Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Note from Grading Jail

I've begun to notice that the more a student complains in his/her paper about the unfairness about the way grades were calculated in high school (as in, the student took "advanced" classes and thinks a B in those should count more in the GPA than an A in a "regular" class), the more his/her petty grammatical errors bother me.

Seriously, if you were all that in high school, you should have earned As in those advanced classes, no?

I think if I taught the same group of students a writing class in six months, none of them would focus on high school stuff, but at this point, their high school experiences are really important still, and college stuff hasn't taken precedence quite.


  1. Yes, for our first-years, their high school experience is still very much with them. But they'll go home for the winter holiday, discover that there is now something slightly different about their high school buddies and their home town, and return to college having left high school a little farther behind.

    That first semester is a crazy one, isn't it? I do believe that 1st-semester first-years are emotionally LESS mature than high school seniors, because of all of the decisions they are suddenly having to make on their own, without Mom nearby to do the laundry!

  2. It's amazing how those high school traumas stay with people for a while. And while some high schools do adjust GPA for AP classes or whatever, I agree. If you're arguing that your honors/AP/whatever grade is more than an "A", you should get your grammar right.

  3. It is hard for the folks who were the academic big-shots in high school to come to college. They are used to 'owining' the class and may well be more intelligent than many of their teachers. Now they are getting complete criticism of their work from Ph.D.s plus they are figuring out that they really do need to do their own laundry--- for some of them, both happen about this time of the year.

    On the other hand, they should get the grammer right - or maybe find something else to write about.

  4. I'm still traumatized by that D I got on parallel parking in Driver's Ed...but it inspired me to become a parallel parking wizard. I'd like to see our students' bad experiences with grades inspire them to master the material in order to prove that they're as good as they think they are.

  5. Since they are writing book reviews, they can't complain about high school. But what do you say when students don't bother to proofread their papers? That's it. And then tell you they want an A in the course? Then proofread your paper and don't turn it in late.

  6. TD, Yes, indeed. It's a big adjustment for some students.

    MWAK, Yes, many schools do different things with GPA stuff. But if you took an AP class and want to argue that it's more valuable, you'd better do it without petty grammar problems :)

    Philosophy Factory, We don't get so many HS stars, so at least there's that! They still have a big enough adjustment.

    Bev, Hmm, bad grades didn't traumatize me too much, I guess, though I got my share. And probably someone else's share, too.

    Susan, I have them do a group proofreading exercise because I get way too frustrated with poor proofreading. And I give Fs if things are so poor that proofreading interferes with clear communication.

  7. Anonymous4:33 PM

    Grading my students papers, thus far, has served to make me dumber. My spelling is atrocious, my syntax miserable, and the thoughts moving from my brain to the page (well, screen) somehow get jumbled by the time I go to type them so that my own writing reads like a high school sophomore's rough draft.

    For every student essay I hack my way through I have to read one seriously intelligent novel for counterbalance. Or else I will be DOOMED to close my arguments with "Fourth of all..."

  8. Weird. I'm pretty sure I never heard anyone ever talk about high school much at all in college. Does that happen a lot?

    And anonymous is hilarious.