In Need Of Some Extra Credit With My Father

, , , , , | Learning | January 14, 2018

(I’m in England. I’m a Ph.D. student in who also has teaching responsibilities. I’m alone in the office I usually share with four other Ph.D. students when there’s a knock at the door and I call out for them to come in.)

Master’s Student: “[My Name], do you know where everyone is?”

(I turn around and see that it’s a Master’s student I work closely with and a younger student I don’t recognise, meaning she’s a first year undergrad. The undergrad is crying.)

Me: “The academics, admin, and techs are on an away day; there’s only Ph.D.s in, and just a couple of us. Can I help?”

Master’s Student: “[Undergrad] was looking for someone to talk to about her grade for an essay.”

(Given that I have a crying 18-year-old in my office, I offer to have a look at it for her, figuring it’s the usual issues, such as poor referencing that’s been pulled up as plagiarism. Pulling up the undergrad’s work, I frown; she’s got a 73%. It’s important to note that from her accent the undergrad student is American.)

Me: “[Undergrad], this is a very good grade for this early in the year.”

Undergrad: “My dad is threatening to pull me out because my grade isn’t good enough.”

(She explains that, unlike most of our American students, she’s actually here for the full three-year degree and her family has only allowed her to come if she lets them access her grades via the online system.)

Me: “[Undergrad], I don’t know what to tell you. This is a very good grade; it’s a First.”

Undergrad: “If I call my dad, can you explain that to him? He won’t believe me.”

(I really don’t have the authority, but she’d so distressed I can’t refuse. She pulls out her mobile phone and calls her father, then explains that she’s in with one of her tutors and hands the phone to me, which I put on speaker.)

Father: “So, what can my girl do to pull up her grade? 73% is not good enough! Is there extra credit?”

Me: “Sir, let me stop you there. From what I understand, we grade very differently in the UK than you do in the US. We do not offer extra credit, and we do not grade on a curve. Your daughter is held to an absolute standard which doesn’t change between years. We also use percentage scores differently; 90% and above is impossible on all but a few assignments, and certainly an essay. Above 70% is considered a First-class result. Your daughter has got 73% on an essay we assign to teach students how to write essays. The main note on her feedback is that her referencing is not the department standard; however, if she continues at this level then I would expect her to gain a First.”

Father: “A First?”

Me: “The highest level we award. For your daughter’s sake, please add around 25% to future results to convert UK to US grades.”

(Her father seems shocked into silence, and the undergrad takes her phone back and promises to talk to him later before hanging up.)

Undergrad: “Thank you so much. How do you know about the grading difference?”

Me: *laughing* “Television, film, and online comics! If you have any more issues, try your personal tutor.”

Masters Student: “Her tutor is [Our Mutual Supervisor].”

Me: *laughing again* “Then you can see me any time. Go and have a coffee or something and relax a bit. I think after that you’ve earned it.”

(The Master’s student stands up and ushers the undergrad out.)

Master’s Student: *to the undergrad* “Told you she’d sort it out. Have you tried the student union bar yet? I think you need a drink.”

Undergrad: “That’s why my dad is so worried about my grade; I can drink here!”

Master’s Student: *as she opens the door* “Sounds like he’d drive you to drink!”

(I went back to the paper I was writing. They were in the bar an hour later when I went past and [Master’s Student] invited me to join them. It turned out [Undergrad] had come to study in the UK to get away from her overbearing father.)

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