Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Conan the Grammarian's Merciful Professor.

So I wrote some things for College Misery's pleasure back in '13.  To give a brief recap (since most people I see are new faces), I am a student in college at a middling business school.  This is my story about Professor Merciful from my last Spring Semester.

I was taking the requisite Hamster Finance course for my Hamster Resource Management degree last Spring.  It was Honors level (ooooo shiny).  Huge mistake.  Levels I should have considered instead:

"Not Good At Finance"
"Shit For Brains When it Comes to Finance"

I simply did not, and do not, have a head for Finance.  I joke with my friends that I became an HRM major because I was not smart enough for Finance and not dumb enough for Marketing.  But my Professor was amazing.  Had I had even an average professor, I wouldn't have grasped a single concept in the class.  But this man, despite coming into academia from the professional realm, was a genius as a teacher.  He had a way of making even the most abstract, math-intensive concepts of Finance make sense to me.

When I got home and opened my textbook, that was an entirely different matter.  In class discussions, I held my own because my professor was so amazing that, like some sort of mythical totem, when he was around I understood Finance.  In fact, conceptually, I really got the material.

I expressed my concern that I was not doing well in the course very early to him.  It was the look on his face that shook me.  First was a look of sadness, then a look of disbelief.

"You understand the material!" He said, "More than most students!  I explain it and you get it right away!"

I pointed to my lackluster performance on the last quiz and told him that I was getting a tutor.  He offered to pay for their services (at which I was taken aback) and I assured him that it was a family friend helping me for no charge.

The tutor helped.  I went from getting C's and B's to getting A's and B's on everything that I took home (projects and homework).  My performance on quizzes improved, but I still did very poorly on tests.  My professor, every time I came to him, would grill me on the concepts that the test tested me on and I could explain the concepts.  He would hand the test back, shrug, and say "You know the material."

The time came for the final exam.  I studied thirty two hours for it over the course of six days, corresponding with my Professor throughout to pepper him with questions on the material.  I went through the material with a comb.  And I still did not feel confident with my performance.  I somberly handed the test back to him and half-jokingly said "See you next Fall."

I checked my email the next day and saw an email from him.  It had two attachments and was entitled "For Your Information".  No email body.  The first attachment was a scan of our university's grading policy:

"Grading is left up to individual Professors.  Ultimately, Professors will be held to the grading guide that they lay out in their syllabus." This part was highlighted.

The other attachment was the last page of his syllabus with this highlighted:

"Grades received in this class are a guide that are meant to reflect knowledge of material, which is the ultimate goal of this class.  The final grade is at the discretion of the professor, but will not be lower than the average from assignments, tests, and quizzes."

Hand written on the scanned copy of the syllabus were the words "YOU KNOW THE MATERIAL!"

He gave me an A.  And given the hours and hours that I poured into learning the subject, I didn't even feel guilty.


  1. Fuckin' A.
    You know the material.
    Now get Walter to take you on a victory spin in his Trans Am.

    1. If you're not into the Trans Am thing, then at least binge a few episodes of Grey's Anatomy. You've earned it.

    2. I've been watching this show on Netflix called "Black Mirror". It's basically Twilight Zone, but modern, with British accents, and no lesson to be learned at the end.

      Whereas Twilight Zone always went something like "Crazy shit. Everything is terrible. Horrifying conclusions. AND NOW WE KNOW NOT TO DO X EVER AGAIN!" Black Mirror is more like:

      Crazy shit.
      More crazy shit.
      Everything gets worse.
      Horrifying ending.
      Well, there you go! Have fun with that, do what you will.

  2. I'm really happy that you used the original graphic from my first post here.

  3. Nice to see you back, Conan, and congratulations on the A. It sounds like you did, indeed, earn it.

    It also sounds like your professor knows how to craft individual policies to align in useful ways with institutional policies. Given your planned field, that's a skill worth emulating. A policy that allows both firmness and appropriate flexibility is a beautiful thing.

    1. Indeed. It's for this reason that he was acting Dean for two years, I assume. And thank you for the welcome back! Good to be back!

  4. Sorry, man. I don't see the misery in this.

    Congrats anyway!

    The Gog

    1. Trust me. It was super miserable up until the end.

    2. Fair enough! Enjoy Les Miz.

      The Gog

  5. Welcome back Conan! I'm looking forward to reading more from you.


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