The Nerve *Edited*

Sometimes, though not terribly often, I’m stunned by the audacity of some of my students.  I see a real disconnect between their perception of their performance and the reality, and here’s yet another shining example (I only edited to change his name and any identifying references):

Hello Professor

I was just wondering if the grade posted on blackboard is the final grade? It says I received a D, however when I add up all the grades that I received, even putting in worst possible case for the letter grades posted ie. 80 for a b-.  Also, it says I received an ” – ” for my personal narrative, but I have the paper right in front of me and you gave me an A on it writing “Louis, This is a good paper. you do a nice job of the “before and after” and though there are a few places I’d encourage you to trim and tighten, those aren’t enough to detract from your message A”  I then added up all the grades that you posted and I got 960/1162 which is about an 83% then I added a 95 which is about an A for the personal narrative and It comes out to be 1053/1162 which is about an 91%.  I don’t understand why I have a D? the whole reason I took this class again was because I received a D or D+ freshmen year. Retaking this class and getting a B is, quite frankly, embarrassing.  I understand that the English department has a 3 absent rule.  And to get a D from a A- I would have to skip a total of 11 classes and I don’t believe I did.  On the chance that I am wrong, I was very sick for a lot of this semester for some reason and I’m not saying it’s right, but I have already taken this class.  I have gone through most of this material before and it isn’t like I skipped the home work.  Yes I truly am sorry that I handed home work in late, but due to the power outage it put me a week behind and with intro to chemical engineering I was backed up with a copious amount of work and stress.  I know I have to prioritize my work and not make reasons for why things happen and take responsibility for these mishaps, but there are reasons for everything and that’s why things happen.  I’m a Junior in college already working my butt off with everything, just wishing I worked harder my freshmen year so that my GPA didn’t prevent me from getting into [LU's school of business].  I need a 2.9 in the class and I was kicked out of business stats because one of my credits from [LU's satellite school] did not transfer as the pre req that I needed.  I had to take the pre req this sem and if I get a B+ in english and a B+ in econ and hopefully a C in intro to chem engineering I will still be short with a 2.89.  I’m very stressed about everything because I already know I’m going to graduate late unless I do a full semester during the summer and Jterms, which I can’t because I need to get internships in for money and work experience because getting a job in this economy is super super hard from what I have heard.

My Apologies,
Louis Chandler

P.S. I know this sounds kiss ass, but i really thought your english class was a lot more fun than mine freshmen year.  I had a three hour lecture once a week and it was just so dry.  Your class was much more entertaining and I got a lot more out of it than my freshmen english class. so thank you

I swear to God, you guys; I can’t make this shit up.

Edited to include:  Here’s my response to Louis:

Louis, you were correct in that I missed updating your personal narrative grade.  I did that, and the result was that your grade increased to a C-.  Given the number of classes you missed and the number of assignments you turned in late, that is an entirely appropriate grade.
-Mrs. Chili

To which he replied:

Fair enough, I’m guessing there’s nothing I can do to change my grade now.

And then followed up with THIS gem:

I’m also just was wondering from someone who is around colleges all their life. What’s the point of putting all this stress upon myself? Why do I go into debt just to be able to get a job to get myself out of it?

A Curious Student,

I’m not planning on responding to this last bit….

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Filed under dumbassery, failure, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., Local U., really?!, student chutzpah, That's your EXCUSE?!, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

8 responses to “The Nerve *Edited*

  1. And yet, that last comment is probably the single most insightful thing he wrote to you (and, thus, the thing that deserves a good response — if one is possible).

  2. Donna

    Mrs. Chili,
    I’m sure you’ve heard it all! You could write a book on amusing student feedback! My first thoughts were: a) At least Louis’ doing persuasive writing; b) He likes to talk to you; and c) You must be an excellent listener, or he wouldn’t even try. I would have added to your reply: “Louis, make a copy of your note, put it in a safe spot, and read it again in a year or two. That is why you are going to college.”

  3. Cal

    I’m really pretty amazed that you would give a D or even a C- to a kid who got As on his essays. Substituting your own personal morality for actual ability? The grade is a lie, a fraud, a punishment. That’s pretty awful.

