A teaching moment now…a learning lesson then

Each semester, as I wrap up another term and file final grades, I remind myself of one of my most important learning moments from when I was a doctoral student.

Ohio University was still on the quarter system when I was earning my PhD there. I dutifully submitted my grades at the end of a particular quarter…and within minutes the emails started to roll in.

The messages were the same: I should have a higher final grade.

Confident I had done everything correctly, I notified the students that I’d double check what I had entered into the grade system.

Gulp.

One final grade was wrong. No, two…three…five…20.

Trying to slow down my now 1,000-beats-a-minute heart rate, I searched for the mistake.

And there it was.

The promised bonus points.

I had forgotten to add them into the grade calculation.

With that heart still racing, I walked upstairs to the director’s office.

“Got a minute?” I asked.

“Sure,” Dr. Michael Bugeja said.

“Um, you’re about to get 20 grade change forms from me and I feel like an absolute idiot and I know what I did but I…”

“Anthony,” he said. And then he smiled. And if you know Michael, then you know he owns one of the biggest smiles in the world.

“You submitted a few incorrect grades, you know why, and you’re fixing it,” he continued. “No problem. If you had tried to hide your mistake, that [with index finger raised for emphasis] would have been a problem!

You send them my way. I’ll sign them. Nothing to worry about.”

We laughed. I walked out, yes, still embarrassed.

Fast forward a couple decades…

I received multiple grade change requests yesterday from one of my part-time faculty. Somewhat mortified by what had taken place, his/her messages indicated real embarrassment at what had happened, and why.

So, yes, I relayed a story about a doctoral student from two decades ago.

The adjunct replied with a “thank you, I feel much better now.”

You taught me something very valuable that day, Dr. Bugeja. Very valuable, indeed!

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