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shrinkykitten

"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.

11.21.2006

I don't hate my students, but...

When I grade their papers, I really pretty much hate each and every one of them.

I will admit, perhaps with some conceit, that when I am the prof, I don't hate them when I grade their papers. Perhaps because I see more how I failed in creating a clear assignment or failed in making things clear - or I have more faith in my ability to communicate what didn't work to help them improve - or maybe it's just that I create better assignments that get better work out of them.

But when I am the TA - Oh, how I hate my students.

Today I had to stop after 20 papers because all I wanted to do was stab the papers with my fountain pen.

And why don't they seem to understand that the very last thing they should do is annoy us while we are grading? For example:

1. the student who turns her/his paper in late and emails you to find out if you got it, and then wants to know how many points he/she will lose. If I turned in a paper late (which I actually never have), I would just hand it in a pray that the prof was in a good mood and would not bug them AT ALL for fear of pissing them off.

2. The student who wants their paper returned to them at a time and in a way that is convenient for them (despite clear communications saying when the papers would be returned) and who asks for this in email, is not happy when you don't agree to grade it early and shows up at your office (not during office hours) to ask again. Little did the student know that her paper was the next i was going to grade - and my grouchiness at her after this did not help me evaluate her paper more positively.

3. the student who emails you to ask where they should turn their 3-week-late paper in.

And then, why don't they listen? Why is it you can very clearly tell them exactly how to do their papers - and they just don't? Or take this for example:

In the first or second week, after a student turned in a paper with crazy fonts and margins and with pictures, I asked them to please not do that. I told them a story from my freshman year on college that still shames me to this day.

I was in a class that I adored. I ADORED my professor so much. When I did my paper, I drew a picture on the title page of the paper - and printed it in color. When I got the paper back, the TA had written, "It looks like you spent more time on this picture on the title page than on the paper itself." Ouch. I still remember that.

I'm curious if any of you still remember critical feedback you got on undergrad papers. I remember that I did a paper later for that same prof, and he called something I wrote "archaic" and told me the translation I chose of the work we were reading "prosaic." I remember I had to look up what prosaic meant.

I also remember the first paper I did in which I was to do stats - it was my undergrad research methods class. I felt so panicked by the stats stuff - and I didn't understand it at all, and was terribly ashamed of this and too afraid to ask my prof (who I adored - but I also got really sick at this time and the doctor thought I had toxic shock syndrome - so I got behind in my work). I remember running analyses and not understanding AT ALL what the numbers meant. I remember she wrote something to that effect - that it seemed like I didn't know what the hell I was doing (but she said it much nicer than that - but I still felt like an idiot).

Huh, am I using this to avoid grading?

7 Comments:

At 10:57 PM, Blogger betty said...

the most painful memory is when i gave a draft of something to my undergrad thesis advisor (not my thesis, some summary thing i had to do) and told him i had to turn it in tomorrow. he totally flipped out and told me how disrespectful it wa to assume that he would drop everything and spend that night reading it. he was right and i never ever made that mistake again. i try to warn my students ahead of time that this is rude.

 
At 11:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once got a paper back with just a one-word comment on it: "Mediocre".

Wow, that stung. Worse than if the prof had written "crappy", I think.

 
At 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely screwed up a chemistry lab in my second year. We were learning all about calculating the errors in measurements and I did not (and still do not) understand the methodology used. The prof leading the lab was fantastic but I got a terrible grade and felt so ashamed. The prof in charge of the lab went on to be my supervisor for my PhD so I don't think he held it against me.

 
At 11:33 PM, Blogger Breena Ronan said...

I don't know why, but I can't remember any really traumatic paper comments.

 
At 10:11 AM, Blogger Ianqui said...

I remember when my graduate advisor, who I worshipped and who writes beautifully, told me in my first or second year that he pretty much thought my writing sucked. That was the first time anyone had really criticized my academic work to my face.

But I guess I worked really hard on it for the next few years...While I don't remember the words he told me when he said my writing sucked, I do remember that a few years later he said, "When did your writing get good?" So I guess I took it as motivation, but generally I strive not to give only negative comments to students. I don't do such a great job of it, though--I need to include more "great paragraph!"s along with the "I'm not sure where you're going with this" cases.

 
At 3:10 PM, Blogger Queen of West Procrastination said...

a. "This paper is well-written and I read it with interest. You make many good points. However, you use too many secondary sources." Grade: D. (That one still burns me up. Especially because he never told us not to use secondary sources!)

b. I got upset on a fairly regular basis with my honours advisor, because he'd give drafts to me COVERED in red ink, and with little x's in all of the margins, with pretty much every sentenced marked "Awkward and cumbersome." Or, even better, "This awkward and cumbersome sentence makes no sense." Always those two adjectives together. Over and over. Forty-five pages. It took me a while to convince myself again that I could write anything coherent.

 
At 9:48 PM, Blogger PPB said...

I got a paper back in college with the question, "have you considered any other majors?"

 

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