I just finished my grading for the quarter, and as is typical I ended up failing several students.  Every quarter I try to avoid this situation.  I give them clear and frequent feedback, including a midterm course grade.  But inevitably I have a student who stays until the end of the quarter and who simply hasn’t mastered enough material to pass.  Regardless of the circumstances, it makes me unhappy.  Yes, there are the students who just don’t put in the effort, not doing homework for example, and it’s easier to feel like the outcome is the right one in those cases.  But it’s common in my classes that there is at least one student who genuinely tried to learn the material, showing up to class consistently and completing all the assignments.  Failing those students is much harder, possibly because it feels like a failure on my part.  A student who wants to learn and yet hasn’t for whatever reason feels wrong to me.  I certainly know I wouldn’t be doing them any favors by letting them move on, but it still feels like a missed opportunity to me.

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