One thing I find difficult as a teacher is explaining to students that even though they might have legitimate reasons for missing class at times, they are still responsible for finishing the work, and that missing class almost always affects their grade negatively. This is not because I take off points for absences, but because by missing they lose out on stuff they just can't get from merely reading the textbook or borrowing their friends' notes.
Yet, year after year, I have students come see me who have missed a substantial amount of class because of a health issue, or because of family problems, who believe they should be given the grade they "would" have earned if they had not had the problems.
Leave aside for the moment that I have no way of predicting what they "would" have earned if they hadn't had personal issues. They always know, and it's often at least a letter grade above what I think likely. When students do have legitimate reasons for missing, I allow them to make up assignments, but I cannot go back and insert all the information in their brain that they would have gotten if they had been in class.
A student came in recently who had missed a lot of class because of family issues. She'd made a "C" on test 1, but because of all the missed classes she got an "F" on test 2. I worked out what she needed to get on test 3, the final, to get a "C" for the class. Her first question was, "What about a 'B'?" A "B" was statistically impossible. She then asked me, "What if I make like a 95 on the final exam?"
I told her that I'd be happy if she did so but that it still wouldn't get her to a "B." I could see she was hoping I'd tell her that I'd curve her grade to a "B" if she made an "A" on the final, but that's not the way it works. There is a certain amount of information a student masters in a class to earn an "A." There are other amounts for "B" and "C" and lower. Even if she mastered the last section at the "A" level, she would not have mastered the earlier material at that level.
She was nearly in tears when she left, and I felt badly for her. I know she has been through a lot this semester, but I can't morally sign off on work as having been completed at a certain level when it has not. And I don't know how to explain this to students.
I've tried telling them that we are not judged in the world on what we do 'one' time. Most people can get up for one test, one game, maybe even one story. Instead, we are judged on what we do across a semester, across undergraduate or graduate school, across a season, and across a career. We don't have to be great every time, but we need to be consistently good if we are going to get consistently good results.
Most of the students I talk to about this seem to think I'm just being mean. I don't feel very good about that myself.