A five foot nothing, 94 pound, high school sophomore girl stopped me in my tracks the other day.
She's a student in my Accelerated Algebra 2 w/ Trigonometry class and she earned a B (87.35%) for the semester. Good student. Always on time, always on task, always pleasant to be around, and she performed very well in the class. Tough class. Logarithms, conic sections, exponential growth and decay, etc.
She stuck around after class and when everyone was gone, she asked if she could talk with me about her grade. I said sure, sat down, and listened as she told me that she felt she deserved an A because she "tried her best" and "worked her butt off".
I think the conversation went something as follows;
HER: I know I finished with 87%, but I feel I deserve an A. I gave my best effort and worked my butt off. I want to know if you will round my grade up to an A.
ME: That would be a heck of a rounding... 3%.... No, I'm not comfortable issuing you an A. You had a very good semester and should be very proud of that B. My class is fast and complex and rigorous and I agree you made a great effort. But, at the end of the day, your grade is determined by your performance, not by your level of effort. Grades are a microcosm of life. If you become a salesperson after school and you try really hard, do your best, work your butt off and still don't sell anything, your family doesn't eat. Again, at the end of the day, it isn't about how hard you try, it is about what you ultimately accomplish.
HER: Is there anything else I can do? Extra Credit? I really need an A.
ME: No. You earned a B.
HER: You know you are a hypocrite right?
ME: Excuse me?
HER; All year long you harped on us about putting forth great effort. You said things like, "Great effort is always rewarded" and "In this world all you can really control is your effort and attitude. If you put forth a great effort, maintain a positive attitude, good things happen" Well, I guess you didn't mean any of that.
She left, and I just sat there stunned. Now, a week later, I'm still shaken.