Every semester--just like passing my students through and on--come the emails, students asking for a better grade, a grade they did not earn but a grade they need. Yesterday was a parade of explanation, a train line of complaint, braggadocio, whine, and moan. Without a different grade, the consequences will be dire. Horrifying. Life on this planet will stop, the day will become as dark as sackcloth, heaven and earth will collide. Worse, Mom will be mad.
Back before email, I could almost escape the end of the semester. I would walk down and turn in my grades and run off of campus, jump in my car, and never come back until August or January. Maybe there would be a voice mail. Maybe a letter. But nothing like the litany of despair and ruin that I rain down on people every semester that comes back to me almost instantly. I press the button, the grades are in the system, the student can see them immediately, and the emails commence. I could do this from home, and then immediately go on vacation, but I'm as inured in the email life as any of them. Up pops the message on my blackberry. My heart pounds. Shit, another mess to figure out.
And the mess is this. Many of my students don't do the work as well as they might and they want an A. One student who wrote last night missed one big assignment(huge), and then whittled away at his other points by being late and incomplete with them. His final essay was a low B, another chunk of points gone. If he had done all that work, the big assignment wouldn't have meant much. He could have walked out of the class with a B.
But he ended up with a C. Two points from a D. I gave him a C (actually, I made a mistake and gave him an A, and if he sees that before I change it, man, will there be a ruckus). Anyway, he got the grade he earned.
The email, though, tells a tale of woe that ends up with him giving up his UCSD invitation, his mother's respect and regard, and his dream. He will be trucked home to his country, facing shame and embarrassment. This is all my fault because I do not care! He blames me for this mess. His life would be perfect without me. My imagination takes it further: he will live his life in utter depression, in a little room, where he will cogitate a plan to come back to the US and shoot me down. Really, I think these things. Since Virginia Tech, we have a "Safety" person on campus, a man we call when the chips, as they say, are down. Not that the man will be able to do much, I would imagine.
But really--do I care about this grade? Is any of this important? Does it matter in the long run what grade this student gets? Do I teach him something by giving him this grade, the one he earned? Do I make a point? Do I teach a lesson? Is it worth the grief, the blog, the emails, ad nauseum? This is one tiny point in a life that will likely be long and full. Is this the corner, the pinnacle, the stand, the mark, the place where it all shifts? This tiny grade in critical thinking? Should this be the spot where the student finally gets it?
Yes, my brain says.
No, my soul yes.
Yes, no. Yes, no. Yes, no.
So here it is, 5.30 am, and I'm starting off the last day of finals, knowing that I will have more emails, more complaints. No wonder I have certain colleagues who give everyone A's. I think they must sleep better.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org