There are times when it is helpful to know things that are outside your lane.
This is my story.
In the Spring Quarter of my freshman year at Northwestern University, I was taking a course that – to my experience – had an unusual grading scheme.
At the first class the professor spelled out how he assigned grades. There would be three – and only three – exams during the quarter and each exam was worth 33% of the total grade.
Except for the fact that the professor would not tell us when the exams were to be held (that was to keep us guessing), that was all there was to this grading program. Also, there would be no make-ups for any of the missed exams. If you missed an exam, you missed out on a third of your final grade. Period.
Neither take-home assignments, attendance in class, nor participation in class mattered a whit to this professor. It’s was his trio of exams and nothing else that went into the grading book.
During the first week of April was when the first of these three exams was held. Since I had been dutifully attending every class, I was in my seat on that day and scored a fairly decent grade for the first third of my overall mark for this course.
A few days later, I saw that the Chicago Cubs were going to be at home for a Friday afternoon game against the visiting Montreal Expos. I realized it had been some time since I had caught a ballgame at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field and so I made my plans to skip my Friday classes on that April 17, 1987 and watch the Cubbies square off against the visiting Canadians.
Yes, I would be missing that class with the stringent professor, but since he had just given the class one of those exams, I couldn’t imagine that he would give two exams two weeks apart.
So, confident in my ability to read the minds of educators, I took the “el” train down to the Addison Ave. stop, bought my tickets for the bleachers at the gate, and enjoyed a lovely Friday afternoon in Wrigley Field as the Cubs blanked the Expos 7-0 .
On Monday, I attended that class and the professor began his lecture by announcing that he was slightly upset that so many people had missed his second mandatory exam.
Yeppers, the professor had decided to give out the second of his three exams on the Friday I was away and only two weeks after administering his first exam.
Now, I thought this was grossly unfair to provide so little time and space between the two exams, but, then again, he did warn us, so I really didn’t have a solid legal foot to stand on.
Needless to say, I spent the rest of the class worrying how I was going to explain to my parents that they best grade I could squeak out of this course was now 66%.
But this is where knowing a little bit about of everything can be handy.
After the class, I went up to the professor and apologized for missing the second exam and asked if I could make it up. He reminded me of his inaugural lecture where he said there would be no make-ups. He almost seemed pleased that I was asking for a second chance.
I replied by reminding him of his remark that it appeared that many people seemed to have been missing for last Friday’s exam and he agreed that that was indeed the case. Again, he seemed quite pleased with the fact that his grading scheme had ensnared so many students.
“Well,” I started, “you may not have been aware that last Friday was Good Friday and many people take that afternoon to attend church services.”
I said nothing else.
I wanted to see if he would make the connection without me having to spell it out for him that it certainly would look bad for a professor to give (paying) students a bad grade because they opted to serve the dictates of their faith over attending a class.
His eyes opened wide as he made the connection.
At the next class, he announced that there would be a make-up exam for those who had missed last Friday’s exam because it had been brought to his attention that that day was a religious holiday.
He did not make the connection that it was a Jew who brought this matter to his attention. One of the perks of a large class is that the professor doesn’t learn everybody’s name and especially their last name.
I took the make-up exam and did quite well.
I never skipped another of his classes.
That’s my story.
P.S. This was not the first time I had posed as someone I was not, but that’s a story for another day.