Thursday, December 2, 2010

Haggling, with Orange Juice

This past Monday, I brought a graded midterm back to my undergraduate class. There are about 60 students in it. I had them look at the exam, we went over the problems in detail, and then I collected the exams. A few students didn't show up,
so I have been expecting to see them during the week.

One kid emailed me on Tuesday about wanting to come look at his exam, but apparently could not do it before my office hours today (Thursday). As I showed up for work this morning, he was already waiting in front of my office. We sat down, and I started going through the pile, looking for his paper, he said something about bringing me something and put a bottle of orange juice on my desk. I was quite surprised; I thanked him but declines and said he didn't need to bring presents to his teachers.

Still going through the pile, I asked him "Have you looked at your exam before?" and he said "No." I asked because I thought I had seen him in class on Monday, which would mean that he had already looked at his exam, but there are a sufficient number of students that I could not be sure. So I figured I had misremembered and that he's indeed here to look at his paper for the first time.

I found his exam, he started flipping through it, acted surprised at his middling score and asked what the average score was (which I told the students on Monday, so he would have known it if he'd been in class on Monday). And then he starts asking very specifically for extra points here and there, and he says "but you said you had given partial credit for this and that." I realized he had indeed been in the class on Monday, and saw that his exam had been marked up, with correct answers written in a red pen by him during the Monday class (he wrote the exam in pencil, and the exam was graded with a blue marker).

So the kid came in, prepared to haggle for points, armed with fucken orange juice to bribe me, and acting as though he hadn't seen the exam before. My blood pressure went through the roof. I gave him some of the points he asked for, but told him that he should be ashamed of himself for pretending he'd never seen the exam before when I had explicitly asked him about it. He acted all innocent and wondered why I was so angry and I said it's because he was trying to pull wool over my eyes and I most certainly didn't appreciate it.

I am sure I should have hidden my anger better, but I find it really hard to act all Yoda-like when someone's trying to make an ass out of me. Stuff like this makes me hate teaching... I am sure he now thinks I am the Wicked Witch, but maybe next time he will think twice before trying to pull off similar trickery on another teacher.


Alex said...

I hope that the points he asked for were only on very clear-cut cases. Given his conduct, he didn't earn any benefit of the doubt.

Female Computer Scientist said...

Ugh! What is it with these students??? I just had an undegraduate yesterday to have the audacity tell me, "You're Wrong.", and basically attempt to humiliate me in front of other students.

I wish their parents would teach them some manners. I'm so sick of this entitled sliminess.

prodigal academic said...

I really hate it when students act like I am an idiot. Go ahead and argue for your points, but why bother with the whole charade?

Anonymous said...

Don't drink the OJ.

GMP said...

No worries jc, I never took the OJ.

Thanks jc, Alex, FCS, Prodigal, for the comments!

gerty-z said...

OJ?! That is like the worst bribe attempt ever. *sigh* kids these days--lack both initiative and imagination!!

I don't think I could have given him any points back, after the lying and lameness. You are more patient/forgiving than am I

Namnezia said...

I'm not sure what he was trying to gain by pretending he didn't see the exam before? I mean he could have just come by and made his case without the charade.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Why not just have an absolute policy of not reconsidering grades?

GMP said...

@Gerty-Z: You are more patient/forgiving than am I

I think it comes with experience (and, ahem, age :). I was really high strung about grading when I started, but have since realized that getting my blood boiling over the stupid exam points is totally not worth it. So it's aboout picking your battles. If I don't think I missed anything while grading, I will usually give something symbolic (like 1 or 2 pt); the student is happy and it doesn't really change the overall outcome anyway. However, I am not nice to habitual grade hagglers, but most kids are not like that.

Namnezia, I am nor sure what he was trying to pull off... For some reason he thought I would not notice he had written on his exam, and thought that if I thought he'd never seen the paper before, I'd be more likely to give him points? Who knows.

CPP, it's always possible that I missed something while grading, so I don't want to be unreasonable and a priori dismiss every claim for more points. Most kids are realistic about their grades and never really ask for anything, so it's really not the issue that they overall bug me too much. But, those who do... Well, at least it provides blog material.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

CPP, it's always possible that I missed something while grading, so I don't want to be unreasonable and a priori dismiss every claim for more points.

Why? It is equally possible that you missed an error, so it should all even out.

gc said...

"Why? It is equally possible that you missed an error, so it should all even out."

I don't think that the no. of misses may be numerous enough, or the no. of exams are large enough, to ensure averaging out for a given student.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I had a professor in college whose policy on re-grades was that if you challenge the scoring of any question on your exam, the entire exam will be regraded and maybe some other questions might end up with lower grades than originally given. Very few people bothered grade-grubbing in this course.

If grubbing for points like this is really necessary to your career goals, then you're fucken anyway. I see absolutely no reason to allow regrading, except for egregious mistakes, like arithmetic mistakes in adding points or something like that.

GertyZ said...

Yes, what CPP said.

Rosie Redfield said...

I grade like CPP's prof - if students think they've found a grading error in their favour, I'll regrade the whole thing. Any other way is just rewarding the complainers.

Rosie Redfield said...

Oops, not an error in their favour, but one that has cost them marks.

Anonymous said...

I agree with CPP -- I just tell the students at the outset that my class is like the Olympics, and the judges' decision is final. (Of course lately there have been some problems with that analogy, but never mind.) The students virtually always accept that, and don't come in whining later. I tell them that of course if there is an arithmetic error I will correct it, but that I don't like the idea of rewarding people who are pushy about grade-grubbing. I think they appreciate my saying this outright.

What I don't like about the "regrading the whole exam" policy is that it suggests the process is very arbitrary, depending on the care with which the exam is graded. I'd rather have it seem (and hopefully be!) more objective, if I can.

Anonymous said...

"So the kid came in, prepared to haggle for points, armed with fucken orange juice to bribe me...."

with orange juice to BRIDE me! Orange juice!

LOL, made me smile today!!! Its not so much that its rude, just that its ridiculous. Keep your blood pressure down, and ignore this kid.