The Grade versus The Reasoning

I had a student come to me after school today and tell me that she wanted to discuss her essay with me because she thought that she deserved an A- and not the B+ that she got. And immediately I was turned off–who is she to say what grade she should get?

Her argument was that she’d made all of the corrections that we’d talked about together and that this was exactly the paper I wanted. She ended up pointing out her title and saying that she felt she should have gotten a 4/5 for it, and not a 3/5.

The first argument she made was… eh. We had talked about the paper before, but here’s the thing–I’m not going to grade your paper before I grade it. I can make general statements about it, but you’re supposed to be following the rubric throughout.

Once she made her second argument though, I realized she was fishing, and then I got mad. She just wanted that A mark on her paper and she didn’t really care which category it came from. It had nothing to do with the quality of her paper, and it had nothing to do with the learning itself–it was just “what do I need to do for this teacher to get an A?” Which is what in the end made me so sad.

What is motivating her (and most children that I’ve taught) to absolutely need to get the A on the paper?

How did we manage to create this whole group of students who don’t care about the learning itself, but about the grade that they get for it? Is this in the end better for them in any way?

I ended up telling her that I wasn’t going to be changing the grade on her paper, and she left in a bit of a huff.

If she had approached this problem though a growth mindset though, everything might have been different. If she had asked me to explain how she could have improved the order of her essay, or how she could have improved her title, I would have been more than happy to help her. Instead, she’s arguing about the grade and not the reasoning.

In hindsight (which is always 20/20 I hear), I’m sad about what I said about her title when she tried to argue that she should have gotten a 4/5 for it–I told her that it described the contents of the essay, but it didn’t grab the audience and make them want to read again. I should have re-phrased that. I’m also just sad for her. I wonder what is motivating her to need that A. What will an A get her? Maybe it’s because I’m on “the other side” now, and I’ve seen people burn out and neglect themselves just for a stupid grade.

This is my least favorite part of teaching. Students. Yes. Learning. Yes. Biology. Yes. Grading? No thanks. I’d rather just learn for the sake of learning.


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