WHY DID I GET A B? By Shannon Reed

If I had a dollar for every time a student asked me, “Why did I get a B?” I’d be as rich as Jeff Bezos! Shannon Reed’s Why Did I Get a B?: And Other Mysteries We’re Discussing in the Faculty Lounge delivers both laughs and tears. Reed is brave enough to write about her worst day as a teacher when she was so frustrated by her class, she abandoned them during a holiday presentation in the school auditorium and went back to her classroom to cry. But, things get better as Reed changes schools and her career goals. GRADE: B

Table of Contents

Author’s Note xiii

Preface: You Are Not Alone 1

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Teacher?: A Quiz 7

If People Talked to Other Professionals the Way They Talk to Teachers 9

Part I Preschool, Elementary School, and Middle School

How I Came to Teach Preschool 13

Other Vehicular Styles of Parenting 25

All Your Children Are Broken 28

It’s Cooking Day at Preschool! 32

A Letter from Your Child’s Teacher, on Winter Holiday Gifts 37

Middle School Parent-Teacher Conference Night, in Internet Headlines 40

How I Imagined My Teachers Conversed about Me When I Was Thirteen 43

Memo to Parents and Legal Guardians Re: Our Updated Schedule for Spirit Days at Mapledale Middle School 47

Part II High School

How I Came to Teach High School 53

The Unspoken Rules of the Teachers’ Lounge 58

An Alphabet for the School at the End of Beach 112th 61

Student Essay Checklist 89

A Conclusive Ranking of the Students at Hogwarts by Order of How Much I Would Enjoy Teaching Them 91

Dear Parents: We’re Going with a Hamilton-Centered Curriculum This Year! 96

Somewhat More Free 99

Random School Motto Generator 121

The Other Class 122

A Field Guide to Spotting Bad Teachers 126

Paulie 128

It’s Your Twenty-Minute Lunch Period! 149

To Stan, with Love 155

Field Trip Rules 161

Teachers Reveal the Holiday Gifts They Actually Want 165

I’m Going to Make It through the Last Faculty Meeting of the Year by “Yes, and…”-ing It 167

Part III College

All Part of a Plan, Maybe; or, How I Came to Be a Professor 175

If Bruce Springsteen Wrote about Adjuncts 182

On Adjuncting 184

Classic College Movies Updated for the Adjunct Era 192

A Brief List of What Students Have Called Me 196

On Student Evaluations 198

My Ideal Student Evaluation Questionnaire 207

Worst, Weirdest, and Best 209

A Short Essay by a Student Who Googled the Professor Instead of Reading Jane Eyre 213

Moral Quandaries for Professors 215

I See You. 218

An Incomplete List of Sources I Have Seen Plagiarized 220

I Know You’re Asleep Right Now, but Please Get Back to Me ASAP 222

Sports Analogies for Academics 233

“Why Did I Get a B?”: An Answer in Four Fables 236

Taught 240

Everyone Who Attends Must Converse 245

Part IV A Few Last Tidbits for the Cool Kids Who Like to Hang Out in My Room after School Is Out

My Last Pieces of Good Advice for New Teachers and Professors 257

How I Imagine Retirement from Teaching Will Be at Seventy-Two 259

Acknowledgments 263

Credits 272

20 thoughts on “WHY DID I GET A B? By Shannon Reed

    1. george Post author

      Jerry, some of my students earned their “F”s by not showing up for classes and not doing any work. I’m sure you didn’t fall into either of those categories.

  1. Jeff Meyerson

    When I was a student at Hunter College I had an English class taught by Richard Ellmann, a visiting Professor from Yale. He had written the seminal James Joyce biography.

    It was a writing class. The first assignment was to write a humorous piece. He was an awful man who enjoyed humiliating the students. On this occasion, he thought there was only one essay worthy of reading aloud which just happened to be mine. It was a comic version of “Great Expectations.” I was so proud at that moment. The next one was a descriptive essay, not my thing. This time he again read my piece as the worst one he had ever read. I should have dropped the class but I stuck it out.

    This was during the Vietnam draft. Several of the guys in the class were friends of mine who barely submitted anything. Ellmann gave them all Cs and me a D. I was so appalled, I asked for an explanation. Unfortunately, I was on the verge of flunking out and he pushed it over the top. (I was young, immature and spent most of my time playing cards or dancing in the lounge. He said they could be drafted so he passed them. I certainly didn’t want my friends to be drafted but my average was way better. Fortunately, I grew up the next year working at the Stock Market as a clerk and finally matriculated again as a more mature student. Thankfully they all graduated and never went to Vietnam.


    1. george Post author

      Jackie, there were some Ellmann-type professors at my College. Very controlling. One guy was cited a dozen times for humiliating women students in front of his classes.

