When you were in school, didn’t you just love the satisfaction of having a test or report returned to find a good grade on it? Seeing an “A+” or “100” in the bright red ink that teachers are now discouraged from using was nice. I’d always get a little pumped up, because dork, until a friend would ask how I did, and then I’d try to downplay things, as people are generally not fans of overachieving dorks.
In my freshman year of college, I had one teacher who ruined good grades for me. I’m pretty sure he crushed my overachieving spirit and turned me into the “doesn’t meet her potential” woman I am today. (Just kidding — the last part was all me.)
Dr. David taught pre-Civil War American History. Dr. David taught at 8:00 AM. Dr. David had a voice that could lull even the fussiest of babies asleep.
Dr. David also didn’t believe in traditional grades.
On my first test, I received a grade of a B++. “What the fuck?” I thought to myself. I knew Dr. David from the School Improvement Council I served on in high school (did I mention I was a dork?), so I didn’t hesitate to ask about the odd grade.
“Is this a B-plus plus?” I asked, thinking my eyes were deceiving me.
“It is,” he said. “Did you want to talk about why you received it?”
I shook my head. “No. What does a B-plus plus mean?” I asked. The cutoff for a B was an 89, so where did a B-plus plus leave me? If it’s at a 90, it should be an A.
“Well, it’s a B-plus plus,” he responded. “It’s better than a B-plus.”
Surely he was making a joke that I didn’t get. Maybe the extra plus was an accidental scribble, so he was being a dick to me for asking. Except for he’d always seemed like a super nice guy.
“Okay. So is this basically like an A-minus?” I asked.
“Kind of,” he answered. “But it’s a B-plus plus.”
I gave up and thanked him for his time and left. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only person who received a confusing grade. My friend received a C- -, for example. That sounds like a D, except for it’s not. It was a C-minus minus. Some students asked about the grading system in class, and Dr. David’s answers only confused us even more. For example, did you know that a B-minus plus is not actually a B (because you’d think the minus and plus would cancel each other out)? Nope, that’s a good ol’ B +-. Is your brain broken yet?
At the time, I was someone who recorded every single grade into a spreadsheet, assigned it the weight the grade carried towards my overall grade, and tracked my score for each class. And I could not do that with Dr. David’s scoring system. It drove me fucking nuts.
At one point in Dr. David’s class, we had to do a book report on a novel that was written before the Civil War. As any hard working student would do, I searched my floppy disks for something I had written in high school. (Yes, floppy disks!) I found my report on The Scarlet Letter I had written in 10th grade and decided to use that rather than, ya know, read a book and write another report. After changing a few things (like grammar shit and the year), I was good to go. We had to do a 10 minute meeting with Dr. David in his office to discuss our reports, which would be factored into our grades, but I figured I’d be fine. Gotta love the confidence of an 18-year-old.
Only my 10 minute interview turned into 50. As it turned out, Dr. David’s favorite book was The Scarlet Letter, and he was thrilled that a student liked it enough to report on it, so he was excited to discuss. He even had notes of things to discuss.
“Maybe I should just come clean,” I thought after the first few minutes. The book was pretty memorable — preacher, infidelity, public shaming, bastard kid — but it would probably become pretty clear that I hadn’t recently read or written the report to someone who was that enthusiastic.
Wanna know the good thing about Dr. David being super fucking enthusiastic about The Scarlet Letter? The discussion was mostly one-sided. He was tickled to tell me every single thought that had ever crossed his mind about that book. All I had to do was nod along, act super fucking enthusiastic to hear tidbit after tidbit, and make a few intelligible comments. When it was over, you could tell that the meeting really made his day.
“I just knew you would be a promising student,” Dr. David told me on the way out. Before I agreed to go to this particular university, I was offered several small scholarships to cover books, supplies, etc. Between those and my main scholarship, I had enough overage to buy a new PlayStation, so boom! Anyway, Dr. David was on the committee that decided who the small schollies went to, so I suppose he was happy to see he made the right choice.
The final grades for the report/interview were given the following week. I made a A++-.
I didn’t bother asking. I knew I’d pull an A in his class somehow, and I did. After getting our final grades back online, I saw that I ended up with a 95, which could either be a B+++, an A++– or an A.
Who’s ready for an aspirin? Lobotomy, perhaps?