In my in-box this morning, I received two emails. One was from a student who had gotten some less-than-desirable grades on some recent assignments. The other was from another student who had failed miserably in all the assignments he turned in so far.
Student number one was very polite and asked for some clarification on why she had done so poorly. Her attitude was one of respect, humility, and good will. She was determined to do better, to earn good grades, and she wanted to know how she needed to improve her work, so that she would have success in the course. It is a pleasure to help folks like her. I responded quickly and offered her the chance to talk one-on-one via the phone, going over her work a line at a time, so that she could improve her writing skills. Quite frankly, her writing is holding her back from doing her best. It will be a pleasure to work with her and I look forward to helping her achieve her goals.
Then there is student number two. His email was angry, and had a “how dare you grade me low” attitude. Thirty minutes after launching his first email, he had sent me a second one, telling me that he would be reporting me for unfair grading. He cited chapter and verse from the student handbook (with no citations, interestingly enough) and told me he was reporting me asap.
Here’s the deal: both students had the same kind of problems with their writing: poor grammar, little to no punctuation, sentence structure that would make my mother squirm (a once-upon-a-time high school English teacher), and incorrect in-text citations. One student wanted to learn; the other student wanted to game the system (aka getting grades one does not deserve by threatening the instructor).
One of these students will, in all likelihood, improve her writing and feel terrific at the end of the semester. She will take the transferable skill into all of her future classes, where she will excel because she was willing to learn in my class. The other student? Well, he will probably threaten his way through his degree, focusing not on learning but on manipulating others. And that is really a shame. You see, attitude is really everything.