It is shocking to me, the way students think that effort entitles them to good grades. Or maybe it's not so shocking; they are the victims of a pervasive individualist ideology that suggests they can achieve anything if they work hard enough.
Anyway, I received a hysterical note from a student who got 60% on an assignment in my first-year class (which she's taking although she's a fourth-year student). To date, she's been receiving grades in the high 70s or low 80s - her grade is probably around 80%. She is hitting the roof about the 60%. The assignment was graded by the TA, and she has asked me to look it over. I have looked, and 60 is an appropriate grade - she did not do the assignment correctly. I am not worried about this being my fault for not instructing the students properly, because the vast majority of students understood what was being asked, and did it.
We parted ways after class yesterday, I with her essay in hand, saying I would look it over. A mere three hours later, before I'd had a chance to do anything, she sent me this histrionic email, freaking out about it. It reads, in small part:
"My marks mean alot [sic]to me, as I am trying to get into grad school [If you want to go to grad school, learn to write "a lot" correctly. - Pissed Off and Snarky Ed.], and these types of marks are just not acceptable to me. If I had spent little time on this assignment, I can absolutly [sic] understand a 60%, however I put a great deal of effort into this assignment and I feel my grade is a poor reflection of this. I had to drop the second part of this class because I cannot afford to be graded like that, and as I have 80% or higher in everyone of my 5 classes this semester besides [Name of my Discipline - spelled incorrectly, btw], and I think focusing on other areas of study would be my best and only option at this point."
(She says later, "I just feel like I can't win in this class." This is why her emails rings hysterical - she has had an 80% average before this!)
I am sorry, but WTF? Her grades are "unacceptable"?? What the hell kind of language is that? Unbelievable. And this notion that she spent a great deal of time on the assignment and therefore deserves a high mark, no matter that she did it incorrectly? Insane.
Obviously this originates from the belief that effort equates with entitlement. And this rhetoric of "unacceptability" comes from the conviction that I owe her a good grade as good customer service. Ugh.
I just wish students realized that the more they communicate in these terms, the less inclined we are to respond generously. As far as I'm concerned, her email is "unacceptable."