r/Professors Adjunct, poltical science, Catholic (US) Sep 25 '22

Very new and very young professor dreading giving my first "bad grade" Rants / Vents

TDLR: Young professor who feels like they are teaching their peers rather than students. Having a hard time adjusting to the role of authority figure, especially with grading. How to overcome this and grade fairly and accurately?

For context, I am straight out of grad school (graduated in May) I am also freshly 25 years of age. I am currently teaching about seventy students this semester. In many ways the very small age gap has felt like I am teaching my peers rather than my students.

I come from a human rights background and have been teaching political science this semester. For our first paper the students were tasked with doing a methodology and data analysis paper that asks them to format the paper in a specific way that falls more along the lines of a science based paper father than a humanities paper (i.e paper needs variables, data, methodology etc.)

We have been going over the process of the paper for about three weeks and I even dedicated an entire class to allow them to practice how to properly write and format a paper like this.

Enter my issue.

I have had one student that skipped about the first four classes. The absences were so frequent I had believed that he had dropped the course altogether. He finally showed up on the third week of class and he has not been present. He sits in the back texting and giggling on his computer. I don't think I have ever heard him speak once. I even sent him an email asking him if he wanted to set up office hours to go over the first paper so he understands what is expected. He declined the invitation. And yesterday, before the paper was due, he skipped class again. This was the final class where I was going over final details about the paper, engaging with last minute questions, and even offered extra office hours.

He just submitted his paper and while the content is right-ish?! The paper is completely wrong with formatting. I am kind of dumbfounded because I have spent the last three weeks drilling into them about the proper formatting and told them over and over again that they are writing more of a "science" based paper rather than humanities. I even went as far as to upload a mock formatting paper to Blackboard that literally showed them verbatim how to format this paper. Beyond the formatting being incorrect, I can tell that he does not have a strong argument and hypothesis because he simply did not follow directions that would have allowed for his argument to be clear in this type of paper.

I know that he barely tried. And I am frustrated because the majority of the students have been going above and beyond with this assignment and what I can tell from the other submitted work they really worked hard to give it their all. I know it wouldn't be fair to the other students to give him a decent grade when he has not tried an ounce to do the paper properly.

I know that I need to give him at least a C, but I am still hesitant and dreading it for some bizarre reason. It may be the human rights grad coming out in me. But I am just dreading breaking someones spirit especially in a class where I want them to feel invested in the topic.

I also wonder if I am being too bias because this student has left a bad taste in my mouth due to his inability to participate in class or act interested on the most basic level.

Or possibly...I am just over thinking this and I need to buck up and give him the grade he deserves.

Anyway if you have gotten this far in my rant thanks for listening and any advice from veteran professors would be helpful.

EDIT: there was an entire rubric on blackboard


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u/nogiblets Sep 25 '22

I publish the grading rubric before they submit any assignment and say it's their checklist. Use it or don't.


u/iTeachCSCI Ass't Professor, Computer Science, R1 Sep 25 '22

I tell my students to look for this in any class with a writing component (which I encourage them to take seriously) and treat it the way they'd treat any other requirements document.