professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Conflate, Inflate

As the semester winds down, many of my colleagues have been conducting grading marathons. After almost 25 years teaching at the university, I do not have to endure those last day marathons. My final projects and assignments were due at the end of November giving me ample time to read the final reflections and blog posting and record my final grades online. But whether we are doing grading marathons or celebrating grades filed, we still share one thing in common: students who did not receive the grade they expected contact us.

Some use the puzzled approach: "but I only missed an A by one point. Why can you not raise the grade?" I now deal with this approach at the beginning of the semester in one of the screencasts that review my syllabus (we are an online program). I show them the scale for an A and point out that there are 40 points between an A and a B. If they miss an A by one point, I tell them, they have actually missed it by 41 points. This seems to have finally ended the "just one point" approach.

Others use the feel-sorry-for-me approach: "I won't get my financial aid next semester." Or, "but I had some bad things happen this semester." I must admit that I am fairly deaf when it comes to last minute excuses. I am especially alarmed that I should raise a grade so they can get financial aid. As for the bad stuff that happens, I am always open to working with students if they let me know what is going on before the end of the semester. Every semester there is a student who needs an extension. I am happy to gray it for the extenuating circumstances. But at the end of the semester, this approach seems more excuse than rationale.

And then there is the final plea: "but this will ruin my 4.0 average." Honestly? How did you bring a 4.0 to this course and then fail to either meet deadlines, fail to do assignments, fail to follow directions? Your past GPA is not reflective of what you did for my course (see excuses above). I am not an easy A (ask my former students who will tell you how hard they worked for their grades in my class), but I do set out hoping all students will EARN that coveted A.

Because bottom line is that grades are not given, they are EARNED. There have been times I wish there were a grade above A (we do not use + or - grades). There are students each and every semester who go beyond the requirements of the course, of the assignments. They produce exquisite products; they read even more than the assigned books; they share interesting links and items with me. Strangely enough, these are often the same students who write me an email at the end of the semester thanking me for the course. They are students who stay in touch with me via social media. They are the students who achieve much in their careers, too.

I need to say that most students who come through my classes are energetic, dependable, bright, and hard-working folks. Because these are graduate courses, I know the students have full-time jobs in schools. Many have family demands as well. They juggle much to come back for a graduate degree. They have the best interest of kids in what they do now and what they will do in the future. To all students who are spending their winter break preparing for the next semester of courses, I wish you rainy weather to facilitate your reading. I look forward to meeting you online next year.
Tags: grades, grading
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