Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Full Stop

I was grading a paper just now, and ugh. Okay, so it was a bad paper, not plagiarized-bad, just showing clearly that the writer didn't understand some basics, didn't read carefully, and so forth.

For some reasons, papers like this one set me off. I just come to a full stop and don't want to go on. I can read good and mediocre papers with a reasonably amiable and happy spirit. Hey, you did this well, I'll note. You could do that even better by using the text as evidence, working closely with it, blah blah blah. That's an interesting point, I'll write in the margin, could you develop it further with an example?

But a really lousy paper infuriates me, I'm ashamed to say. I can feel my heart pounding, my teeth mash together.

It's as if I take the paper as a personal affront, and really, I shouldn't. It's a paper. A piece of student work. The student did what the student did, and it's not at all about me, right?

Okay, calming now. And back to work.

This student cried in my office before when a paper earned a B-. I hope s/he understands why this paper failed. But I fear there's a painful conference ahead.


  1. I have to remind myself constantly that students are not trying to piss me off with their work, and yet when I look harder, I also realize that I am working hard to teach this stuff, and a really poor paper (especially when the student seems not to be working) seems like their are blatantly declaring my effort to be valueless.

    But sometimes, that student who writes an F paper can hang on my every word and still not get it, and as personally as I want to take it, it'll do no good to me or the student.

    One hopes in instances like this, that the student WAS slacking off, and at least gets the message.

  2. Horace, So true! I talked to the student, and I think there was a sort of miscommunication. I thought I'd encouraged them to come talk to me, and taught them what they needed to know about using sources and such, but it didn't take with her. Except that she said she knows that from her major and such. So now I'm more sad for her not doing well.