I handed back midterms. (And can I say, as an aside, to all of you other academic bloggers who have already finished their semesters: Tthththtthhtthpppp! So there.)
I always like the beginning of a quarter (despite the chaos of shopping and add/drop) while the instructor and the students are (for the most part) both desperately trying to like each other. Thanks to caffeine, I have a fairly high energy level, despite the time slot, and a big fat mouth that runs off and is often unintentionally funny (occasionally intentionally so), which leads to us all having a reasonably entertaining time in class. But this beginning relationship, so full of promise and transference, is freighted with unstated expectations: the instructor thinks that, if the teaching is going well, it will result in (for the first time) brilliant papers; the students think that the care and attention their remarks are getting in class mean that they will get As on their assignments.
Then comes the first paper, and reality sets in.
No longer is everything under the rosy glow of potential; I now know that my students run the usual range of decent to bad writers, of unused-to-this-midterm format to didn't-believe-me-when-I-said-they-had-to-do-all-the-reading, and my students know that I am a hard bitch of a grader. Correction ---- I usually am a tough grader. I don't see how anyone could cut slack for the large number of people who did not respond to the correct number of passages. Dudes: if you didn't even try it, how can I give even 5 out of 10 points? You're not making it easy.
And now we will set into the next phase of resignation and realistic expectations, the romance and excitement being gone. We will slog on to the bitter end, although some will see their grades and decide that a quickie divorce is in their future. We get to face each other in the classroom with some awkwardness, no indulgent smiles and chuckles, perhaps open recrimination or even mass revolt depending on how organized and with-it the students are.
The part I really hate comes next: students coming to my office to get their grade raised. The ones who had a tough wake-up call (either college or this class in particular will be tougher than they expected) freak out, and I get to deal with students crying or having major identity crises in my cubicle ("But I've never gotten a B before!" --- If I had a dollar every time someone told me that. Of course college is more challenging than high school ---- it's supposed to be that way. I do have some sympathy for the smartasses who've never been called on crappy work in high school, 'cause I had the exact same thing happen to me. I'll tell you about it some day). Others think they are entitled to an A (or even, a B ---- these were a bad batch, yo.) because of the amount of money they (read: their parents) pay, and they come to yell and bluster and storm. Then there are the manipulative ones, consciously or no.
And I must say at this point that although I loved the movie Clueless when it came out, as a witty and sharp take on both Jane Austen and high school, I fucking hate that so many students seem to have taken the line, "Oh, daddy, those aren't grades, I think of them as first offers" and try to bargain (or threaten, or plead, or guilt) their way to higher grades. Nope, I don't know what other instructors are doing, but I worked hard on grading those ---- I read through the piles more than once. Your test was read carefully and with an eye towards both what I expected and what the rest of my students did. If I marked it as a C or D, trust me, it was worse than what most of the others were. When you tell me I should regrade it, you are in effect telling me that I did a crappy job last time and am bad at my job. I know this is not true ---- I am not a softie grader, but I am not a bad, capricious or unreasonably hard grader. What you are really saying, please be honest, is that you don't want this grade and are unhappy with it, and you would prefer that I "give" you a more acceptable grade. To which (your underlying message) I say no, you earned this grade, motherfucker, and if you want a higher one? Try reading the book and taking notes on it. Read it until you understand it; for some people this will entail re-reading. And if you are still unclear on what lecture was about? That's why I have office hours. And for the people the prof overheard selling this course as an easy A? Maybe you should stop with the false advertising. I've TA'd it before and it has never been an A-fest.