(This is Part Two of the nailbiter “Will Zax finish his German online class in time before graduation?” Click here for part one.)
It is now mid-April 2015. German 303 is nowhere near finished and it is about a month until graduation. The thing is, we’ve been told you can under no circumstances graduate and participate in the ceremony if you don’t have all your credits in place. German 303 is his one missing credit. The irony is that even High School German I, something he could have done in his sleep – learning to say “Guten Tag” and “Wo ist das Hofbräuhaus” most likely – would have technically fulfilled the requirement. But no, he is enrolled in the most demanding German class to be found this side of the Atlantic, or so it seems to me.
By now (and I have patiently outlined this in mathematical format once again) Zax needs to be at a pace of 2-3 exercises a day to stay on track. Painstakingly, answers about reflexive personal pronouns in the third person singular are scribbled and uploaded to BYU headquarters. This stuff is not only time-consuming, it is hard! I am German by birth, but I am beginning to agree with Mark Twain who famously said he’d rather decline two drinks than a German adjective. In the interest of getting this thing checked off my mental list, I’ve offered to help with corrections.
May rolls around. Zax is almost done, he says. “Take a look at the final exam,” I say, “just so you know how that works.”
How it works is that you can’t just take that online, as I naively expected. No sir, you have to have the paperwork sent to a proctor who is authorized to supervise exams for BYU. His high school counselor assures us she can be the proctor, having done it many times before. “Have them Fedex it to me,” she adds. “We don’t want to lose any more time!”
No kidding! But it also turns out the final exam can’t be requested until every module is finished and the oral exam has been taken. Zax goes online to request an oral exam date within the next three days while he finishes up the last exercises. The day before, the instructor reschedules. Another three days go by before Zax can take the oral exam. Another two days until it is graded, late on a Friday night. Too late to now request the written exam before the weekend.
At this point I try really really hard to bite my tongue so as not to say “I told you so, this is precisely why I advised for a three-week buffer, to allow for such contingencies.” I almost succeed.
Monday rolls around. 5 days until graduation. Are you getting sweaty palms just by proxy? We go online to request the final exam. Except it can’t be sent to the high school counselor because she’s not on the list of proctors. What? Why the hell do they have a faulty list? Several phone calls later the reason is found. “You’re taking a university level class,” Zax is told. “Your proctor needs to be a teacher at a university, not a high school.”
We look at the university list. There are five in the Nashville are. Zax, to his credit, does not hesitate. He picks up the phone (yeah, I know, this must have KILLED him, right?).
“Yes, hey… I was wondering, would you be able to proctor an exam for me?”
I’m sitting next to him on the sofa, listening in.
“Yes, sure,” says the lady on the other end. “Sometime this summer?”
“Uhm no,” says Zax, undeterred, “can you do it tomorrow?”
[Pause for five minutes of nonstop laughter.]
Then: “You are serious, aren’t you?”
Zax: “Uhm, yes, that would be great.”
“Okay, I’ll do it Wednesday. Come in at 8 am.”
I allow myself a minor victory dance. It seems like we are on track – barely. The exam is overnighted to Belmont University. We track it online and see that it gets there Tuesday at 9 am, as expected. Wednesday morning at 7 am, Zax is lacing his shoes to drive in for his exam. I go play tennis. I come back two hours later and he still sits on the staircase. I almost explode. “She called me and said she didn’t have the exam,” he informs me. “She told me to wait until she calls again.”
“So what, you’re just going to sit there?” I demand. Yes, it turns out, that is precisely what he’s going to do. He will not under any circumstance call her to hurry her along.
I call there anyway. I call the university’s mail room. They check their incoming mail. Oh yes, they have received the Fedex package, just forgotten to deliver it on campus. Whew! They carry it to the proctor lady’s office. I call that office. The lady is at lunch and cannot be reached. She finally does call back at 1 pm, exam in hand. Zax takes off. Big Breath. One step closer.
I manage to get the lady on the phone while Zax is sitting the exam. She doesn’t seem to be too serious about her proctoring duty as she isn’t even in the same room with him. But what she IS serious about is not letting him take the finished exam with him to deliver it back to Fedex. I beg and plead with her to not let it go back to that mail room to be sitting there another extra day that we don’t have. She agrees to let ME pick up the exam and take it to Fedex this evening. Not sure why she trusts me more than him. Can’t she see I’d commit murder at this point to get this to BYU? But anyway, another Big Breath.
The exam is long. It takes three hours. It is after 5 pm by the time we roll into Fedex, precious package in hand. We have until 8 pm for next day delivery, so no problem. I say a silent prayer to Fred Smith and his brilliant business plan.
The next day is Thursday. Two days until graduation. We begin calling BYU at 10 am when we see that the package has been delivered. We put in a rush request for grading. Zax hasn’t heard back from his instructor in a week, another cause or concern. His direct line seems to be disconnected. We call the 800 number again to complain. Oh no, that’s not who will grade your exam. That’s just a TA. Final exams are graded by the actual professor.
My heart plummets. A professor? Not just some graduate student who might have pity on a fellow student? The chances, after all this, seem slim.
Thursday ends, no grade.
Friday passes by, hour by painful hour. They hold a practice graduation at school. My son is given his seating assignment. The counselor must be sticking her neck out for him. I begin to hope again. But 28 phone calls later, we still have no news. The final exam entry is still staring at us from the website with a big glaring blank where the checkmark should be. It only counts for 10% of the grade, but it needs a passing grade of 60%. It feels like Zax’s whole future is riding on that one little checkmark.
We go out to dinner, my husband and I. Zax goes to a friend’s house. He is either unconcerned, or he is pretending to be unconcerned, because anything else would be a concession to my year-long nagging.
We come home from dinner. I check my emails one last time. Lo and behold, there is an email from BYU: The exam has been graded, just in the nick of time at 6:34 pm the night before graduation and just how Zax had predicted, and he has not only passed the class but has gotten an A- in it. The counselor cannot be reached at such a late hour.
We all file into the big auditorium (ironically, at Belmont University) Saturday morning, waiting with bated breath to first see if Zax marches in with his classmates, and then later if his name is called. While we stand there, I catch the counselor’s eye who is standing with the teachers cheering on her charges. I give her the thumbs up. She makes the sign of the cross. We both exhale one long breath.
It is over. He’s done it again. And has probably learned nothing from it. “I knew I’d finish it in time,” he will say for years to come. And he is not wrong.
On to the celebration!
But we have one entire year to do it in. Plenty of time to procrastinate…