(Happy 2013, my fantastic blog audience! I am back and can’t wait to interact with all of you! As students return to school, some are rebounding from grade goals that weren’t quite met. I struggled with my return topic because this post–“You Failed Your Class… Now What?” –from 2011 on the old Blogger site had over 2,000 hits in a two week period. I worry about so many students concerned about failing grades. I promise to cover that topic further in many upcoming posts. Let’s start on the opposite side, which can be frustrating in a different way: When you are thisclose to getting a 4.0, but you don’t. What then? Once again, I have to believe that some of these ideas relate to employee evaluations when you receive “meets expectations,” rather than “exceeds.” Let’s jump in…).
“Don’t whine at me when you get an ‘A’!”
This was a bold statement on my public speaking prof’s syllabus back in the 90s.
At the time, I had no freaking idea what she was talking about. What moron student would complain about an ‘A’?
Fast-forward after my unexpected six year hiatus from college. Returned paper in hand, this moron student moaned about an ‘A’ to one of my grad school professors.
I got a 92; one of my colleagues… a 95. I marched right up to my prof after class and inquired why: “She had more red pen comments than I did, yet my grade was ‘worse’.” I received my answer, but my grade stood.
(Don’t worry, I’ve been repaid for this behavior time and time and time and time again, thank you very much. And, yes, that prof and I remained on excellent terms after I graduated from my program).
As much as I wanted to start this post from the student perspective, I empathize with the ache of the A-.
Ironically enough, I’m now on the inflicting end of this madness. I know good and well many reasons why students fall into the range of 90s-100. If you have found yourself on the wrong side of the A-tracks like I did, as many students do, and you are pissed off about it, then let’s inform you hopefully to the other side:
-Realize that some profs simply don’t give A+’s (or make it nearly impossible to get them).
Yup, it sucks. Hopefully these profs’ high standards are meant to make you absolutely stellar and impeccable at whatever you are studying (although most students just think they are a/an insert-whatever-here). So you know what? Be stellar and impeccable! Go see the prof and say, “I know students have to work extremely hard to get an ‘A’ in your class. I’m up for the challenge. I am ready for everything it takes.” If you genuinely produce the highest caliber work, your prof can’t deny you what may be his/her first A+ since the original 90210 aired (or Dallas?).
-Beware of missing a lot of little points.
Some students who just missed a 4.0 in my course received strong grades on major work, but lost points on silly things like skipping tiny assignments worth a few points or repeatedly an answer to a discussion question, but not responding to a colleague’s post. Enough small points here and there can knock out your 4.0! A few times in your term, ask your prof, “How am I doing on my smaller assignments? Can I check my points with you to make sure I’m on track? I’m striving for a 4.0.”
-Find out what your prof looks for in (or thought about) your work ethic.
If you are between a 3.9 and 4.0, some profs will think back to the kind of student you were in class and make a hard call about rounding up. Did you engage yourself in class discussion? Did you text under your desk? Did you come in late/leave early a lot? If you weren’t the kind of student who deserves the nudge to the 4.0, your prof won’t give it (some profs would never give it anyway). If you are between grades before the fact, ask your professor, “Do you take work ethic into account and ever round up based on that?” Grades already submitted? Circle back with the prof so you can grow for next time. Ask, “I know some professors may choose to consider a student’s work ethic as part of their grade and possibly up them to the 4.0. I see that didn’t happen here. Did I do something that concerned you so I can learn from it?”
-Remember that a 4.0 says that you “mastered” the topic–and your prof may not quite feel that way.
I have had to make very difficult calls where student work deserved a 94% in public speaking or interpersonal comm, and if I could have had even just one more month with them, we would have been at a 95% for the 4.0. Sadly, terms have to end. In each case, I absolutely knew the students were pining for a 4.0. And in each case, I wrote the students an e-mail (class already ended) confirming that they had done beautifully, but that on their transcript, a 4.0 certifies to their next institution that they “mastered” this topic and they were not quite close enough. Ultimately I was comfortable with where they ended up and hoped they could celebrate where they were. If you find yourself in this situation, say “Can we go back and review some individual assignments to see where I could have improved?” This will feel painful, but will benefit you in the long run.
I can’t leave this post without listing some don’ts…
-Don’t say, “It’s your fault I didn’t get a 4.0!” A prof isn’t going to say. “You’re right! I sucked. Where’s a grade change form?”
-Don’t say, “But I worked sooooo hard!” Sadly, effort does not magically produce an A+. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect, according to one of my favorite Post-Secondary Ed profs, Dr. Clifford McClain.
-If your grade ends up better than you thought, like a 3.8, don’t say, “What do I need to do now to get a 4.0?” Do a happy dance for what is and don’t push it.
I realize that many programs are competitive and require high grades. But grades are not given, they are earned. We profs are bound by standards. Meeting standards can be painful for students and upholding standards can be painful for profs. I know it doesn’t seem that way, but honestly, last term, I had struggles with the performance of one of my classes that caused some sleepless nights (It worked out… not to worry!)
I titled this post “the wrong ‘A’” because I have felt the devastation of that loss. I can say ‘focus on the learning process instead’, but you’ll throw something at me. I would have wanted to when I was a student.
One thing I didn’t mention is, of course, make sure that your A- is accurate. Check your calculations against your prof’s.
If you find out that you are, indeed, short, I give you permission to whine a little (to a friend/family member… not to your prof).
Feel your feelings… then clear them away so you can make a new attempt for what you want next term. I bet you’ll do it.
Colleagues, what other reasons might students miss the all-elusive 4.0? Students, have you lost an A+ and felt wronged by it? Comment below!
Worried about how to start a hard grade conversation about A’s or other grades? Say This, NOT That to Your Professor has all the words to say. Take a look inside on Amazon or in Barnes and Noble on the shelves (in many around the country and hopefully at a store near you! If not, ask!!!).