How to Handle Getting an Unexpected Grade

I am one of those students who works hard and in return, I often see my hard work reflected by receiving high grades. The expectation in college is, if you work hard, you will be rewarded. Class by class this model has held true, yet, there comes a time when you recieve a grade back you were not expecting to receive. As heartbreaking as it is when we put so much of our energy into a class to then get something unreflective of our abilities. There is a silver-lining as there are some of lessons to be learned from failing, or coming close to it.

Without being too specific, in one of my communication classes I received a D+. I flipped through the paper and my mouth dropped upon seeing this grade. It was worth 25% of my grade and I had turned it in feeling as though I would have received an A. I thought for sure this was some mistake, some miscommunication, and after meeting with the teacher he was adamant about me keeping my grade. He said that D+ was no mistake. Feeling defeated and disrespected I worked with the teacher on figuring out what I had done wrong and began working a on new draft under the premise of receiving a more representative grade. While looking through his very few critiques I felt even more disrespected when a lot of his marks were unnecessary. He had asked what movie I was referring to when the title italicized in the same sentence. Out of the five pages, 3.5 had only check marks and the little amount of critiques I received was for grammar issues or word choice. There was no way these marks were representative of a D+, even a B- would have seemed odd given the little critique I was given. While my teacher might have been having a bad day, my grade and hard work should never get the wrath of it. Every student should feel as though their work was given the respect and time it deserved, especially at such an accredited university where D+s are hard to come by for hard working students. Still confused on how my paper deserved the D+ it got, I took the few edits he suggested and constructed a draft. Meeting with him again, he explained that although I fixed the paper he would not change my grade, rather me editing it was just a learning experience. After talking to him he made it clear that the knowledge I was presenting him made him feel as though I had a good grasp on the topic, yet I was still left puzzled on how that got me to a D+. He assured me that he isn’t a hard grader, because he gave 17 other students A’s. (Out of 30 students) **This did not make me feel better**. I left the classroom just as confused as I was the moment I saw the D+ so I decided to take action and stand up for myself as a student. I met with my counselor who encouraged me to speak to the head of the Communications Department. Luckily, the head of the department was a teacher I have had in the past, who knows the work I have produce is very different than the D+ I received in class. After meeting with the head we came up with a game plan. While this issue is still in the process of being resolved, I think my lessons learned is graver than the solution itself.

Lesson One: When receiving bad news it useful to take a step back from the situation and grab perspective. I will not lie and tell you guys this was easy. At first I cried a lot, even in front of the teacher. However, I told myself that the next day I would wake up feeling more determined than unmotivated and get this issue resolved. I told myself that even it I tried everything and I was still left with a D+, I would be okay. This lesson became a huge factor with my mental happiness in coping with this grade.

Lesson Two: Stand up for yourself. While I feel as though most students who put in the effort and receive a bad grade will go up to the professor and question it, there is more you can do beyond that. If you feel disrespected, or undeserving of a grade there is a strong chance it is because you were and you need to speak up.

Lesson Three: Make use of the resources you have available to you. If I didn’t meet with my guidance councilor or department head, I would have no luck or hope of getting this issue resolved. There are resources at colleges for reasons like this. It is not considered rude or disrespectful to use these resources and the teacher, if a good one, won’t feel as though you are going above his head. Sometimes it takes the opinion of a higher up to help the teacher understand the miscommunication in place. In the end, these resources are there to help both the students and teachers get on the same page. Also, my guidance counselor assured me each and every teacher must grade on a rubric so having this information was helpful in knowing I can ask my teacher for a more detailed explanation of the grade I received. I am still waiting to get this explanation back, but it serves as a good talking tool for both you and the teacher to move forward.

Lesson Four: One grade will not alter your college experience or your desired career path. While it is sometimes hard to understand something so simple, students who work hard will end up with a good GPA and a job they are happy with after college. One grade cannot stop a person from achieving what they set out to do in life and sometimes, when you have done all you can but are still left with the bad grade, it is okay to accept an error was made but most importantly, you will not be affected by one grade. So often I get texts or calls from friends who are so preoccupied with a bad grade that it affects their health. Grades should never have this affect and if you know you have truly put forth your best effort, you should not be discouraged from a bad grade.

While hopefully I get his messy situation worked out, the outcome is less important than the way I actively choose to handle the situation. It is important for me to continue having a positive outlook on it and use this as a motivating platform to prove to the teacher I am more deserving than undeserving D+. You can use it as a motivator to make sure the teacher has no question of your abilities in the future.

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