Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It's beggin' time

It's that most joyous time of year - the semester is over, the grades are turned in, and I can finally sleep in and read. However, there's one thing that always happens right about now which puts a damper on my fun: students fill my inbox with requests that I change their grades.

In general, I don't mind these requests. Students have a right to scrutinize their grades, and my grading policies should be open, fair, and defensible to the students. Thus, if a student asks, "Why didn't I get a C?" I have a duty to explain to them exactly why I assigned the grade I did. I've even had students uncover mistakes in the grading (e.g., mis-entered scores), and whenever that occurs I apologize profusely, and promptly fill out a grade change form.

That said, some students take this much farther than they should. They'll e-mail me or stop by my office and beg me to change their grade. This usually comes complete with some story about why they couldn't do X or Y during the semester, and that if they just got Z amount of points, they could have Z' grade, which they need so desperately to get into Z'' school. However, they typically have no specific questions or grading issues on which to base their pleas, and thus I can't do anything for them.

Today I got an e-mail from one of the latter group. I'd already offered this student the opportunity to go over their final exam and check the grading, but they replied with the following (some details altered to maintain privacy):
"But the only reason I missed lecture that day was because I was very sick, and couldn't get out of bed."
I give extra credit points for perfect attendance, and this student had not gotten those points due to an absence; this reply was their attempt to try to get those extra credit points. However, just a few days earlier the same student had sent me the following explanation for why they had been absent that day:
"I missed that one day of lecture because I had to take my brother to the airport, and there was no other way he could get to the airport."
Mmhmm. Yeah.

The most hilarious thing? The earlier explanation was contained, as a quoted reply, in the very same e-mail as the most recent one.

Amazingly, all the requests I've ever gotten have been for grade increases; not a single student has e-mailed me saying they deserve a lower grade. I'm still waiting for the following e-mail from a student:
"Mr. Radagast: I know you gave me a B, but I'm really not sure I did B-caliber work. I mean, I messed up so many of the homework problems, and then I really flubbed the final exam, so I'm just not sure I deserve the B. Can we go over my tests to make sure you didn't miss anything?"

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