This is kind of a long story. Bear with me.

I have a particular student in one of my classes; we’ll call him Dave. I had this student before – in my public speaking class last term – and found him to be… how shall I put this?… challenging. His demeanor is that of someone who couldn’t care less about the classes; to him, they are pointless hoops to be jumped through because someone, who obviously doesn’t know any better, says he has to. Dave is studying to be a chef; what possible good could English classes be to him?

Dave’s behavior in my classes has made him one of my least favorite students. His writing journal was filled with inappropriate entries about pornography and drug use. He doesn’t turn in homework. He ambles in whenever he feels like it, more often than not refuses to participate in in-class assignments, and spends a good portion of the class chatting and laughing and making a general disruption of himself with some of my other (not so favorite) students in the back of the room. It got to the point last term where I actually implemented a seating chart to separate him from his buddy in the back (who, in some sort of cosmic challenge, ended up in my class this term, too, which has made for ALL kinds of fun on Monday mornings).

Now, remember at the beginning of the term when I complained that only one of my students did the very first homework assignments I gave? Do you also remember the discussion I had with my boss about how to deal with that issue? As I promised, I gave an extra credit assignment at the mid-term, and Dave did it. Dave not only did the assignment, but did it well and on time and, consequently, earned full credit – the removal of four zeroes from his average.

Apparently, this was not enough for him.

I received this email from Dave the other day (please note that I have not altered the email in any way – this is cut and pasted from the original):

hey i was looking at the progress report you gave me and the extra credit i got the followinbg week back from you and i noticed that my grade did not rise at all in the class after factoring out the four zerros, I then calculated my grade and you have it marked down as me having a 67.3 on the report and a 67.3 after the extra credit. So i did the math myself and it should be a 69.26 before the extra credit and i cant have done the math wrong since the numbers are so close together. I just wanted to bring this to your attention so that we can see what is going on and resolve the situation.

I replied with a comment about how all my grading math is done by the program I use, then sent him a file copy of his grade from that same program. This file included all of his grades, including the four zeroes I removed from the average AND all the zeroes for the homework assignment he didn’t do.

This was in my inbox when I got home this afternoon:

but the figures you told me were the same and i put alot of time and effort into it and got less thana apoint added to my grade, i figured it would raise it more than that or i wouldnt have tried so hard, also how was my paper a 45? the facts are all factual and documented and the content is excelent, i feel i met more than adequatly met the requirements of the assignment and i feel my grade was no way near where it should be i should have at least passed the assignment, students that had a bullieted 1 1/2 page assignment got higher grades than i did and that is not right for the amount of effort that was put into it

I’ve responded (with carbon copies to my boss, another English professor and Dave’s culinary department head; I feel an undeniable urge to cover my ass) with this:


I understand your concern for your grade, but I have to reiterate that I DID delete the four zeroes from your average, as I promised I would. The impact that deleting those zeroes had on your grade is a function of the math and is beyond my influence.

As far as your research paper is concerned, I am willing to have another teacher read and assess it. I infer from your e-mail that you feel I graded your paper unfairly; would having a disinterested third person determine a grade be agreeable to you? If so, please bring your paper (along with the rubric I used to grade it) to Mrs. Mooney at the front desk of the main campus building. E-mail me after you’ve delivered the paper; I will pick it up and have a colleague read and grade it and, if I feel it’s warranted, will adjust your grade.

This student is certainly presenting a learning opportunity for me. He’s not failing the class; at the moment, he’s got a 68 average. There’s no possible way I will grade him much higher than that; the work he has done (when he’s done it) has not deserved anything above a D. I will re-grade his research paper if my colleague thinks I graded too harshly, but I can’t see how that is going to matter all that much to his overall average (his was the Megadeth paper, by the way), especially considering he chose not to do the in-class assignment on Monday.

I’m not sure that I can convince Dave that his grade has nothing whatsoever to do with my personal feelings about him, and I’m hoping that having as many witnesses to our exchanges as possible (and having another professor confirm my grade, which I’m almost certain she will) will keep this entire exchange from getting ugly.

Wish me luck. I’ll keep you posted.



Filed under General Griping, Teaching

9 responses to “Seriously

  1. D. E. Fisher

    Beautiful, I love these stories. It got my blood pressure up just reading about it since I’ve had so many of these poorly written and even more poorly justified complaints, usually from the worst students.

  2. bamanurse

    Whoa. That’s a tough situation.

    I’m sure it will all work out for you.

  3. claudia

    I’d be inclined to grade his letters of complaint. I’d note all grammatical, capitalization, sentence structure and punctuation corrections on it. I’d then return this to him with the observation that this justifies the grade that he has been given. This was his way of showing that he could perform the work, was it not? But that’s just me!

  4. Yup. Couldn’t PAY me enough to be a teacher…and frankly, they don’t pay YOU enough!

  5. Jane

    “the facts are all factual” – I love this and can’t wait to use it in a brief.

  6. I swear to all of you that I’m not making ANY of this shit up, either….

  7. I once had a student who said that I “had something against her.” She made a C+ in my course and wanted a B. Trotted to the head of the dept and insisted that I intentionally took 1 extra point off of her final so she would have a 79.0 average instead of an 80.0 This girl was a senior in CS and couldn’t do enough basic math to figure out that 1 point on an exam does not equal 1 point in your average.

    I’m new here – love your stories.

  8. Welcome, Saintseester! I love my readers, and new ones make me happy!

    Just to update you all on this little situation; I’ve not heard a peep from our boy Dave. My suspicion is that I called his bluff; he wanted me to cave to his (oh so eloquent) argument without calling anyone else in on the party. I’m pretty sure he’s smart enough to know that his “excelent” and “factual” research paper would probably get a LOWER grade from another teacher, and he’s not willing to risk that.

    What I didn’t point out to him when he complained about how little the extra credit changed his grade was that, while I was taking four zeroes off his average, he was adding two ON by not doing his homework. I’m a drooling moron when it comes to math, but even *I* can figure out the effects of that!

  9. Pingback: I've HAD It... « A Teacher’s Education

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