Why Needs-a-B is Barely Pulling a D in My Class

Below, the fruits of half an hour of excruciating conversation during office hours. In the interest of fairness, I present two readings of my pupil’s abysmal performance in my class:

Needs-a-B’s take:

  1. The question about the CLT, she really thought she got full marks on that, but she got zero. And she wrote practically the same thing that she wrote when I asked the same question on the quiz last week, and she got three out of four on it that time. Okay, not quite the same thing. She didn’t give the standard deviation this time. Or mention that she was referring to the distribution of the sample means. Oh, and that third sentence she wrote was missing a verb. But still. I knew what she meant, didn’t I? I agreed she basically understood the concept, right?
  2. Maybe it’s the way she’s studying? She’s studying with a friend, and the friend’s doing really well. Maybe the friend is messing her up?
  3. Family issues that I can’t even begin to imagine. (Aside: yes, insinuating that your problems are beyond your interlocutor’s comprehension is a great way to curry favour. “[I] can’t even begin to imagine”? Are you calling me unimaginative? For crying out loud, have you seen my BLOG?)
  4. A bunch of little tiny mistakes adding up, like the one where she did part of a computation, ended up with a huge negative number, divided it by a hundred and got rid of the minus sign to get a number between zero and one, and then said that that was the probability.
  5. Because after the previous quiz I’d told her that the probability had to be a number between zero and one, which was why she’d lost marks for that other tiny mistake, where she’d said that the probability of getting five heads on a series of coin flips was 11.
  6. Dog died.
  7. Oh, so all she had to do was look up the area corresponding to the z-score? And then subtract it from 1? And realize that it corresponded to a probability, and that’s basically what the compalence interval refers to? That’s it? If she had done that she would have gotten three extra marks on that question? That’s a lot of marks, her friend got full marks for doing basically the same thing, but with the looking up of the z-score and interpreting it properly.
  8. Seriously, she hadn’t known that the stuff in the normal tables were probabilities. And areas. And that those are related. It’s confusing when I draw pictures of the bell curve and shade stuff, why have I been doing that for the last two months? Maybe it would make more sense if I stopped doing that?


  1. Because she doesn’t listen when I say that I’d be happy to talk to her about her performance in my class after she looks at her test and the comments I took the time to write. But she doesn’t want to look at her test. Can’t I talk to her now?
  2. Her general insistence that she understands everything that I say in class and in the homework. No, you don’t. I’m the judge of that.
  3. The dead dog and the family shit. Seriously, that’s got to be stressful. Look, I may be an insufferable curmudgeon, but I’m not that coldhearted.
  4. Because she went the past six weeks without knowing why the hell we even used the normal tables, which is one of the most important concepts in this class.
  5. Because when I pointed out what a big problem that was, she replied by pointing out that she knew how to look stuff up in them and that was the most important thing, right?
  6. Because, in general, she interprets everything I say as validation of some form. Maybe she just doesn’t respond to subtlety. Like when I say something subtle like, “Your mistakes indicate a serious lack of understanding of one of the central concepts in this course,” and she replies, “But I’m basically getting it, more or less.”
  7. Because, dammit, she doesn’t respond to feedback, period. I could have replaced myself with a talking doll that said “You’re doing great!” and the results would have been the same. Dammit, woman, haven’t you ever watched any reality TV? Do you not know what happens to the contestants who shrug off Donald or Tyra’s suggestions?
  8. Heredity. Or environment. Which is the one responsible for crippling stupidity?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *