Thursday, December 10, 2009

The worst goddamn students you have to deal with

No, not the drop-outs, the plagiarists, the ones who text during class, or the ones who throw their hands in the air like they just don't care because they don't: I'm talking about the high-rollers who are pretty good but maybe not quite as good as they think they are, and who impress upon you constantly their iron wills--they have a perfect GPA, they tell you, and they refuse to settle for anything less than an A. To be fair, I'm not sure they're even aware that they're engaged in a kind of bullying here, but the fact remains, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't: if you give them their precious A's, that they probably didn't quite earn, you feel like you're buckling under, but if you give them, say, the worst grade imaginable: An A...minus...MINUS!, you feel like you're being an incredibly petty bastard who just haaass the prove a point, no matter how insignificant it is. There's just no way to win.

I'd be willing to bet a substantial amount of money that this stratagem is at least part of the reason their GPAs are thusfar unblemished.


Blogger Kaitlyn pontificated to the effect that...

I've never and will never do that, but with some of the students - it's not them asking for the A, it's their parents breathing down their neck for 18+ years and holy hell, "I tried my best" isn't good enough.

Plus A minuses aren't cool. It's a technical A but you don't get A credit (I got over a 90, but I don't get the 4.0) for it. I hate the plus/minus system. And an A+? Worthless! Some people propose that an A- (an actual A) be 4.0, and As and A+s be higher, if they're going to stick with the stupid system.

But I'm a whiny "special snowflake" entitled student, so whatever, man.

And I'm extra whiny this year - missed 3 weeks of school for health reasons and needed accommodations! And my professors have been so nice!

Taking extra time to help me review (but then again he said office hours by appt only so...), offering to meet with me OUTSIDE when I said I couldn't handle the literal heat in the classroom - which extends to the exam, if I'm too hot I can take it in an empty room. Changing my final exam. Allowing me to take it *earlier* if I need to. Allowing me to make up things despite the fact that the syllabus says no. And dropping the final paper that haunted me all semester but not letting me slide - I still have 2 5 page papers to do. And extending my due dates to the final day of the semester.

And most of this has been without the help of disability services.

So you guys can be pretty cool.

But don't tell anyone I said that!

10:07 PM  
Blogger Unknown pontificated to the effect that...

Screw those kids. Proper grading isn't 'proving a point'. It's proper grading.

1:21 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

Kaitlyn: I don't see anything wrong with pluses and minuses--what I see something wrong with is a cultural ethos in which having the highest numbers is considered the most important thing. Would I relate this to our madly destructive capitalist system? I sure would!

Tavis: Sure, easy enough to say--but like so many things, it becomes much more difficult in practice, especially when you're an underpaid grad student who frankly has enough things to worry about without contending with passive-aggressive students breathing down your neck. If the grade is perfectly clearcut, your decision is obvious, but the thing is, it's often not a purely mechanical thing: say you have a student who's borderline between an A- and an A (as is known to happen), and it's more or less a judgment call on your part, based on intangible factors of various sorts. You could go either way, but whatever you choose, it's very difficult to avoid feeling like your decision was influenced by inappropriate factors.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

I was under the impression that there were gradations in the GPA equivalents of letter grades, so that an A- is a 3.6 (higher than a B but lower than an A). Also, in some schools, an A+ is actually a 4.3.

Fortunately, I think this issue doesn't come up as much in more "technical" subjects. In a math course, the students know exactly how well they did on specific problems, so they can't just demand to be upgraded from an A- to an A out of the blue. Which doesn't mean that they don't do it anyway, it just happens less often. But yeah, I can see how in liberal arts courses, it might be more problematic.


6:22 PM  

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