So I had my office hours for physics lab this morning, and was bombarded by 20 or so students with questions about their labs. Mostly just clarifications about why they lost points, or reading my handwriting, but two students stood out particularly because they were muttering under their breath calling me stupid when I tried to explain why they lost points. Disclaimerish: I graded really hard for this first lab, because if not now, then when? It was an easy lab about uncertainties and error propagation, and most points were lost from missing analysis or formatting issues (units, table titles, ignorance…). The average for the 200+ students was probably around 65 or 70. The class is not curved, but I did tell the professor that if the final grades’ average was too low (it should be around 80) then I would suggest adding 5 points to all students. I’m pretty sure nobody got above 95, anyway.
Student 1: This guy (Indian, short, stocky) comes in asking about why he lost points for connecting the points on his graph. I explained that connecting points on a scatter plot implies that you can interpolate, etc etc, and that it’s wrong. He says, how come I never lost points for it in any of my previous classes? I told him that maybe his previous TAs didn’t care as much about him becoming smarter, and I wanted students to know when their work is wrong. He said, “Are you calling me stupid?” Really dude, really? I’m an adult, and I’m trying to help you become better at writing reports, and you’re gonna pull that on me? I mean, Dasauni from CHAMPs said this to me once when responding to a similar comment, but he was 7 years old so it’s not as out of place and that was bad on me. But in this situation, I’m pretty sure you’re defining your own maturity level by going there. Same guy, same graph, on the x-axis has 10, 100, 500, 1000, 5000, 10000 in equal tick marks apart. (Excel does this when you don’t specify a series, or something.) He asks me why he was docked points for his log-log graph. I told him that it wasn’t a log graph, and if it were, then it would be equal increments for each power of 10. He claimed (loudly, annoyedly) that it was a log graph, just not in base 10. I asked him if he really knew what log graph was. “I know what a log graph is, I’m an electrical engineer, and this is a log graph.” Um, no. It’s not. I asked him if he wanted to bet, and he said no. So then I’m right, right? No, he continues to claim it’s a log graph, and I ask him to find one other person who will support him in his claim. He storms out, calling me a stupid TA.
Student 2: I’m pretty sure this guy smelled like beer. At first I thought maybe it was a weird soap or deodorant, but after thinking about it’s definite that he was hungover/unshowered from last night. Also he was wearing a frat bro-tank so… He also voices his lab report woes in an annoyed voice, but I mean, I can expect that because most of these people got D-grades on their first lab worth 12% of their grade. But he starts to get more and more annoyed. I try to explain that some points I can’t change because it’s consistent across all students’ reports, but he just starts muttering to himself and then walks to the other side of the room. From there, he sees his friend and loudly complains about his lab report grade and the unfair TA, yadda yadda, which is just annoying to me because I’m sitting right there and I can hear every word. Sigh.
Everyone else, although concerned about their grades, were more bent on improving and actually understanding why they lost points. I’m glad about that. I really do think I graded fairly but harshly. Better now than later/never. The head TA and Professor are on my side, too, so *whew*.