Saturday, May 5, 2007

If Only We Could Get the C+ Students So Involved

There is a special breed of student who irritates the hell out of me. They pop out immediately after grades are posted, trying to use their newfound powers of critical thinking against me.

I'm referring to the B+ student. There is always at least one student in my classes at the end of each semester who believes that I am in great error, and that he is, in fact, a superior writer, rather than the slightly above average thinker I've already judged him to be.

What seemed to be a reasonably responsive and participating student turns into a Machiavellian minor warlord, trying to out-maneuver me into admitting he really does have just those few extra points. The victory this student wants to declare is not over his grade alone, but over the entire teaching process--he clearly has more mastery of judging quality writing than I do. Getting a B+ is apparently like getting a backhand across the face.

I mean, obviously, that B+ can keep him from a number of important life goals, like love, peace and understanding. It's worth fighting over, dammit. Maybe I shouldn't be so harsh on him. After all, everything in his culture tells him that to be less than superior is to fail miserably. Most students either stare at me uncomprehendingly or slackjawed when I tell them that C = average, remember? It should be a compliment to be above average (B). It's tough to be superior. It ought to stand for something.

I ran his grade several times, making sure I wasn't screwing up; I actually expected him to get an A, and when he didn't, it surprised me. I listed out all the things that kept him from getting an A, because I knew he'd ask. I thought I was saving a step, and I probably was. I double checked his grade in spite of the fact that he wrote in several different assignments that he thought he was better than 101 and didn't see why he had to take it, and expected to breeze right through it. A B+ must be particularly deflating.

I expect this one has enough gumption to file for a grade review, where, I hope, he'll be taken to task. Grade reviews are successful only 3% of the time at my university, and they're usually accompanied by a self-esteem dashing list of all your faults as a writer that prevent you from getting whatever it was you asked for. I know most of the people that serve on the "blind" review. I've had my work judged by half of them. They take themselves very, very seriously. I can't wait.

I'll even make myself a drink and pull up my chair on the 50 yard line.