Something I wrote in June of 2012.
Just some thoughts:
It was my junior year in college. Since social studies was my minor, I had Dr. Kahn for several classes. A few days previous we had a test in Dr. Kahn’s history class. Generally the tests consisted of essay-type questions and students’ answers were written in what were called Blue Books that they brought to class. The essay questions were not always the easiest in the world. Often he would write a selection of maybe eight or nine questions on the board and students’ could pick six questions to write about.
The day following our essay test he handed our Blue Books back with our grades. He had written four words on mine, four dreaded words: “See me after class.” Those are words that can strike fear in the heart of a student. Following class I went to his desk and said, “You asked to see me?” “Yes, follow me to my office,” were his return words. Oh, oh…now what?
We reached his office, and he motioned for me to sit down and closed the door. “Mr. Adamson, I was surprised by your poor showing on this test.” He was not condescending or rude when he spoke to me. “True you are not the strongest student I have in this class, but I have always found you to be prepared when coming to class. You never cut class and you always appear to have the read the material. I was taken back a bit by your results.” Rather than continuing talking, he asked me a question. “Is there any reason for you not doing as well on this particular test as you normally do? Anything happen that might have affected your preparation for this test?”
I was hesitant to answer, but he did ask, and he seemed sincere in asking and had showed fairness to me in the past. A few days prior to the test, my mother had serious surgery. I lived at home during my college years, and my dad and I took turns staying with her at the hospital during her five or six days of recovery after surgery. Generally I was the one to stay during those nights with her. I also worked 40 hours a week while carrying a load of 15 college hours. As I said, I was hesitant to tell him of my mother’s surgery, but after I related this information to him, what he said next took me by surprise. “Well that possibly explains some of the cause for your grade.”
He then asked how my mother was doing and said, “In light of what you have told me and based upon your past work in my classes, why don’t we throw this test grade out?” What? Had I heard correctly? He told me that in the next couple days he would have some work for me to do that would be in place of that test. He said we would make up the results of this showing in that manner. I was surprised by his generosity, even shocked. He had asked; he had listened, and he had believed what I told him. College professors listening to a student had not been my experience, as most professors I knew didn’t take the time to know you or ask questions, and some showed they could cared very little.
What impressed me was that he was a person in authority, a person in charge who took the time to ask some questions and was not indifferent to a lowly “college kid.” He did not use his position of authority to come down on another. On that day I appeared before a “reasonable and fair” judge.
I hope two things for you and me in our life time. One, our actions have been and will always be before a reasonable judge. Two, in turn you and I will try to always be reasonable in our judgment of others.
June 14, 2012