Thursday, April 26, 2007

Polishing My Crystal Ball

It's just about the end of the semester for all three classes I'm teaching. Two are web classes I teach through a junior college and the third is in a traditional classroom setting at a small branch campus of a private university. However, while in many respects the students are totally different (even though all of the classes are English related subjects), they share one thing: about this time of the semester I start getting asked to look into my crystal ball and tell each student his/her grade.

Usually the requests starts with something like, "I need to get an A in this class" followed by "Can you tell me my grade?"

Of course, this is before all their work as been submitted let alone graded. (I'm still working on my other magic trick of grading work that hasn't actually been sent to me yet.)

I imagine they envision me constantly typing in numbers into my spread sheets so I have an up to the minute number for their grades. But, the ugly truth is that I usually wait to do all the icky math stuff because not all students make it through the end of the semester. My web classes, especially, have a very high drop out rate. Heck, it's not usual for me to never, ever hear from a number of them. For whatever reason, they've signed up but never actually log onto the class. Again, I have no magic trick up my sleeve to help them.

So, what do I tell these students "who really need an A" at this point in the semester with only a week or so to go? I refer them to the syllabus which clearly lists all the percentages for each assignment. Then I suggest that they do a wonderful job on the final exam to help bring their grade up if necessary.

I know this sounds very cruel and cold to them, especially via email. But, obviously, I have to protect myself. I cannot predict any one's performance and I am far from a math wizard who can calculate grades in my head without the help of good old Excel.

(image link)

No comments: