Teaching as an adjunct can be a lot of fun. It is also challenging. As I have encountered a number of situations, I realize such a blog can be helpful, both to me and to others.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Gifting" Grades

Earlier in the week, Dean Dad had an interesting post on his blog (suburbdad.blogspot.com ). The post was titled, Ask My Readers: First Time Teaching at a CC . One of the questions that came up on that post had to do with how a professor should handle a situation where a student is truly trying, but not getting the material.

The overwhelming viewpoint expressed was the professor should not give a gift of a grade and if the student should be failed, than fail him or her. I was one of those with a different point of view. I think effort is crucial. I believe in all walks of life, we are rewarded for trying.

Growing up, one of my peers disagreed. “If you are hired to build a house,” he asked me, “and the house falls apart, does it matter that you tried”?

I hear the point and yet, while there are some exceptions, we do reward those who try. If someone has tried really hard to make a delicious dinner and has prepared it for hours, should I say that I do not like it, if that is the case, or should I appreciate the effort. If I bring a car to a mechanic and the mechanic is having difficulty finding the problem, assuming it is a good mechanic, I should reward the effort and not just pull my car out of the shop and bring it elsewhere. I might get frustrated, but at least I know the person working on my car is trying.

Those are just two very different examples of how effort does make a difference. I am a firm believer that perception creates reality. We tend to have a better perception is someone is making a good faith effort.

Now, there are certainly some guidelines to follow. First, do not take a student who is borderline passing and give him or her an ‘A’. Second, do not let people take advantage of your good nature. The effort has to be there. Third, you may want to assign some extra credit work, or have the student do something to ‘earn’ the extra grade.

My grandfather’s second wife used to tell a story about how when she was in elementary school and a student was not passing, she would let that student ‘borrow’ some points from the next quarter. The student, however, had to pay those points back the next semester. Invariably, the student did.

It is amazing what can be achieved if we work with people, if we give them a chance and show them we believe in them. If that means letting someone pass a class when that student really should fail, as long as the effort has been made, then I think we should do it. Will there be some people who take advantage? Probably, but the number of students who will truly be helped will far outweigh those few who abused the privilege