One of my students had questions on why she got the grade she did on a recent project.

“Well, because you didn’t do the requirements of the project. You were supposed to do these particular things, and you didn’t do that.”

“But, I worked really hard on it…”


There is an unspoken deal happening here. The deal this student thought we were making is, her job is to work. If she puts in the appropriate amount of work (appropriate to her, anyway), then my job is to give her the A. Because she thought that was the deal we were making, she felt I had not done my part of the deal. If that were the deal we were making, she’d have a right to be upset.

Of course, that was not the deal we were making.

It’s not fair to expect rewards for the very act of work. Rewards should come from exceptional work. Just because you show up doesn’t mean you should be rewarded. Being present does not bring cookies. It shouldn’t. Unfortunately some students learn this from school. That’s not the deal we should be making. It creates problems later, when unrealistic expectations come from unexceptional effort.

Make sure you know the terms of the deal you are making. Know the terms at work, in marriage, with the cup of coffee you buy. There are terms, and you only have yourself to blame if you’re expecting a deal that’s not being made.


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