Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Giving 5.0s (a reply of sorts to Jobert Navallo)

A former student of mine (Crim Law 1, first year) Jobert Navallo blogged about this in his blog (and it was reprinted in PDI's Youngblood today); this, referring to getting a failing grade in law school. The big five dot zero.

I read Jobert's post with great interest because, of course, I know him--having been his professor in crim law--and also because it was a brave post--because the professor might still be his professor in the very same subject next year. For the civilians (read: non UP law students), getting a 5.0 and writing about it might not seem like too much of a big deal but if you've been following events in THE law school (for the ateneans and the other law schools, sorry) in this blog and others related to it, you will realize that it is not easy to write about law school especially when you do not mince words. My posts on the deanship selection have grown legs while my rants on frat violence have taken on separate lives in cyberspace. It is in this context that I say that Jobert's post is quite brave; it also has the feature of being very well-written and also very sincere--from the gut (as I texted someone).

I never got a 5.0 in law school so I cannot relate to Jobert's experience--not to say that my grades were all extremely high though. I have, however, given 5.0s and it is not an easy experience--until now, I find it extremely difficult--actually painful--to do.

The very first five I gave was during my second year of teaching to someone who never showed up in class and when he did, answered so unintelligibly that he could have been speaking in a foreign language. In his finals, his answers were the written equivalent of grunts--such was the brevity and the paucity of the answers. To my knowledge, he never made it beyond first year, at least in U.P.; he may have gone to some other law school though and may be grunting his way through law practice for all I know. Even then, it was difficult for me to give a 5.0 but no amount of massaging the raw scores could bring the grade to a 4.0 or even a 3.0.

You would have expected that, after the first five, it would become easier. It has not. For my students who read this blog, it may sound difficult to believe but giving a 5.0 has not become easier for me, but harder. But unfortunately, I have given many 5.0s since that time, each one being more difficult than the previous.

The staff at the Secretary's Office know this: when I give my grade sheets, all the grades are filled in except for those who fall below 3.0; and I take time before I decide to circle in the 5.0. Many times, I've recomputed on the spot; rechecked, redistributed points in the hope that 1 or 2 more points could help. But many times also, these efforts prove fruitless. And so, despite the difficulty, I am left with no choice but to give the 5.0.

I do not know about other professors but it pains me to give a 5.0 to someone because to me, it signifies a total disconnect between myself and that person. I see it as a failure on my part to bring across a point which the others in the class were able to see; a failure to move someone to read more, study more, read more carefully, think better, think more critically. Many times, the chore of correcting blue books becomes even more difficult when you read from the answers given a clear disconnect, a failure of minds to meet, an absence of that confluence of thoughts from teacher to student. That 5.0, to me, represents one more aspect of failure: mine.

It may be small comfort to those who have failed subjects under me or to Jobert, who failed his nego class. But Jobert is right, there is life after a 5.0; many times, that 5.0 is a reality check. Many have left law school after a 5.0 convinced that it is only passion that they have and not skill; others have struggled through after a 5.0 borne by the passion that the day will not be lost at the hands of "such as you"; others have continued in law school and even excelled after a 5.0, convinced that whatever does not kill you, at first, can only make you stronger.

It is like Kingsfield in The Paper Chase telling Hart, who tells him to his face, "Kingsfield, you are a son of a bitch", to "sit down, Mr. Hart, that is the most intelligent thing you have ever said in this class." In his blog, Jobert resolved to not only confront his Kingsfield but conquer it. That is an admirable quality. Whether he succeeds or not, often it is enough that he tries.