Friday, May 15, 2015

Dear Students: They're called "final grades," not "opening bids."


I posted final grades at 2pm.

Within minutes my inbox was brimming with pleas from prodigal students, some of whom had attendance records so irregular that I had to double check to make sure they were actually students of mine.

Some of the afternoon's highlights:
"Dear Professor Bow,
I just received my final grade ...and I was just wondering if there is any way possible that I could try to bring up my grade to pass the class." 
SURE WHY NOT I'D LOVE TO SPEND MY UNPAID SUMMER DEVOTING MORE TIME TO YOUR GRADE THAN YOU DID THE ENTIRE SEMESTER AND THEN FIELDING GRIEVANCES FROM ALL OF THE OTHER STUDENTS WHO MANAGED TO TURN IN THEIR WORK ON TIME
 "Normally I would graciously accept my grade with the understanding that I did not put in as much effort as others, yet had I known that the written assignments would have been counted as part of my grade, then perhaps my approach to your course would have been different."
How rash of me to assume that students would know that they were supposed to complete the writing assignments, when the only hints provided were that these assignments were 1) discussed at length and in detail in class, and 2) posted on the course website with 3) points and a grading rubric attached to them. Also the class is designated "writing intensive."
"I was wondering if there was a time tomorrow I could schedule a meeting to come in and speak with you. I am graduating and the failing grade that you gave me [earned by not turning in most of the assignments] is unacceptable as it will not allow me to graduate."
Employers: YOU'RE WELCOME.
"Aloha Professor Bow,
I am graduating this semester and I noticed that the grade you have just put up for me
[note: not the grade I earned; the grade you put up for me] is really close to a C.  Is there anything that I can do to bump it up at this point?" 
SURE WHY NOT I'D LOVE TO SPEND MY UNPAID SUMMER...oh heck, this should just be my summer autoresponder email.

7 comments:

  1. I very rarely get these kinds of emails. It almost certainly means that I'm being too generous, but I know that my grade distributions are pretty much in line with local norms, or maybe a bit tighter. So I don't know. Large white male privilege, I guess.

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    1. I turned in one set of grades last night, and am pretty shocked that I haven't yet received a complaint.

      That might have something to do with the fact that I sent an email saying that I'd answer questions only after grades for other classes are in, and I've slept a bit (which will be tomorrow), and reminding them that final grades are final, but I doubt it, since this class has shown little indication of paying attention to any of my prior emails. I suspect that I was, in fact, too generous, but it was an experimental class, and they put up with some refining of assignments, etc. as we went along (while creating far more confusion and chaos than such minor changes really justified, but what can one expect from a gen ed class?).

      So it goes. I learned a few things in the process, and I'm pretty sure most of them did, too, so, overly-generous grades notwithstanding, I'm calling it a success.

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  2. Investing in time-machine futures, if such things existed, would be a really good move at this time of year.

    Barring that, auto-responders (and chairs, deans, etc. who will actually back up their faculty) are the best chance at retaining any hair that has not already been pulled out in the last weeks of the semester.

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  3. I guess I'm fortunate that rarely do I receive grade complaints. If I do, I first justify their grade, providing a breakdown of assignments and individual grades. If they still have a problem with their grade, I invite them to file a formal complaint and inform them of the process. Usually they huff and growl and tell me it's not worth it. Which means, of course, that they realize if they file a complaint it won't hold water. Once you establish yourself as someone who doesn't adjust grades, word gets around and they pretty much leave you alone.

    What is annoying are the A- grubbers who want a detailed explanation of why they got an A-. Mind you, I provide feedback on every project and hold regular office hours, so they have every opportunity to be informed.

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  4. I get complaints every semester - usually the graduating slackers who picked a rigorous course of mine as an elective. You'd think that word would get around, but I always get at least 1 beggar every semester. I am fair in my policies, and you get what you earned.

    I am also fortunate (well, at least in this matter) that my institution really has no grade appeal policy with any teeth. There can be complaints, but I have the final say in a grade - not the dean, the President, or the student's mother who "is going to want to talk with you about that grade you gave me."

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