Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Possibly Offensive Student Stereotypes by Grade

If I had to eliminate the variations and just pool all grades together, this is what I get:

My A grades: You are the students who do the assignment. You do it on time; you write a little bit more than the minimum page length. You come to all classes. You aren't brilliant, but you do all the work and you do it satisfactorily. Sometimes you make me think. Usually, you just stay out of my way. I don't have to write extensive corrections on your homework. You make my life slightly easier. And so I give you an A.

High Bs: You come to class most of the time. I have to try harder to get you to keep an eye on basic things, like grammar and content, but it isn't ridiculous. You write exactly 2 sentences more than the minimum page length just to cover yourself. You do the work, you send me the occasional whine, but we don't clash so I give you a high-ish B.

Low Bs: You are on the verge of not caring at all. Some of you really struggle with the reading because you come from a personal place where learning wasn't necessarily a priority. I totally get that you had kids, or your parents didn't read to you, or you spend a lot of your spare time working and dealing with real life. It makes my job harder, but you're getting by. So I give you a lower B.

Cs: You don't read the assignment. Some of you are smart and half-ass it because you can. Others are trying desperately to understand what instructions mean, to no avail. Your margins tend to be at 2 inches, or you add extra spaces between your paragraphs, or the font is at 13 pts. Attendance is not a priority. Some of you C students come to my office hours and try to convince me to give you 2 extra points here even though you are still 30 points away from an A. This very act underscores why you are earning a C: trying for a 1% extra credit grade does nothing compared to writing a full-length, course-material-focused paper in the first place, which would be worth so much more. You take up a ridiculous amount of my time and I probably spend twice as long grading your work than I do the B students. And so I give you a C.

Ds: Most of you sleep through the first half of the semester. You submit papers that are sort of on topic, but clearly not written in response to my actual question. An assignment on the beliefs of Christianity might be answered with a devout personal expression of your relationship to Jesus. Alternatively, you answer the question, but you never pass the halfway point in the required paper length. Late work is common. So is the end-of-term request to redo work, make up "lost" submissions, and perform extra credit or makeup exams. You are the students most likely to challenge my grade or ask for post-semester "help" as though that would change anything. I hate negotiating with you, but still I give you a D.

Fs: You either never show up or you plagiarize. You usually never contact me after I have failed you, because you did not speak to me prior to submitting carefully copied work and are too embarrassed for our first interaction to be lies about cheating. You require less work than my A students, but I get paid exactly the same. For that I rather like you. But still, I give you an F.

Note, if you will, that none of these students are "promising" or "rewarding" or "the lifeline for my teaching career. (#Katiefromkalamazoo) But hey: paycheck!


  1. I'm offended. You are not celebrating grade diversity.

  2. Nailed it.

    May I add a variant?

    High B: You sit in the front row. You raise your hand a lot but are often wrong. You send me incessant e-mails about the assignment, which you don't seem to quite grasp. You come to office hours with a draft you demand I read. You grub every little point you can from quizzes and exams. But still, your work is stilted, unimaginative, dull, and written at just barely college level. I am sorry. I truly am. I want to give you an A for trying so very hard. I know you probably come from a tough background or a not-so-good high school, and you're scrappier than some of my A students. But I have to give you a B+ on this paper, because I really do have some actual A work in the pile. I'll probably relent and give you an A- in the class, but I can't yield on the paper. It breaks my heart, but I also want you to see where the bar really is.

    (Or maybe Academic Monkey's A students are my B+ ones?)

  3. Love it! I also love that my ESL students get an A because they attend every freaking class, say nothing all year, can't write, but they do EVERYTHING on time and follow instructions to the p-q-r-s-T! And let's face it, anyone who can follow directions, even if all articles are missing, gets an A.

  4. Froad, you are so right. Maybe those are my High Bs and my description is the middling B student?

  5. Maybe I'm just a tough grader, but AM's A students would mostly get Bs from me. Her C and D students would all earn Ds, and the B students would straddle the B/C line.

    The Fs are about right, though. I have had some students fail due to not getting their work in.

  6. These are my students too, except that the majority are the Ds and Fs, with a liberal sprinkling of ESL students like The Contemplative Cynic's. Almost all of them chose Intro to Human Evolution (my Lucy Show post pulled me out of the Basketweaving closet) because they needed a life science to graduate and thought that anthropology sounded easier than biology. Almost none of them can read at a college level.

    And yet.

    I'd like to add:

    High A: You've been prepared and pleasantly interested all semester, sharing nods and smiles with me when I added puns and literary references to the lectures. Some of you have the enthusiasm and uncontainable curiosity of puppies; the rest of you are quietly amused by the shenanigans around you. All of you read the textbook for pleasure, apparently, given your questions about the minutiae. Your papers and exam essays went beyond mastery of the material to insight and/or style. You could be at Selective State U., but community college costs so much less. I'm sorry I didn't teach to your level. I hope you weren't bored as I kept selling evolution to your science-phobic classmates. Thank you for continuing to devote considerable time and energy to learning. You've earned an A+, but all I can give you is an A.

  7. What about the smart students who sat in the back of the room because they wanted space? At Northeastern Ghetto Tech I would sit in the back of the auditorium because they had tables and not those chickenshit folding "desk" theater chairs.


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