I am fortunate in that in general, I deal with very few grade-grubbing students. Way back when I was a brand-new assistant professor at my current institution, I dealt with quite a bit of grade-grubbing, along with a host of other let’s-test-this-chick’s-authority shenanigans, from my male students. (It’s always been the male students. I’ve never had a female grade-grubber or troublemaker. I don’t know if this is just percentages—I teach many fewer female students than male students—or if there’s a gender component to it. But I digress.) As time has gone on, and as the students here have learned that I
am a hard-ass really do know my stuff, I’ve had to deal less and less with the shenanigans, grade-grubbing included. Oh sure, there’s always That One Student in each class that invariably doesn’t like a grade he earned, typically because he either totally screwed up an assignment/test question or turned in a really half-assed attempt and thought I wouldn’t notice, and then uses my final course evaluation as an opportunity to complain bitterly about my unfair and arbitrary grading….but That One Student, if he comes to my office at all, will just come once and will go away rather quickly when it becomes apparent that I am not going to change his grade.
Perhaps my good fortune lulled me into a false sense of security. So when Persistent Pete came to my office after the first exam in one of my fall classes to discuss his grade, I didn’t give it a second thought. His first few questions were typical. I gave my standard rationale. In fact, as it turns out, I did make a mistake, thanked him for bringing it up, and gave him the points back on the question.
That, apparently, was my fatal mistake.
Persistent Pete apparently took this as a sign that I have no clue what I’m doing and thus it was his duty to question pretty much anything I graded. I dreaded giving exams back, because I knew that he would show up at office hours, wanting to go over his exam question by question, point by point. He was never rude or anything, but there was definitely a subtext of are-you-sure-you-know-what-you’re-talking-about to his questions. It was exhausting. I naively looked forward to the end of the class, thinking I would finally be free of the constant questions.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Persistent Pete is not happy with his grade on the final exam. Since the day grades were posted, I have lost count of the number of emails I’ve received from Pete. He asked for a point-by-point accounting on each problem. (Um, no.) He asked if he could come in to see his exam. (Sure…he can come to my office hours after classes start.) He asked if he could meet with me DURING THE HOLIDAYS (either Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas, I can’t remember which) to go over his exam. (Um, definitely not.) And on and on and on.
The thing is, the best Pete can do is maybe get a couple of points back. His exam grade is not going to change substantially. His exam was bad. Really, really bad. And even if I re-read his exam with an extremely generous eye…..it would still be really, really bad. But Pete will not be dissuaded from his quest.
So every day I open my email with a sense of dread, fully expecting to see the latest request from my new “pal” Pete. And I wonder
if when this stupid, time-sucking, soul-draining saga will end.