Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Earning a grade?

I am constantly astounded by the contortions some students will go through in an attempt to improve their grades. These contortions are usually more strenuous and less likely to work than simply studying harder.


For instance, and most recently, a friend of mine who is a Teaching Assistant was lamenting the fact that a student was constantly emailing him about a grade given him last semester.

"Man, this guy keeps emailing me about grades. And this is from a class that he took last semester!" My friend states one day over coffee.

"Really? What did he get?" I reply.
"A C+. He really did not deserve even that, and I gave him and the class a bit of slack."

"And he is still bitching? What does he want?"

"He says he would like to meet me and discuss his grade, and that he needs at least a B+ to keep his GPA up."

"Oh..." I smirk, "let me guess... he is either a Bio-Chem major, or pre-med?"

"I am not sure, let me check... yes! How did you know?"

I just laugh. It seems that the worst offenders of the "I deserve to get a good grade in your class even though I did not study" type students are the pre-med or bio-chem (read pre-med here as well) majors.
All of these students are required to take undergraduate physics, and many feel it is a waste of their time.

Many of the complainers are shameless in their whining for higher grades. They do not even bother with claiming the death of their grandmothers... no... they come right out with statements like: "I need an A- in your class or I will not get into medical school. What can you do to get me a higher grade?"
They nit pick on missing one point in a 15 point quiz, when the net effect of that one point is negligible on their grade.

They do not seem to respond well to replies such as: "I cannot do anything for you except give you a list of good books to study, and the name of a good tutor."

The usual response to this is more whining and threats, such as how they pay my salary and that they have better things to do than waste time with a stupid subject such as physics.
They seem to think that insulting a subject I love, and a vocation I have chosen will make me more sympathetic?
They threaten to go over my head to the instructor. This is funny because the instructors, after years of dealing with students likes this, are even less sympathetic than the TA's.

I once told one very persistent and whiny student I could help her with her grade if she promised to give me 30% of her future gross earnings after (if) she graduated medical school.

"That's unethical!" she complains.
"And asking me to give you a grade you do not deserve is ethical?" I reply.

She goes storming off to the instructor to tattle on me. The instructors prompt reply? "The going rate from professors is 45%, so you should have taken him up on the offer."

I defend my acerbic remarks on whining students by asking a simple question.
Do you, as a possible future patient of one of these students, really want a dishonest cheating person treating you for an illness? If they do not work hard enough, or are not smart enough to get the grades they need for medical school, is it in the public best interest to graduate them in the first place?

Well, as for contortions, perhaps they should be careful, for this is the "end" result.


  1. Wow, ain't it the truth tho?
    The pre-meds were the worse even 20 years ago when I was TA-ing. They still cop an attitude even though I am a full professor, but they sure like to torture my TA's.

    Actually, it seems the least likely students to complain about a physics grade is a physics major, followed by an engineering major.

    How about the students who try and flirt their way to higher grades?

  2. A guy I went through grad school with nearly had his reputation ruined by a pre-med student who claimed he sexually harassed her after he refused to give her a better grade. The woman who's office he shared was there when the woman asked for a grade change and was able to corroborate the guy's story.
    The student asked for a grade change, was denied, and stormed out saying you will be sorry.
    Next day the campus police came to the office with the dean.
    Months later the guy was vindicated, but not till being dragged through the dirt, and losing lots of research time dealing with the situation.
    Sexual harassment charges are serious, and have been used for this sort of thing elsewhere.
    If any student flirts with you, avoid that person and immediately inform the course instructor.
    It sucks, but that is the safest way to go.

  3. There you go again on calling people stupid. How do you know there not having to deal with a bunch of crap in there lives?

  4. I tentatively assume ~1 is just trolling as a hobby. Other than the gratuitous Reagan paraphrase, the spurious "on," the misspelling of "there," and the non-sequitur, I have few other bases for my assumption, hence the "tentative."

  5. ~1 is a troll, but probably also a crackpot. Those observations are from posts ~1 put on another blog post: The 10 weirdest physics facts bull$hit.
    Truly a case of the revenge of the D students. :-)