The Grade Complaint: Striking a Balance

I’m going to sound like an old lady here, but when I was in college, I never would have dreamed of complaining about my essay grades the way some of my students do. The other day, a student told me that I am “unfair” and that she disagrees with the way I saw her paper. She didn’t feel that a certain part of the essay I pointed out weakened her paper and she wanted to “work something out.” I was left wondering how on earth to respond to such an entitled complaint – a complaint that seemingly implies that she knows as much about grading essays as I do and that a grade that I have assigned can be negotiated like the price of a used car or a flea market necklace.


It’s difficult not to go on the defensive when such emails arrive in one’s inbox.  We are clearly educated and trained to grade these essays and our Program works hard to make sure we are all on the same page where grading is concerned. I try very hard to be nice about it; there is a lot of “I understand your concern but…” and “Your disappointment in your grade is not uncommon…” I want students to know that I understand their frustration.

On the other hand, I do not owe you anything. The world does not owe you anything. You earn the grade that you earn, not the grade you negotiate when you are disappointed with the grade that you earn. Continue reading

Odd Tools in Your Utility Belt

Most (if not all) of us have idiosyncratic exercises or techniques that others don’t use but which work exceedingly well for us. So I thought it would be useful to share some of these here, in case others might want to stea… er, I mean, borrow some of them.

To kick things off, here is one of mine (which conversations with Claudia Cortese and Liz Martin made me think of sharing, so blame them). To provide a little background, I don’t like to call on students to speak in class. At the same time, I think that it is a good idea for the quieter students to be impelled to participate. So, a number of years ago, I came up with something which would do so without them feeling picked out, and while encouraging those around them to support them in speaking. Also, I am a card-carrying geek and played Dungeons and Dragons through most of my college career, which means I own a lot of multi-sided dice. Like these…



So, linking gaming and pedagogy, here’s my personal approach to group discussions. (Note: a d20 is a twenty-sided die, with numbers from 1-20; a d8 is an eight-sided die, with numbers from 1-8; etc.)

Continue reading