I'd like to start out by stating that I like teaching. No, really, I do. I'm a TA at the University of Iowa in the CS department, which is filled (for the most part, at least) with interesting students who enjoy the material and are as studious as one could hope for at a Big Ten school known for its business college.

Of course, basic statistics state that in a school as big as mine with as many students pass through those classes, not all of them are going to pass. Whether this is because they can't seem to knuckle down and study, drink too much, or are just in the wrong field, they just don't pass. Some don't come to class more than once a week, or don't finish their homework, or don't debug their programs, or just don't get done with their tests. In the end, I don't have much say over a student's grade. I'm given a key, a point breakdown, and I grade the stuff. The prof assigns the grades.

Why, then, am I the one who gets the email saying (and this is a direct quote), "Thanks for the F, you souless bastard."?

Now, if it was me, I would have spelled it "soulless," though that's neither here nor there. I think he was the only student to fail - the other two near the bottom came to see all throughout the last couple weeks of class, and really pulled themselves out. This guy saw me once, asking where he was in the class, and wrote some emails along the same lines. On his exam, he wrote me a nice little story on the back of his exam sheet, saying, "I don't think I could stand to see an F on my transcript," along with a family-emergency style reason for why he couldn't study. Regardless, I graded the test fairly, wrote the score he earned on the front, and the prof assigned the grade.

Of course, what my id really wants me to do is write this kid an email of the form, "F$ck you, you f$cking f$ck." My superego wants me to write him a nice polite letter explaining that I'm not the one who assigned the grade, and that he'd most likely been given the grade he deserved though I did all I could for him. Somewhere in the middle is a little voice (ego, perhaps) that wants me to send this to the head of the department, looking for a little assurance that I won't be seeing this student again.

Ah well. I didn't need that soul anyway.

Addendum - liveforever has suggested that in calling me "souless," the student did not make a spelling error, but was saying "sou-less," referring to my economic plight in life. Couple this with knowledge that my birth was indeed illegitimate, then perhaps the email can be seen as a heartfelt thanks to a fatherless, struggling grad student.