  2. Fred Blosser

    Underpaid, denigrated by the yahoos, browbeaten by moms and dads who have abdicated their own responsibility, expected to function as a combination of educator, beat cop, psychologist, and substitute parent. Now under even more stress from COVID. As a husband and parent of two dedicated teachers, it amazes me that anyone would even want to pursue this career track.

    1. george Post author

      Fred, I doubt if I would aspire to be a professor in the Age of Covid-19. I loved teaching students, loved the classroom interaction and debates. But most of that is gone now with most of the courses at my College going digital. After teaching for 40 years, I retired at just the right time.

  3. Patti Abbott

    Phil enjoyed teaching although he never taught more than two classes a semester (the emphasis was on publishing). Occasionally he would have a trying class but on the whole he tried to do for others what had been done for him: to give them hope they would learn their way out of the lives most of them led in Detroit. A class at an Ivy League or even the premiere state school, may have had better students, but it wouldn’t have had students where good teachers made such a difference. Buffalo students were probably much the same.
    I am sure secondary school teacher have a much harder time.

    1. george Post author

      Patti, I enjoyed teaching students who were struggling to improve their lives through education. Many of my best and most hard-working students were immigrants. And, when I would bump into former students in a restaurant or Mall, they would tell me how much they enjoyed my classes and how much I helped them to succeed. That’s better than money!

      1. Jeff Meyerson

        Even in the younger grades, this is true. Jackie never wanted the “gifted” classes or the pretentious “New Program” of yuppie/hipster types. She always preferred the kids who needed her help. It is always gratifying when we meet former students in the street who still remember her (some call her their “favorite teacher”), some of whom have become teachers themselves.

      2. george Post author

        Jeff, Diane had that same effect on some of her students. One of Diane’s student became a teacher years later and got a job in the same school Diane was teaching in. Some other students became teachers, but left New York State for their teaching jobs. Virginia was a popular choice for some of these new teachers.

  4. wolf

    I still remember the start of my academic career. In every basic subject in maths there was homework in the first semesters at least every week – analysis, geometry, set theory, probability theory etc.
    The reading and evaluating of these works would have been too much work for the profs and their assistants so they searched for qualified “Hilfsassistenten”, students 2 or 3 semesters advanced who wanted to work maybe 5 hours every week evaluating and got some nice money for this.
    My prof’s assistant asked my friends and me (we were a special group, always active in the lectures …) whether we wanted to get that job – of course!
    The 20 or 30 assistant’s assistants even had their own room at the institute.
    We gave points for the homework and sometimes students came to complain, but with logic and formulas it was easier to make clear why someone couldn’t get 100% or even 50%.
    PS and rather OT:
    I still remember my favourite moment, early in a semester. My friends and I were sitting in the first row because we were really interested in probability theory and saw our prof trying to prove some theorem on the blackboard with his chalk. But somehow the formulas weren’t right and he started to get angry at himself so I raised my hand and he looked at me.
    Professor Schäfer, shouldn’t there be a factor two on the left side in line 3? Then those variables would add to zero …
    He looked at me again, then at the blackboard – of course I was right and I got some plus points – that’s how I became a paid helper …
    At the end however I realised that an academic career wasn’t the right thing for me so after my diploma (master) I looked for a job in IT – has already worked for IBM one summer but found a better alternative:
    A smaller IT consulting and teaching company where I stayed for more than 30 years – traveling all around Germany and later all around the world.
    Prof Schäfer taught for many years in US universities, alternating with Germany, wrote even his famous book in English and so was one of the factors in me learning English – besides my interest in SF .

    1. george Post author

      Wolf, one of the problems at American universities and colleges is “grade inflation.” Instead of a standard curve, grades are skewed to “A”s and “B”s. I was a stricter grader than many of my colleagues.

      1. wolf

        Seems we have that in Europe too. Of course that means that employers don’t see the grades as an important factor. Again maths and science have it easier there – we did grading for people asking for a job in IT by having them do an “IT aptitude test”, a kind of IQ test – with sometimes horrible results!

      2. george Post author

        Wolf, when my son was interviewed by GOOGLE, they gave him a problem to solve. They told him, “We don’t care where you went to school or what your Grade Point Average is. If you don’t correctly solve this problem, this interview is over.” Fortunately, Patrick solved the problem and then GOOGLE hired him.

  5. wolf

    George, something similar happened to my sister’s son at German Amazon.
    But even though he went to Seattle for a week and to London, after a few months he decided it wasn’t for him and found a job at the biggest European satellite company

    1. george Post author

      Wolf, the pandemic is forcing all kinds of social changes. Corporations learned they don’t need to have everyone working in expensive office space. And students are learning they don’t need to go to an Ivy League college to learn.


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