So, I've been totally honest with my readers and explained that I fucked up my first semester. I did well the rest of law school--never getting below a "B"--but the damage is done. If you don't do well your first semester, as in top 25% at a first tier like my alma mater, it will be an uphill struggle.
So, around this time of year--during my first year of law school, grades were released. It was plainly obvious at that time that a Professor's feelings for you didn't matter. He didn't know whose exam he was grading. I was a number to him when he graded my exam... not an intelligent student who does well under the Socratic Method in class. Also, it was plainly obvious that class participation counted for nothing. Not that I was ever "into it." But there were surely people that were into it... that were a bit deflated to see that it wasn't even a factor in their grades. It was eye opening time.
I ran into my Torts professor in the hall and he said, "Hey, how did you do????" I told him I got a B- and he was a little disappointed... he was sure that I would get an A. Oh well.
The other little tidbit of information that you knew... but didn't completely understand.. was the curve. My school, considering itself competitive and difficult, liked to fuck its students in the ass. I know, I'm a bit vulgar, but this topic brings it out of me. The curve was around a low C--about a 70. I knew that when I started, but wasn't sure what that meant.
So, back to mid-January of my 1L year. I get my grades off of some chart on a billboard with our ID numbers listed on the left and the grade on the right. I'm old, so it was low-tech at the time. I think the tech transition happened by my 3L year. I am checking the billboard for my Crim Law grades. This was, and arguably still is, my favorite subject. I am a True Crime buff, by the way. I love to read about serial killers. When I started law school, I used to declare that I came to law school to be a criminal defense attorney--not a lawyer. So, this topic was easy for me. I studied it and knew it like the back of my hand. I had an excellent back and forth with the Professor. He liked me. My case briefs were in order. I knew my stuff. Frankly speaking, of all the first year subjects, Crim Law was the easiest to master for everyone. So, I felt I needed this one in the bag.
But I got a D. I was blown away. I thought it must be a mistake. It was the worst grade I have ever gotten. I don't even remember having gotten a C since middle school.
The Professor handed out some sort of answer key to the students. I reviewed it and and I was confident that I had spotted all of the issues. ALL OF THEM! How could I get a D? I felt like my future was in jeopardy. So, I went up to visit my Crim Law Professor during office hours to ask him to reconsider his mistake.
He explained it to me this way:
Angel, you spotted 100% of the issues I was hoping you would see, but that is not how you are graded. This is how I grade exams.... I grade all of the exams and put a number at the top, standing for the number of issues that you spotted on the exam. On the exam, there 50 issues that I expected the students to spot. You got 50. You exam goes on the floor. The next exam taker spotted 52. 2 more than I expected anyone to spot, or that I saw myself. That exam goes to the left of your exam. I pick up the next one and that person spotted 55. That exam goes to the left of yours and the other. The next exam taker only spotted 40. That goes to the right of your exam. I picked up the next exam and they spotted 48 of the issues. That exam goes on the floor between yours and one where 40 issues were spotted. I go through this exercise with all of the exams on the floor in a big line. The one in the middle gets a 70. The one on the right gets a failing grade and the one on the left gets a 100. So, although you spotted all of the issues that I anticipated, more than half of the students in your class saw more issues than you or I did. Therefore you get a D. Because of the curve, someone will get a 100 and someone will fail, and everyone else is distributed into a bell curve around a 70. I'm so sorry. You did a great job, but others in your section did much better.
At least I got the reassurance that I knew my stuff. But that is not how one is graded in law school. Today, any experience in criminal law is sorely missing from my resume. I did manage to move past this bad grade, never getting a C or lower the rest of law school. But my fate was decided. So, if your grades were worse than expected, don't be sad. It's not you, it's the system.
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