Thursday, November 21, 2013

THE Princess is Back. Dr. Amelia With an Update.

**Note: the scoring in my class is additive. You earn points all semester for various assignments, various points for various types of assignments. There are 1250 points total.


The time of reckoning drew near, and Dr. Amelia received a missive from THE Princess. "Amelia," the missive read, "I am expecting to earn an A in the hamster fur weaving class to which I have lent my royal presence. You are to send me an accounting of the royal progress at once."

Not being one to tick off the royalty, the dutiful Dr. Amelia dutifully copied the royal grades from the gradebook onto a piece of paper for THE Princess. These were the same royal grades that had been returned with the royal work all semester.

In the middle of the class, the tiny nose twitched. The hand went up. "Amelia," THE Princess began, apropos of nothing, "You must explain to me the royal grades at once."

Amelia began "Dear THE Princess," in fairness to the ladies and gentlemen of the court, "I beseech you to wait until the period of instruction has ended to hear my defense." The tiny nose sniffed. "Very well, but there SHALL be an accounting. For it is a sorry professor indeed who cannot explain her own grades."

Amelia, the untenured, continued the class. At the end, THE Princess approached. "You see, Amelia," she said, "I have calculated on the TI calculator, NO LESS THAN 2 TIMES, the percentage score for each assignment. And except for the trifles worth 200 points and 170 points on which I made the grade that is D, which, for all good rational persons is C+, I have made no less than 90 percent. And yet, unless I achieve more than 97 percent on the final, I will not get the A that I both expect and deserve. You will explain yourself."

Dr. Amelia, she of valiant heart and non-existent tenure, tried, in vain, to explain the intricacies of the weighted average. "NO!" exclaimed the princess. "I have CALCULATED it. And lo, I am extremely competent in maths. And two trifles should not mean that I need such an outrageous achievement in order for you to give me the A that I both expect and deserve. You are unfair. And all in the land shall know of your duplicity and guile."

Dr. Amelia, knowing the side on which her bread is buttered, meekly offered to take THE Princess's calculations so as to better explain her duplicity and guile in writing.

Moral: Sometimes, these conversations are hopeless. And Dr. Amelia is looking into a career in dental hygiene, which would surely pay better.


  1. I can see this little manipulator in my mind's eye, and she makes me want to cry.

    1. I see her in a work team from a labor camp, cutting down birch trees with an axe, man behind her with a Mauser Bolo aimed at her pretty head urging her on.

  2. Something my professors used to do back at Dirt Farm University when I was a wee lad: they simply had 100 points in the class. And then added them up at the end. I was always quite impressed with simplicity of the grading scheme - it was transparent and obvious.

    I am completely incapable of doing it myself - I have byzantine sub-clauses in my excel sheets.

    1. I have done 100 point classes several times and the students hated them - they wanted more points. So, I said, if I made the assignments worth 1000 points, you would be happy? Yes, they said. Um....

      So, I've done it. They are happy and I've changed nothing except one order of magnitude on all papers. I don;t know whether to laugh or drink.

  3. I've had students try to pull that shit with me before. I'm not tenured (and as a lecturer, I have no hope of ever being tenured), but I'm lucky that I have a department chair and a dean who will back me up on these things.

    But just in case, *everything* is in my syllabus, including an attachment at the end of the syllabus detailing exactly how to calculate grades, with an example. And I make everyone sign a statement saying that they have read the syllabus and agree to comply with all class policies, including the grading scheme. That is handed back to me by the end of the first week and counts as 2% of their course grade (also in the syllabus). It makes covering my ass just a tiny bit easier (and has saved it a couple of times), because I'm stubborn and likely to double down if a student pisses me off enough.

    Good luck with your precious royalty. She sounds like a real gem.

    1. I've seen courses in the LON-CAPA online homework system where the first assignment is "Calculate what your final grade would be if these were your scores." It's a pretty good exercise: get the students used to the homework system and their calculators. And they can't ever complain again that they can't understand it.

    2. Another triumph for the Self-Esteem Method of Educating Nitwits (SEMEN).

      Thank you, parents, for teaching your spawn that everything in life is negotiable. In my varied educational experiences, when I received a grade that was it. If I dared whine the response was, "Don't like the grade? You should have studied harder."

      Tenured or not, lines should be drawn and not crossed. I know that THE Princess would never lower herself to do something so icky as dental hygiene, and for that I am thankful. Unfortunately, she'll probably marry and raise another (or a brood) just like her.

  4. I have 160 points in the semester, and 10 of those points is a quiz on the grading and syllabus. Nothing counts except the weekly quizzes and the final. The rare positive comments on my evaluations are about my point-is-a-point system.

  5. I have this kind of email sitting in my in-box. It ends with "I hope WE can come to a solution to this problem."

    I feel like responding with, "WE didn't submit shit work several days late."

    But I won't. That is, I of the non-existent tenure can't.

  6. Sorry guys. I think my computer had a brain fart and kept posting the same comment.

  7. Our LMS lets students know their grade all along. It doesn't mean they try to pull rank in this way when it becomes "clear" that they won't be getting the A they believe is their right.

    May your head stay attached to your neck when the edict of "off with your head" gets passed down.

  8. I, too, do a weighted average (not the point system that our LMS assumes; I'm sure I'm missing something, but the idea of knowing exactly how many points there will be for even the smallest assignments at the beginning of the semester, and needing to make it all add up to something semi-logical, makes my head spin). Like several others above, I have an ever-growing section of warnings, examples, etc. on the syllabus, but I still get questions/complaints. I also try to explain to students used to starting with 100 points and losing credit for mistakes that I grade work on a scale, with B (85) being fully satisfactory, and anything above that being "distinctly above average." This is, of course, horribly frustrating to students who think I should be able to point out exactly what they didn't do in order to justify my giving them anything but an A.

    I also have an important preparatory assignment which, if completed satisfactorily and on time, earns them an automatic, easy A worth 10% of the final grade. Sounds great, right? Except that that A=94.5, not 100. Every semester, despite my best efforts to clarify this on the syllabus, the assignment, and the label that goes with the grade book column, I have to explain to some student that 94.5/94.5 =/= an 100 averaged into their final grade; it equals a 94.5.

    tl;dr: I feel your pain (and I really hate working with an LMS that has built-in assumptions that I can't override or completely hide).