  4. Withhold judgement, Cal; there are a lot more factors in the grades for this class than just the essays. Boyfriend missed a number of classes, and the department-wide policy is that the final letter grade is lowered for each absence over 3; I have no leeway in that policy. Add to that the fact that he either didn’t bother to turn in, or didn’t bother to do completely, a significant number of homework assignments, and one finds that the grade averages out to his C-.

    I resent the implications of your comment.

  5. Cal’s rush to moral judgment aside, I have to say that, based on all that I’ve learned in the last two years, his next-to-last statement is correct. Let me explain:

    If a grade is meant to communicate the best thing it’s designed for, it should communicate individual achievement. Individual achievement means what the student has demonstrated he knows and can do of what he’s been taught (that’s a woefully inadequate summation, but I’ve got supper to make in a bit so it’s all I’ve got time for). Grades that include as part of their equation things like attendance (which isn’t taught) or group work (which isn’t individual) or homework (which, very often, is not meant to be an assessment tool) are less than effective because the waters have been muddied.

    Boyfriend’s grade isn’t an accurate representation of what he knows and can do because he’s penalized for his attendance (I hear you that this isn’t your call individually) and because he’s further penalized that he didn’t turn in his homework. In addition, his grade is averaged, which as any of us who’ve taught class can say is an artificial construction designed to create a sense of objectivity when, in truth, grading is anything but that.

    How does one make a grade reflect accurately what a student knows and can do? There’s not a simple answer, but I’m a big fan of Ken O’Connor’s book “How to Grade for Learning” as a starting point for considering a different paradigm for what grades are and how to use them well. This book was a fundamental part of my pilot project two years ago (that led to a school-wide change in grading policy) and really opened my eyes to just how ineffective traditional grading is.

  6. In my case, Wayfarer, homework IS meant to be an assessment tool; I give homework assignments specifically tailored to the skills I teach in the classroom. That he didn’t do them gives me nothing upon which to base my assessment of those skills. Let’s also remember that he didn’t earn an A on every paper he did. Trust me when I tell you that the C- he earned is exactly in line with the skills and work ethic he demonstrated over the course of the semester. I take my work very, very seriously, and I don’t have a moment’s pause over the grade.

    I’ll have to take a look at the book you recommend. I, too, am often disenchanted with my grading options, and having another way to look at it would be helpful, I think.

    • My point is that the C- he earned doesn’t communicate anything well. Your understanding of what it says comes from a clear sense of all that goes into it. Nobody else looking at that grade has that same understanding (and since your grade is based on different understandings than anyone else’s grades, it’s impossible for anyone to glean anything of use from any of them because they’re not based on anything consistent). His disagreement with his grade is, I would wager, at least in part grounded in a mismatch of understandings.

      When I think about the number of times this has happened in my own practice, I lament that so much of my time was spent talking about grades, not content. What I want for my students is to focus on the things of value — and grades are certainly not highest on that list. I used to spend hours and hours over grading and talking to students about the work they owed (it was less often that I talked to them about work they actually did, even if it was of stellar quality). I talked to them about attendance (something I valued, but that ultimately didn’t have a damn thing to do with French or math) and I chided them about doing homework (not about the things the homework was designed to do in terms of learning). I didn’t realize just how much time I spent doing all that until I actually stopped. I’m teaching (and I think they’re learning) so much better as a result.

  7. Unreal.

    I received this gem.

    “Dear Pak Liam,

    I apologize to disturb your on the very first day off. I just want to have some clarification about my mid-semester grade, which I got a 6. As I am remember in Biology class there was only one exam, which I got full marks (7), while I only got a 6 for my mid-semester grade. I appreciate if you can explain why I got a 6 for my mid-sem grade.

    I just want to inform you that I really need to achieve high grades in this subject, the most than any other subjects for my university because I plan to take medical school. One of the reason why I send you this email is because I heard that one of my friend, which she initially got a 4 in her mid-sem grade, but because she told you that her latest test grade, which she got a 5 and you said that the mid-sem grade is based on that test so you eventually change her grade into 5. Therefore I appreciate if my grade could be 7, which is the same as my grade for the test.

    Thank you”

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