I wouldn't be sitting in my office right now if I hadn't violated one of the Universal Rules of College Teaching: If a student begs for a face-to-face meeting outside of office hours because it's the only time he can possibly meet, he won't show up. (Doubly true for Friday afternoons. Triply true if it's my birthday.)
I should have known better than to expect the student to meet me at the time he had specified, but the end-of-the-semester grueling grading mayhem marathon may have led to some discombobulation of my teacherly instincts. For instance, it is a truth universally acknowledged that the student who begs and pleads for an extra-credit assignment won't bother to turn it in, while the student who needs it least will complete the assignment. I know this! We all know this! So why am I surprised that my very rare offer of a tiny serving of grace was ignored by the student who's been lobbying loudest for extra credit?
Today I'm enjoying a rare hiatus between piles of grading: I'm caught up on grading but expecting two more piles of exams tomorrow and the final capstone papers on Friday. I wouldn't have come to campus today if I hadn't fallen victim to another Universal Rule of College Teaching: Any blank space on a professor's schedule functions like a powerful magnet to attract committee meetings, service obligations, and students who desperately need to meet (but then won't show up).
And as usual, just when we've reached the time in the semester when things ought to be quieting down, suddenly we suffer the Attack of the Grade-Grubbing Quibblers. They come armed with arguments based on what their friends, family members, and favorite online paper services say about their writing but rarely with the actual paper under discussion, much less the grading rubric or prompt.
It happens every semester so why should I be surprised? I am living proof of the truth of another Universal Rule of College Teaching: No matter how many times we see students screw up in the same old predictable ways, we always harbor some small hope that this time things will be different.
(Now how long do I have to wait before I give up on this guy?)