‘Twas the week before finals and all through the school
All the students were panicked and losing their cool.
The deadlines flew by because no one would heed
The dates in the syllabi no one would read.
The children were buried nose-deep in their studies
While visions of failure plagued them and their buddies.
But I with my grade book and papers and tests
Had just settled in to put grading to rest.
When out in the halls there arose such a clatter
I rose from my desk to see what was the matter.
Apparently someone who thought they were leaving
Had just failed their Math class, and now they were grieving.
Turning back to my office I started to think,
“It’s still really early, but I need a drink.”
When what in my over-filled inbox appeared,
But mountains of emails all smelling of fear.
With sobs and excuses my ears they anoint.
I knew in a moment they must want more points.
More rapid than eagles their stories they came,
But I’ve heard them before so they all sound the same:
“I can’t buy the textbook.” “I’m not feeling well.”
“If I fail this class now my Mom will raise Hell.”
“I didn’t think you really meant what you said.”
“If my coach finds out that I’m failing, I’m dead!”
So for hours I answer them all with one line:
“Why didn’t you do what I’d asked the first time?”
And now they want me to come up with a plan
To get them a good grade while holding their hand‽
And then as I sat there I heard by the floor
The sound of soft weeping just outside my door.
As I swung the door open I saw a limp pile
Of a student who smelled like he’d been there a while.
He was dressed all in sweats from his head to his socks,
This ensemble completed by smelly blue Crocs.
A folder and notebooks splayed out like some joke.
In his backpack his laptop was seeming to smoke.
His eyes—oh, how blood-shot. His skin—oh how sallow!
It seemed to me even his breathing was shallow.
His weak little mouth was drawn down in a frown.
He looked like an alley rat someone had drowned.
I could see there were Cheetos still stuck in his teeth.
A cap held his greasy mop safe underneath.
How long had he been there? How long had he waited?
My normal frustration was quickly abated.
I helped him up ‘til he leaned on my bookshelf,
And I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.
A wink of my eye and nod of my head
Soon gave him to know he had nothing to dread.
I told him, “Hey, look, not to sound like a jerk,
But you didn’t turn in nearly half your homework.
And I know that this doesn’t sound all that exciting,
But you have seven days to do 12 weeks of writing.”
He sprang to his feet, and he ran out the door
On his way to start typing a novel, I’m sure.
And I heard him exclaim as he slipped out of sight,
“I WILL FINISH IT ALL!...once I’ve beaten Fortnite.”
Jesse is a professor at Houston Baptist University. He also directs the school's theatre club, does handyman projects on the side, and produces features and short films. A Pastor's kid/missionary kid, his view of life is at the very least unique. And hopefully helpful.