Thursday, November 10, 2011

Transparency of Grading

Dear Freshman, please do not complain about your grade. I will name-drop the letter A in my email to your class. I will mention that at least half of the class received a grade of A for the semester. Even though you know that I am not like the other people who teach your other classes, and even though you might realize that I am an unreliable narrator, I hope that you do believe that I have -- that this class has -- more than a passing acquaintance with the letter A.

Dear Freshman, did I mention that we have extra credit? Did I mention it enough that it is due in nearly a month and you can redeem yourself up to one whole letter grade through extra credit? Do you feel that you have power over this part of your life, that you have control over your GPA, that you have a sense of agency in this situation. It is true. Please come talk to me about this extra credit, and I would be happy to change your arbitrary A- to an arbitrary A.

Dear Freshman, I think that you think that grades are very important. A lot of people around here think that grades are very important. Certainly the registrar's office thinks that grades are very important and spends a lot of time obsessing about them. As we are doing the course evaluations online next week, I will not ask you to think about how much you have actually learned this semester in your courses of various grading schemes. I will not ask you if you have undertaken academic actions so that you can learn something or that so you can earn a grade.

Dear Freshman, you may think that I'm crazy -- there is currently no ruling one way or the other on this score, so I am just as sane as the sanest of all of you -- but you need to know that there is a limit to the amount of crap that I will put up with. Maybe you don't realize that because you have taken your crap and turned it into a grade that you value. However, I realize that you have spent 12 weeks during a phase of your life in which your brain still has a great deal of plasticity and have spent this time chasing grades instead of understanding. I consider your A to be a consolation prize.