The skinny blonde girl with the often-ripped navy blue tights called out to me as we passed in a hallway crowded with girls on their ways to classes. “Hey!” she whined, “you gave me the wrong grade for Vocab Unit 7.”
I was laden with bags, full of books and my antiquated 15-lb. laptop. Unit 7 had been finished weeks ago with the grades posted online soon after. Why was she telling me now, nearly a week after final grades for the first term were due to the administration? And as I was her teacher, what kind of salutation was “Hey!”?
We kept moving away from each other (we each had classes to get to), and by the time I responded, she was in the doorway to the stairwell. “See me during class, and I will see what I can do” I said, figuring she would approach me that afternoon.
Truth be told, there wasn’t much I could do. Once the term closed out in the computer system, it took almost a papal dispensation to alter a grade, but if there had been a mistake, I would surely do my best to correct it.
Her class period came and went, and she did not approach me. I got into my lesson, and to be honest, her situation slipped my mind.
The next thing I knew, an angry email arrived from her mother. “Abigail says you made a mistake grading her homework, and you are refusing to change it in the system.”
Now, they really had my attention, so I went and looked in my grade book. She had gotten 40’s on both the quiz and the homework for the unit. How had that happened? The quiz was 40 out of 50 questions, but the homework was out of 100 possible points. So I thought about it. Here’s what I had done: She hadn’t turned in her homework, despite my reminders, so out of kindness, and not to totally sabotage her grade, I gave her the same number of points she had gotten on her quiz rather than just giving her the zero she deserved.
Looking back, it was stupid, I know, but in those last days before the term closed out, I was feeling generous. It was my first term at the school, and sailing had been rough. I didn’t want anyone to fail, so I tried to help in any way I could. It wasn’t like she didn’t know the material. She had gotten a B on the quiz (true that was just barely) so I figured she had studied a bit for it. She struggled as a student, the kind of kid who could get high B’s and even low A’s if she worked her “a” off. I have a soft spot for that kind of kid.
A soft, stupid spot, as it turned out.
The next morning, before I emailed the mother back, I approached Abigail at her locker and asked for her vocabulary book. As I had suspected, the unit was incomplete. She had only filled in two of the five sections, and even those two were not finished.
I emailed her mother, explaining how I had arrived at the grade that was posted online and what I had found in Abigail’s workbook.
The mother responded that she was “not happy with the solution” I had come up with, and she was planning to speak to her daughter about the situation later that day. So I figured, good, you know, talk some sense into the kid and get her back on the right track to academic success.
The next day, I was shocked when the mother sent another terse email: “Abigail says she turned in the assignment.”
So I wrote back, by this time, a little irritated that it had gone on this far. In my day, if a teacher had told my father that I hadn’t turned in work, he would be on me to crack the books immediately. I told the mother, “If Abigail had turned in the assignment, I would have graded it.” There would have been evidence of my red pen all over her work.
She immediately shot back, “Well, I believe my daughter and I will drop the matter because I don’t want you to take this disagreement out on her.”
What? Take it out on her? I’m a professional. How would I take it out on her?
What’s with kids today? And what’s with their parents?