Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | December 19, 2014

That’s a wrap

How I determine grades. As with sports, it's X's (you came class) and O's (absences).

How I determine grades (not this semester, btw). It’s X’s (and quiz scores; you came to class) and O’s (absences).

I’ve just wrapped up my seventh semester as a college professor. Wow! The stories are edited. The finals graded. The grades submitted. That’s seven semesters, 15 classes, about 300 students all told. (My calculations on student totals are not exact. I’m too lazy to tabulate the exact number.)

I tell students when I stand before them in that first class each semester that I expect to learn from them while they’re learning from me. I think they think I’m BSing them. I’m not. I’ve learned a ton these past three and half years. And I know I’m only scratching the surface of what it takes to be truly great in the classroom.

I ask students at the end of each semester to assess the class and my performance. Some of them are overly generous: “The best class I’ve ever had at AUBG,” one freshman student wrote. I’m flattered, of course … but this IS your first semester.

Others are brutally honest. “You talk too much” was my favorite this year. Others are more focused on ways in which I can improve the classroom experience. “Fewer quizzes.” “More quizzes.” “Get a new book.” “I love this book.” “More movies.” “More in-class activities.” And each semester, I try to adjust the class to satisfy this dizzying array of student agendas.

At the end, I become kind of attached to these kids. I’m no expert. I don’t know how they’re different or better than other students in other worlds. But they’re amazing. There, I said it. And I hate to disappoint them. I want them to succeed and I feel bad when they don’t.

At the beginning of every semester, I assure them that I have no “curve;” there’s no set criteria to have “this many A’s; this many B’s, etc.” … I tell them I want them all to get A’s. If they come to class, do the work, ace the exams, and participate in discussions (so I don’t end up “talking too much”), they’ll do great.

This semester continues my run of amazing experiences. Students worked hard. I saw incredible growth in my writing class. I saw fire and intelligence and confidence burst forward in my (mostly) freshman-level “communications, media and society” class. It’s been a hell of a year.

So thanks, you crazy students. And please remember, YOU are AUBG. It’s not the buildings. It’s not the administration. It’s not the professors. It’s you. And you are fabulous.



  1. You’ve just made a bunch of young Bulgarians beam from ear to ear, Mark. (And — with the possible exception of the student who said you talk too much, haha! — I’m sure they would echo your sentiments exactly.) Congratulations on semester number seven!

  2. It really is amazing to be able to pass on what you know to others and know that you are launching futures.

  3. Wonderful post:) I miss the academic setting so much, even with all the papers and exams…fitting learning into life after that is much more challenging

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