An Open Letter to Mrs. McMichael

Dear Mrs. McMichael,
Or how about something more formal:

Greetings Mrs. McMichael,

Nah, makes me sound 52.

Mrs. McMichael,


I cannot pretend I wasn’t shocked when I received my grade for the Historical Figure project. I felt that a 75 vastly underrepresented the work I had done and the effort I put into the assignment.

Also, I resent the fact that it took you three months to grade. Just saying.

I won’t put that part in.

I learned so much about Edgar Allan Poe, which I believe was the goal of the project. Education for ourselves, and then through the presentation, for others. At first I was hesitant about researching Poe, because he’s kind of a weirdo, but as I learned more about him I began to respect him and his bravery. Poe lived in poverty and financial crisis all his life, because he insisted on writing for a living. He dropped out of West Point to publish a book of poetry. He never recieved anything good out of his writing career, not until he wrote “The Raven”, yet he kept writing. I want to be able to live off of writing, to be brave enough to continue to be a writer no matter what the cost or kind of lifestyle that leads to, but that’s another story, another blog post for another time.

Let’s go back to the project.

You took off ten points because I didn’t do my book trailer in iMovie. Actually, no credit was given for the book trailer I did, even though you marked on the rubric that I had all the information I needed.

You took off ten points because I analyzed and explained in full detail “The Raven” instead of “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”.

Then there were five more points that were taken off because instead of a one-page summary of the novel I was assigned, I wrote an eight page summary.

Let’s start with that last one.

In a GT or AP class, you often come across impertinent students. Students that want to do things their way. Often times, the most high achieving students are the laziest. I scoured every part of that rubric, but I managed to miss the part where you stated that the summary had to be one page, not a summary of the entire chapter.

Well, I wasn’t about to go back and write another summary when I had a very long and detailed one right there! I was too lazy to fix it. I figured no one would take off for someone doing EXTRA work. Especially not in an AP class, when we never get points off for not following the directions because we always follow the directions.

When I asked you about this in person you said you counted those as my “notes”. Why would I take notes about the summary of a book unrelated to the life of my historical figure?

That’s just dumb.

But slightly understandable. Five points off for not following the directions. Harsh, but this is an AP class. I should have paid more attention.

Also, I got those summaries off the internet and didn’t actually read the book, so I should just be glad I got some points.

Now the book trailer. I got ten points off because it wasn’t in iMovie. My ipad doesn’t have iMovie. I explained this to you the day before I presented. Maybe you forgot because that was way back in March and you waited THREE MONTHS before actually grading anything.

When I reminded you, you yelled at me a little. Then you took the rubric and said you’d see what you could do. Ten points were taken off for it not being in iMovie, even though you marked I did everything else correct.

It was so kind of you to consider giving me points back. So kind.

She actually ended up giving me points back. You want to know how many points I got back?


Why even bother?

Also, a book trailer is something you ask a third grader to make, not a high school junior in a college-level class. It added literally nothing to the presentations. My powerpoint about the book was much more informative than any of the book trailers

Now that last bit. I got ten points off for reading “The Raven.”

Your excuse?

“Everyone has read “The Raven.” You were supposed to do the book you were assigned.”

Here’s the deal: I scoured that rubric and the directions, and nowhere did it say that the students with writers were supposed to analyze their assigned book. Everyone had an assigned book, writer or politician or activist or artist. Then under “additional assignments” for writers it said to analyze a piece of their work.

I assumed, wrongly apparently, that “additional” meant “in addition to” as in, I was supposed to pick another work by Poe, not the one I was origninally assigned. So I picked “The Raven”, because I had never read it in class and it was Poe’s most famous work, the one that really changed his life and every writer after him. I hadn’t ever studied it in class, so I assumed most other people in my grade hadn’t studied it either. And since it was one of the most important works in Poe’s life, I didn’t see how my presentation could survive without “The Raven.”

And it did not say anywhere in the rubric that I was supposed to do the other book! I did the work, I analyzed “The Raven”, I did everything you asked except for what I misinterpreted. I technically did more work, and I did it right. So you took of ten points.

So in summary: I lost twenty-five points for doing more work than I was supposed to. And when I tried to present this to you, Mrs. McMichael, you yelled, blew me off, and said things like, “I don’t understand why you didn’t just fix that.”

You know what, Mrs. M? I’ve never liked your class. I’ve never liked you, and I’m beyond frustrated with my grade on this project.

You have actually made me hate an English class. I want to be an English major. You have done what I thought was impossible in making me dread your class. The 75 was just another nail in the coffin for you.

Off topic, do you know how many times you say “um” per minute? Well, I kept a tally once for 45 minutes and you said “um” 236 times. 40 of those were in the first five minutes. Averaged together, that’s about 5.25 ums per minute. How come you teach English when you can’t even speak coherently? Also, while I’m here complaining, why did we spend five years on The Scarlet Letter and only two seconds on The Great Gatsby? Gatsby is far superior, obviously, from themes to language to plot–it’s superior in every way–and yet you didn’t think it was worth your time. Another complaint: why did you start preparing us for the AP exam THE DAY BEFORE. You realize we could have been doing that all year, right? I mean, it’s not like we were doing anything else. You never had any assignments for us that were worth our time, and never the caliber of an AP class.

And then the one time you do give us a decent project, and I do above the work required, and you don’t bother to grade it until the last possible moment. And then when you do grade it, you give me a 75.

Oh, excuse me, a 77.

In the culture of AP students, different grades have different connotations. We value ourselves and each other based on these numbers. A 95 or above is decent. 90-95 is okay, depending on the class. The harder the class, the more okay. From 80-90 is disappointment, slight embaresment, and anything below an 80 is mortification. By giving me a 77 you have insulted me and my worth ethic, basically slapped me in the face. I slaved over that project. I stressed over it. I practiced presenting it. I had a breakdown over it when I tried to work on it and that physics project over Christmas break.

Mrs. McMichael, I’m not actually sending this to you, though I wouldn’t be upset if you came across this open letter one day. I value my grades more than anything, so you can expect a kissing-up email coming your way in the next couple of days, with the intent to raise my grade, of course. 

Your student, Miss Celadon


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