual. It seems like that he has experiencing joint pains all since last year, but has ignored them due until his whole-body joint flare-up. That was when it struck fear and pain into him most. His anxiety has went up tremendously and he has gone through stages of depression.

    He says that he has told me now about this because he has not seen how all of this has affected him, making his grade in my class drop to a D. He has gotten more B's than he got before and the grades of his other classes have dropped noticeably. He wishes to keep his grades up, but fear that telling other teachers about his illness will just make it sound like a person who wants to get the "disability advantages." He has asked his more compassionate teachers to let him type his assignments instead of write them because he wrist and thumb joint hurt so much sometimes when writing. He has worn a cast throughout the school year and dealt with the pain from an injury that has not seemed to heal (chronic inflammation in the wrist).

    Thanks for those of you who has responded. I hope that more will give their opinions.
     
  6. ancientcivteach

    ancientcivteach Habitué

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    Apr 13, 2008

    Would you be willing to create a test that would be like a "final" for the quarter and let him take that? Since he doesn't want a sympathy grade that seems like a fair route.
     
  7. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    Where were the parents?? If my child was going throught something like this I would certainly inform all teachers to expect to see some changes in the classroom. Why didn't the parents talk with the admin. to get some kind of medical plan in place. Schools deal with seriously ill students often enough to have plans in place. I would schedule a meeting with parents and your admin. to talk this through. I don't think you should do anything to change the grades until you take this step.
     
  8. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    Posted an answer on your thread -
     
  9. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    I ditto the talking to the parents part. Also, unless I misread, the doctors haven't actually said he has any medical condition, only that he may. I'm not discounting what he said, but to be fair to all students, you need proof. Even if he had proof, his parents (or at least the student himself) needed to contact you when the problem first began, or at least when his grades started being affected so that accomodations could be put in place. You can't go back and make accomodations now!

    Personally, I think this is a life lesson-- you don't wait until your grades are so awful you can't repair them before you talk to the teacher.

    It may sound cold -- but I'd tell him that as much as I understand and sympathsize with him, his grades are his grades -- they are what he earned. I'd also add the point that high grades aren't "everything" in this world (something many AP students will have a hard time understanding.) There are many people in this world who don't have straight A averages who have managed to lead happy, healthy lives. This isn't the end of the world. This is a very hard life lesson, but it is reality.

    I'd also tell him that from this point on I am willing to accommodate him, IF his parents come in and let me know what is going on AND request accomodations. (And then I'd go through the formal procedure for a 504.)

    Imagine if you decided to change his grades, give him extra assignements,etc, and didn't let others do this, and that gave him a huge academic advantage in getting into a tough school. Then later you found out that it was all a bunch of hooey (or at least, greatly exaggerated.) You'd feel like an idiot, and you wouldn't have been fair to the other students, who didn't have this opportunity to improve their grades.
     
  10. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    I also think you should talk with administration. I'm sure you want to help him, but at this point the semester is over. In order to be fair to him and to all of the other students in your class, you should not make this decision without administration. It should be fairly easy to prove, through doctor evaluation, that sometimes he cannot complete his work. At times like that something else needs to be done to insure he completes the assignment, or a comparable assignment. That said, I do hope you reach a compromise, I hate to see his grades drop and loose his valedictorian status because of health issues.
     
  11. JaimeMarie

    JaimeMarie Moderator

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    Apr 13, 2008

    I have been a tutor to students that have had long term illnesses. There teachers would always say they don't look sick and so on.

    I would let him make up the work. I also, would mention that he should be tested for lyme. I don't know what state you are in but
    there is a doctor in CT, that is a specialist for children with lyme disease. He worked with both students I had that have lyme. I can't remember his name right now but I can find out if you are interested.
     
  12. Amers

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    Apr 13, 2008


    I think this is good advice. Why did he wait until now to tell you he was having these issues? I teach 5th graders and they know that if they have concerns or questions, they need to bring them to my attention right away--not the day grades are due or the day of a test.

    Meeting with parents and admin. to decide the best route for this student sounds like the best (and most common) advice. It's too big a change for you to have to decide on your own, especially since the parents haven't even contacted the school.
     
  13. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I think it's unfortunate for this student that he may be experiencing health problems.

    It's also unfortunate that he didn't address the issue with you in a more timely manner. Presumably, if this issue has been going on for as long as he suggests, he had ample time in which he could have given you the heads up. As a minimum, he could have talked to the school nurse, counselor, or administration about it. Perhaps they could have started him on a 504 plan or something similar.

