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29 November 2012

I'd do *anything* for a C... except put forth effort on homework, apparently.

Mr. Jacobs, I got a high D on the exam.  I know it's the next trimester, but I'm wondering, can I do anything to make the exam a C?  Can I do corrections, or extra credit?  I was really close to a C.

I actually got an email similar to this after our first trimester exam.  The student in question had done half-arsed homework since the start of school, and thus hadn't gotten the problem solving practice he needed in order to perform well on the exam.  I was rather surprised.  My juniors and seniors don't make such requests.  They know the score: be ready to perform on the exam, 'cause that's what goes on the report card.  I assumed that freshmen would understand that principle as well; my first reaction was to wonder to myself what kind of fluffy middle- and elementary- school teacher had given this student the thought that begging for a grade might even possibly be successful.  

But how to respond?  I'd like to reply simply "NO."  But the last thing I need is for him to complain to his mom, "I asked Mr. Jacobs what I should do about my exam, and he was mean to me!  He doesn't like me because I did badly."

So I put the response in terms of athletics, something like 

"Nope.  Did Episcopal High School ask the referee if there was anything they could do to change the score of the football game they lost to us?  I mean, maybe they could have another chance to catch that touchdown pass they dropped, or maybe they could get a second opportunity to tackle our running back.  Right?*

Learn from the experience.  Prepare better not just right before the next exam, but all trimester.  See if you can improve next time."

* If the student were, say, a Patriots fan, you could say something like "Can the Patriots ask the commissioner if they can do anything to let Wes Welker catch the wide open pass that would have won the Super Bowl?  I mean, they were so close..."  Yes, twist the knife with a very personal sports reference if you can.


  1. Setting high academic expectations and not allowing hiding of failures may be a good pedagogical style, but I'm not sure that encouraging the "exam as the game" sports metaphor is a good idea. See my post which points to and responds to Tschinkel's essay "Just scoring points".

  2. A great analogy, and one I should have used earlier today!