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He Said He Needed an A

After showing up 1¾ hours into a two-hour class, Mr. G wanted to know about his grade.

“You’ve turned in only two small assignments, so the grade you have right now isn’t really reflective of much,” I told him. “Wait till you get your first major essay back, and then we’ll have a better idea where you stand.”

“I have to get an A in this class,” Mr. G insisted as though I hadn’t said a word. I hate to burst a bubble so early in a semester. Well, I wish that were true. I’m fine bursting obnoxious bubbles like demanding a grade, the sooner the better.

So I broke it down for Mr. G: On average, one student per class ends up with an A. Sometimes a handful, often no one. I have no policy about grade distribution, but after a dozen years at my institution I can predict fairly well how things will fall out.

“But I’m taking English and math, and since I’m going to do badly in my math class, I have to get an A here to make up for it,” Mr. G said, going on to explain to me how GPA works.

The next night, two other students similarly told me that they too would require an A in my course. I gave them the same spiel. One corrected himself and said that he would work toward an A in the class, not that he wanted me to give him one.

At the midpoint of the semester, Mr. G has an average grade, a C. That’s what his work has earned him. He is not happy, as you can imagine, and has high hopes of miracles taking place. I will be thrilled if all three of my A-seekers succeed in their quest, but hope there’s a better way to achieve a goal than to demand it from the instructor.

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