The last two weeks have been busy ones. I graded over 100 final exams, 25 strategic public relations plans, seven team case studies, 80 end-of-course writing assignments, nine internship portfolios, and three independent study projects.
I recorded grades and took a deep breath. Now the phone calls and emails begin to come in.
Student: “I just checked my grades, and I was shocked to see that I made a ___. I thought I had a ____ going into the final project and exam. Why did I get a ___ when I was expecting a ___? I tried so hard in this class!”
It never fails.
Professor: “You got a(n)___ because of the grades you made on the last assignments. These scores brought your grade down to the ___ you see.”
Student: “Is there anything I can do to get the grade up to the ___ I wanted, you know, like extra work, re-do some of the assignments, something like that? I tried so hard in this class!”
Professor: “No, there are no provisions for doing that.”
Student:”That is not fair!”
Professor: “Life is not fair.”
Then there are the students who, when they see their grades, finally realize that attendance really does matter. Each course syllabus clearly spells out the attendance policy, yet a number of students always fail themselves by having more than the acceptable numbers of absences.
Life lesson. Students, please listen to what I am about to say. There is a valuable life lesson here. If you wish to make a certain grade (and everyone knows you all want to make an “A” on everything), then start from the first day of class and the first assignment and do “A” quality work. If you miss on the first assignment or two, talk with the professor to see how you can improve, then do your part and improve.
Work at it. Top grades do not come easy, but nothing worthy in life comes easy. We all have to work at getting what we want. None of us is entitled to anything. We have to earn it.
And if you think this is cruel and harsh, just wait until you get into the job market. You will be joining a work force comprised of four generations – Traditionalist/Veterans, born between 1925 and 1943; Baby Boomers, born between 1944 and 1964; Generation Xers, born between 1965 and 1980, and you, the Millennials, born after 1981.
Traditionalists/Veterans, Baby Boomers, and Gen Xers are ahead of you in the corporate hierarchy. They have the top jobs. They have paid their dues in their careers to get to where they are. They will not tolerate whining and complaining about why your job performance is not up to expectations (the equivalent of why you didn’t get the grade you wanted).
In college, you get grades based on assessment. In the working world, you have performance appraisal. Some enlightened organizations go even farther with a process called 360-degree review, in which your job performance is assessed by those above and below you and those who have peer relationships with you.
Many college courses require you to work in teams. Team members often rate your contribution to the group’s work, and professors take that into consideration in assigning final grades. This is good preparation for working on cross-functional teams in organizations, a common occurance. But in college, your grade may be lowered for not being a good team player. You still might pass. However, on the job, you will gain a bad reputation for being a lousy team player, and you won’t be asked to participate in future work. That is a career-limiting move. Bosses don’t like people who do not carry their share of the load.
Students, please let the grading process be a learning experience, too. Saying that you “tried so hard” may seem meaningful now, but the work-scarred bosses you will have in the future don’t care how hard you tried when you fail. All they care about is results. So if you want an “A”, in school or on the job, earn it.