I generally love how semesters begin, full of promise and hope for things to come. Students and instructors share enthusiasm toward learning and the possibilities of all things good.
Then the work sets in. As points become part of the equation (literally and figuratively), students begin seeking ways to mitigate point losses from errors, oversights, ignoring scoring guides, etc. I try to go over, in depth, how students will earn points in my course, both at the beginning of the term and later on, when assignments start to become part of the immediate reality. Despite this, through absences, being overwhelmed by other classes, and a host of other factors, remembering to check work against the scoring guide kind of gets lost in the shuffle.
By the time the end of the semester arises, students want points. It’s about the almighty X9.5%; that is to say, it’s about what it takes to earn the next letter grade. Unfortunately, in all too many cases, I have to remind students that it was their previous choices which got them in the situation now. Choosing to neglect a bonus assignment, not attending class regularly (especially if bonus points are given), or simply not doing regular coursework can drastically alter the possibility for earning that all-important grade.
Even in the week prior to final exams, I will have several students come to my office and try to confirm what they need to earn on the final exam to keep or improve their grade. I usually go over how to do this in class, but some students need extra attention or clarification. At this point, we usually have a “get real” conversation, where I explain where they have struggled and what they have done exceptionally well.
Most students quickly realize that the onus is on them to earn a grade: If they have made poor choices throughout the semester (neglecting all homework, for example), they are reaping the consequences (the best they can earn is a C). If they made smart choices (studying, asking questions, reviewing daily), they likely are also reaping the benefits of those decisions (like a 99%, in one student’s case).
All this to say, give your instructors a break at the end of the term. Like many of my colleagues, I return to the grade book regularly, just to check up on my students’ progress. I try to ensure that students will earn the best possible grade, but also am direct when it comes to what is expected. It is each student’s responsibility to earn a grade here. Be kind and help make the end of the semester a little nicer for everyone.