OPINION: Letter to My Ex-Professor(s)

“Although it was a lot of stress, I learned how important it is to stand up for the work I do and ask questions when I think that I deserve more.” (Photo by Julie Faye Germansky)

In my last semester of third year, I took a class that had one major project, a midterm and an exam. The class seemed fairly easy, but the major project was an assignment to be done in pairs.

Each pair had to get a topic approved and write an in-depth report. The project was assigned during the second week of the semester and was due  before the final exam. It counted for 40 per cent of my grade.

Up until then, I had no complaints about the professor. He seemed knowledgeable, fair and even funny at times. He approved our topic and some of the sources we were planning to use.

My partner and I worked hard on the assignment all semester, with intentions to hand it in early to free up more time for studying. We completed the assignment and were fairly proud of the work we had done.

We submitted it early and the professor assured the class that most people do extremely well on it. I relaxed and began studying, until I received a call from my classmate about our project. It had been marked. We received a zero.

I told her that it must be a mistake. Maybe he hadn’t actually marked it and there was a system error. We emailed the professor asking about the failing grade. He quickly responded, informing us that there was no mistake, and that the topic of our assignment wasn’t relevant.

I teared up because I was already stressed about school and a zero on this assignment meant that unless I got a very high mark on my exam, I would fail the course. My partner didn’t take that as an answer and begged the professor to re-read our report. He finally agreed to give it another look. I spent the next few days studying as hard as possible, trying to salvage my grade.

(Illustration by Simona Catalano)

I received another email from the professor saying that he had read the paper again and had decided to give us an 80.

There was no explanation for the grade change. More unbelievable though, was that there was no apology for the unwarranted failing grade.

Although it was a lot of stress, I learned how important it is to stand up for the work I do and ask questions when I think that I deserve more.

Don’t be afraid to ask why and learn about how to appeal a grade. I imagine that it is easy for professors to mark students and not think about the time and effort put in, especially in large classes.

I often wonder if he had even read the paper at all, and how many other people he gave zeros.

 

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