Tuesday, December 14, 2010

(It's Almost) The End of the Semester: Notes #1 and #2


Yesterday I was called one of the top five hardest graders on campus.

The person who called me that was one of The Lady-Killer's best friends. He's never had me for a teacher.

"Oh give me a break," I said. "I'm tough, yes, but I'm fair. I don't suffer fools!"

"No," he said. "You're just hard. You're impossible."

I asked him why. Just why was I impossible?

"Because," he said, "you make them read a lot of stuff. And you make them write a lot of stuff too."

He was basing this information off two things: (1.) He has a friend who's in my literature class this semester and (2.) He has the habit of popping into my office before I go teach that literature class, and he's always paging through the stuff I'm about to hand out for homework.

"They read two stories per class," I said. "Two SHORT STORIES. They write only three essays over the course of the semester. In what world is that a lot?"

"I don't know," he said, "but it just is."

And then I told him--and everyone--needed to suck it the hell up.


At the end of last week, I took a student aside after class. I've had this student for three consecutive semesters, and I am very familiar, very intimate with her (very bad) writing. If I'd had her for composition, I could've whipped her into shape, but as it is, I've had her for a few creative writing and literature courses, where there's very little time to wage full-scale interventions on a person's inability to use a comma correctly. I've tried as best I can, but there's only so much I can do.

So when I opened up her latest essay, my jaw immediately hit the floor. There wasn't a single mistake in it. Not a single mistake. This, of course, meant it was plagiarized. It meant the essay was FLAGRANTLY plagiarized.

When confronted about this, she just shrugged. "It's my work," she said.

"It can't be," I said. "This paper uses rhetorical techniques and sophisticated punctuation that I have never seen from you."

"Oh," she said, "well, there's a really good reason for that. I wrote my paper and then had my friend read it over. He said it was really bad and that it needed, like, a lot of help. So I said he could help me, and he came over and read each of my sentences, rewrote them, and then told me what to write. Then I typed it. So, it's mine."

I blinked.

"It's mine," she insisted.

"No," I said, "that's not yours. Typing something that another person writes does not make it your own."

"He did it based off my original sentences, though!" she said. "He just rewrote them and told me what to write to make them sound better! I TYPED IT!"

I closed my eyes, gave myself a big, yogic breath, and then continued to discuss with her how this work was not her own. I told her there was just no getting around it: she was going to fail the assignment. She finally accepted it without much drama, and we went our separate ways.

The next morning, I arrived at school and saw three e-mails from this student. She'd fired them off in rapid succession, which I knew wasn't a good thing. I opened them up and--sure enough!--they were awful. They were littered with phrases like this is fuckin ridcluou! and im sick of collage telling me im not writting good enugh papers.

It was big of a Oh, Honey, No moment as I'd ever seen. And it kicked off my last week of the semester. There is about to be a whole bunch of liquor coming my way.

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