Nov 3, 2010

A, B, C.

I've just come out of the weirdest class ever - virtually got lynched by all my students about the grades they got for their mid-term assignments. For some bizarre reason, they all seem to think they deserve an A.

And they're all highly emotional about the fact that they didn't. 

I'm trying to figure it out in my brain. I'm not upset, but of course it's something that sits with me. There are a number of possibilities:

1. Students are used to getting As from other classes/teachers, because there has been massive grade inflation over the past 5 years. In other words, instead of the usual 15% or so of class getting an A, some 30-40% of people are getting A's ... even if they don't deserve it. This makes me want to strangle the other instructors who give these things away because they don't want to "argue" with students about why they don't deserve them.

2. This is generation Me: highly direct, high on self-esteem, high sense of entitlement, doesn't respond well to critique, "it's not my fault", and "why bother working hard" generation. Blame the Baby-Boomers, apparently, for these characteristics who raised these kids. This makes for a highly-emotion, very entitled debate in the classroom, let me tell you, when I give feedback on what was expected in the assignment (versus what they actually delivered). Clearly, they're not afraid to be direct and confront me, even coming out with bold statements such as "I want to negotiate my grade" ... as if this is something to be negotiated. Whatever happened to actually producing the work in order to "get the grade"?

3. I have a new grader. Someone who marks the papers. Perhaps he did a shitty job. The thing is, I actually read through about 25% of the work and agreed with his assessments, barring a few minor differences. In general, I tend to be tougher on the work than my graders are. But even my grader said: "Maybe my expectations are too high, but most of the work seems to be in the B or C grade range". That was before we added up all the points. People should feel lucky that they got an A at all.

All I can say is that the next week is going to be a busy one with lots of students visiting me in my office. To me, that's largely a huge waste of time. But I feel a twisted sense of responsibility towards the students in which I (a) don't crush their efforts entirely by at least giving them a platform to vent and (b) explain with painstaking evidence why their work is C work. 

What else can I do? (Ideas welcome ...)

I probably need about 2 hours to calm down after today's evening class before I can even think about sleeping. And I will try not to get personally emotional about stuff (I'm not Generation Me), about all the damned hard work I've been putting into the classes, the grading, the group projects, face-to-face meetings -- none of which seems to be appreciated. 

Well, apart from one student who came forward after class and said: "I'm glad that you don't just hand out A's to everyone. That makes me feel like I really deserved mine."

Dang, girl, do you think you could have said that aloud to the whole class? But I guess I can't ask a student to put themselves in the firing line on my behalf. Fair is fair: I am the one who handed out the grades.

(Update at 1.30am: the outcome of all of this, of course, is that I can't sleep. Even though I'm exhausted! Idiotic.)


  1. I have lots of ideas. Starting with - don't give any student more than 2 minutes conversation on their grade from now on. Prepare a sheet of what is expected for a grade, give them that, be straight with them, and then tell them straight. You don't have the time or energy.I also feel aggrieved when others are given too high a grade, where's my right to appeal on that? There isn't one, so why should there be a right to appeal on low grades. Make it clear they're not up to the job, and throw them out the room.

  2. Some of my favorite excuses from students when they come to me to complain about a faculty member and they grade they received:

    1. but I received straight A's in high school so something is obviously wrong with how this instructor is teaching the class (or could it be that you are indeed smart, but were never challenged in high school?)
    2. the instructor has no idea what they are talking about and they seem confused when I ask him/her questions (they are confused b/c they are marveling at the fact you could find your way to the classroom)
    3. i think it's ridiculous that the instructor won't give me extra credit assignments, so that I can improve my grade (seriously, did you just say that?)

    ...and my all time favorite: My Mom/Dad is a lawyer and I'm going to sue you and the instructor for ruining my GPA and my chances of transferring to a good school (honey, you did that all on your own....and you are at a good school....tell your mom/dad I'll see them in court).

    I agree 100% with you....Gen Y can be a bit self-indulged.