You think math is funny, try grading a language. When I graded french tests as my part of my teaching assistant gig, I had to correct someone who said, and I quote “Michelle and I bought 40 loaves of bread to eat. We ate them and drank our cafe.” They meant 4 and coffee, I’d imagine, since those are pretty easy mistakes to make, but I can just picture him and this girl sitting around, eating twently loaves of bread each and sipping at a small restaurant. I think someone else on the same test messed up Patisserie and Pate, but it might’ve been a different test. I remember theirs because I drew a picture of a guy walking into a big slab of meat-paste and coming out with a croissant in hand.
What’s really frustrating is grading MCAT essays for the Princeton Review and realizing that most ACT essays are better-written. I feel sorry for Chemistry and Biology professors who have to grade papers longer than two pages, particularly ones with foreign students.
Judgmental, judgmental! Let’s take a balanced look at this. What you’re saying is that expressing disapproval at the quality of students’ work is condescending and pretentious. Let’s leave aside that giving a paper an F accomplishes the same thing.
Maybe there’s an ideal world out there where teachers aren’t humans with lives, where instead they enjoy correcting unintelligible papers, dealing with the same fundamental errors and giving the same advice for hours on end, and all students listen to advice. It sounds <i>nice</i>, but I don’t want to live there.
I’d rather live where humans can <i>be human</i>, and complain about things that bore or irritate them, and not act like neutered wimps (or neutered gangsters-turned-burnouts, as the case may be).
This doesn’t mean I don’t care about my students. On the contrary, one of the best days of my summer was the day I found out that a couple of my students’ scores improved so much that, rather than go to community college, they could go to the University of Michigan. Sure, these were the same students who dozed off sometimes in class, and the same students whose papers I complained about grading. I still care about them, the same way I care about my parents even as I complain about them.
It’s part of real life, being able to maintain relationships without hiding the way you feel about things. Your conception of how a teacher should act in private is highly romantic and impractical: put simply, you’re being sappy.
Sorc: It’s less about simply “just mistakes” as it’s about mistakes that people of a certain level should never, EVER make. I’ve graded some papers that seriously left me wondering “how the heck did this guy make it into highschool?”
In my german class last year, we were taking a test on the seasons. One girl couldn’t remember the German word for “winter.” For those who don’t speak german, the answer, is in fact, “Winter.” Being the smartest one in the class (other than the teacher, of course) i was laughing while she tried to figure it out.
Look, if a student can’t be bothered to memorize six words I’d specifically pointed out would be on a quiz, which are each just a variation off of a stem word, they deserve to be mocked. It’s not a matter of intelligence at that point, it’s a matter of an obvious lack of effort.
It is AMAZING how badly biology majors write, not just the foreign students. I haven’t graded MCAT essays, but I’ve been involved in enough different things to totally understand where you’re coming from. Once you get over how disturbing it is, you realize how sad the educational system (or lack thereof) is.
And Sorc, there’s a difference between being a pretentious and condescending prick and pointing out the fact that a huge chunk of people are unqualified to do a lot of things. I’ll use the MCAT situation as an example. What do writing skills reflect? They reflect on one’s ability to communicate with others and to present a given point logically. You may find it acceptable people lack either, but when you’re dealing with patients in medicine you need to be able to have some serious language skills if you want to be an effective physician. If you don’t, your patients will be unhappy. There’s been a lot of research done on the topic that has shown that good communication between patients results in greater patient satisfaction and comfort, shorter stays in hospitals, fewer complications, fewer mistakes and less redundancy.
How people write is a perfect demonstration of the inadequacy of the way people are allowed to pass through from class to class and year to year unhindered and thus representative of how diplomas have become nothing more than artificial decorations on people’s walls.
I got a taste of what it’s like to grade a paper. A bad paper. I’ve been telling a few people about my reinforced belief that Americans in general tend write with such angst that it’s sickening.
I had a peer editing assignment for my College Writing course. I had to grade two kids’ papers on the topic of an important event and why it was important, etc. This one kid’s paper was the most pathetic thing I’d read in years. It was about his girlfriend, how he has trouble controlling his emotions, and how he ‘lost it’ with her at one point. This whole tearful story was so riddled with melodrama that I had to read it four times to have any idea what the fuck was going on. This kid seemed to be taking the “Okay, if I make it as emotional as possible, it’ll sound good!” approach. Well, it sounded like he spent ten minutes on it.
I’m not even going to get started on just what was in this paper. “My bones melted into her slender curves as my sobs pierced the air…I knew sorry wasn’t enough”. To say the least, I had fun tearing it apart, and I was polite. If my 11th grade English teacher had read this, she would have put it through a shredder altogether.
I had a lot of fun one summer TAing for a third-year computer science course. This was because this was the only CSE course in the university that required writing ten-page reports. Now, both I and the course director were very upfront about the requirements for this paper, and were extremely helpful to students beforethey submitted it about what we expected to be in it and how they should be structuring it. We gave a complete rundown of the rubric and what to keep in mind.
We got a few really good papers, but some are just awful. And this is technical writing. People completely ignored instructions, often forgetting to actually tell us how to run their program. The actual writing was laughable for the most part, but to be honest most people had English as a second language and had never written an essay in their lives. I was more annoyed at how people had no idea or indication of how to communicate to the reader how their program worked - if they go into industry, this sort of skill is paramount, and this is the only course in the university that even tries to do anything about it. 8-\
The one that really gave me a rise, though, was where these two girls tried to circumvent the ten-page limit. They did this by taking a single diagram, printing it out so it was seven pages long, and GLUING THE PAGES TOGETHER. The result is that if you hold the paper up by its end, the diagram starts unfolding itself like some hilarious parody of a “hear-ye hear-ye” proclamation. I couldn’t stop laughing - and promptly knocked off five marks. Besides anything else, some lines connecting the circles went across six pages - do they really expect me to follow each line with my finger? O_o
By the way, I just submitted the first draft of my thesis, and I found out that despite my naive belief that I was a good writer, apparently I’m not. Or rather, I’m not a good “academic” writer. As far as I can tell, this consists of cutting out any single word that isn’t absolutely required; if the user can deduce it from previous words, it’s gone. The result is a writing style which is about five times harder to understand than the alternative. I had a brief argument with my supervisor about it, but apparently being “professional” is more important than actually communicating information so the reader can easily assimilate it. 8-\ And they wonder why students have such a hard time reading through conference papers.
Oh that one is beautiful. And it’s not only on tech stuff, some advanced English teachers here even expect the literature-oriented students to be as dry and to-the-point as possible, even on narratives. I’ve had to separate my classes into “How to write in English” and “How to write in crazy-ass academic-bullshit English”.
I considered taking a job on-campus as a homework-assignment-corrector when someone who’d had the job revealed that some students of HTML classes had gotten zeroes because they used a program (I forget what) to write the HTML for them instead of writing it themselves. She knew they were guilty because they weren’t even good enough at HTML to remove the internal tags that said “This HTML file written by …”
I didn’t think I was being pretentious by pointing out what my friend was doing. I mean, my mom teaches at the community college level. She really shouldn’t be getting papers back like that. Oh well, some people think differently from me.
I’m just glad my friend was not a grader last year, I would never have heard the end of it. “I don’t care how you put 4 and 5 together, the answer will never be 12. Just no. Go back and do it again.”
Writing is something I can’t comment on. I suck at writing in all forms. Academic, or literary, or anything really. Had to take a writing class last year. My poor friends had to read it and edit it. I pity them. They had to read about how I related Gackt to Socrates. Oh horror of horrors, how could I put them through such pain?