    Kids and their parents have an obligation to advocate for themselves. How else is the teacher supposed to know that there may be extenuating circumstances?

    In any event, I think it's too late for you to consider changing the D. It's already been issued, yes? He may just need to step it up and earn a higher grade this quarter, and/or request a 504 or homebound plan.
     
  14. Joyride

    Joyride Comrade

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    Imagine that you have horrible pain, and no proof. It's humiliating and frustrating enough to go to the doctor and not know what's wrong. (And most likely doctor after doctor). You don't want to act like a charity case. Even in college, I'm hesitant to go into a whole spiel about my symptoms. I'm not saying to give him an A, but yes, a D will affect his college options. I don't really see much wrong with offering him some chance of revision.

    Talking to the parents certainly can't hurt- but they're no better judges of what he is going through than you are. They're not doctors, and they're not experiencing the pain themselves. Yes, maybe they can tell you about his behavior outside of school, but unless they say "he just played video games and went out with his friends instead of doing his homework", they may not be able to help that much.

    I understand that those who said not to give him any accommodations aren't trying to be cold. I'm just saying that until you experience major health problems, you do not know how hard it is to ask for help. Especially when you're an A+ student. I know that my perspective has changed since I was in the hospital. His parents may not even know that his grades are suffering.

    Some people's medical problems are obvious. Others are not, but are just as real. Why punish them for something that's already causing stress, fatigue, and pain? I'm not saying to inflate his grade, but how much could it hurt to offer him a chance to do twice the work in a short amount of time to at least potentially bring his grade up to a C?
     
  15. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    As a person with a lifelong and very painful disability that is hard for others to understand, I do understand what he might be going through. After 19 reconstructive surgeries, 2 hip replacments, and 7 bone grafts, I am very aware of what "unseen pain' is. I still say he needs something in writing from a doctor. Otherwise, any student could say he or she was in pain, and would have to be offered a "do over."

    If he is in as much pain as he says he's in, how is he going to complete this "twice as much work in a short period of time?" That just isn't realistic.
     
  16. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    I think the proof is not whether the student has an acutal illness but the proof he was consulting doctors about his illness. It is very simple to provide proof - every doctors office usually has slips for students to take to school to provide "proof" of a medical absence. I think we all understand there are illness that don't outwardly show symptoms - all the more reason for the parents to inform his teachers.

    Again, I find it very odd for a student to be going through such a terrible ordeal and the parents not inform staff. Esp. for a student that obiviously takes academics very seriously. The student obviously isn't embarassed about explaining his illness because this poster was able to provide elaborate amounts of detail about the student's illness and I can only assume the poster recieved this information from the student. Why haven't the parents protested the "D" if there is indeed justication for why the student struggled? Was this the only class he performed poorly in?

    BTW - at my school, after grades are reported and recorded, we must provide documentation in order to change a grade.
     
  17. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I agree that the student, or more likely the parents, should have come to the teachers or school and informed them of what this parent was going through.

    However, if I had a student who I knew got straight A's all through high school, and then suddenly started doing poorly enough on his assignments, or didn't turn them in, to the point that it would drop him all the way to a D, I would have called the parents as soon as I noticed the change. In fact, I would have to do so by contract.

    I would just suck it up to everyone dropping the ball in this case, and giving the kid a break.
     
  18. Joyride

    Joyride Comrade

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    Eh, well, I think the original poster said that the student is in a period of remission so to speak, so I figured that he'd be willing to work harder. At the end of the day though, everyone will have different opinions.
     
  19. hernandoreading

    hernandoreading Comrade

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    If this health issue was a serious problem, here his parents would have arranged for a meeting for a 504, making his teachers aware of the issue officially and also creating some accomadations to assist him in succeeding in spite of the health issue.
    IMO, his parents dropped the ball. At the very least, they should have contacted his teachers about the situation, send in something from a doctor, etc.
    So, what to do? I would talk to his other teachers, your administration, and his parents. I do see thepossibility ofletting him make up missed work, but remember....whatever you do for him, you may end up doing for many more. Once the gate is opened, it is difficult to shut.
     
  20. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I'm with all the other posters who are questioning why this has become an issue only now. I realize high schoolers aren't always the most responsible, but why would al straight A student suddenly stop turning in work and doing poorly on exams? I know it's too late, but the teacher should have been on the phone with the parents after the first few missed assignments.

    Now that it's to this point, the only thing you can really do is call a confrence wiht the parents/admin/other teachers and work something out so this doesn't have a huge effect on the rest of his life. Like the above poster said, however, once you open this door, it's hard to close, so be very careful what you agree to do.
     

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