So, here it is. Finals week.
Fortunately, I had my finals ready to go weeks ago, despite the fact that three of my six classes were brand-new preps (every single class was a different course, whee!). Fortunately, I have minions, I mean teaching assistants, for the two huge lecture courses with 160-plus students each.
I teach at two schools. One has a bunch of middle-class kids in its population. The other is the inner-city school. The minions are at the middle-class school. When it comes to grading the finals and the papers, I'm alone at the inner-city school, where the classes are smaller but I have no minions.
So there's still plenty of papers and exams that I get to grade, too. I'm halfway through the papers and three-fourths of the way through the exams (and the last exam is tomorrow, or I'd have had that one done by now too). But reading some of these papers makes me realize that even with all the instruction and help I'm giving them, some of my students still just. don't. get it.
If you're a teacher, or you love a teacher, come past the fleur-de-Kos for some humor and maybe a little angst. It'll only be a little, because I have to be in bed very soon for a four a.m. wake-up call (thankfully the last one I ever have to do this term).
A friend of mine sent around a "grading bingo" card a week or so ago, on Facebook. On it were many of the fine mistakes and problems that we, the teachers, can expect on papers (normally due at the end of the term). Here's a few that I've found in the 68 papers I've managed to get through in the last three days (which is about half of the total I need to finish by Sunday):
Overpersonalization. I've had three or four students tell me massively overpersonalized stories about abuse, or gang backgrounds, or criminal family members... and it just makes me cringe.
Spelling errors, verb tense errors, incorrect word choice errors... I sort of lump these all together. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's just annoying, and sometimes I wonder if it's their way of "writing like I talk" when they say that people "loose" their ability to think rationally, or that people "just aren't use to things like that." Either way, it annoys me.
Excessive verbiage. College students are notorious for this. Extra words, repeated sentences, and on and on and on. Most of these four-to-six page papers are more like three-to-five when you cut out all the excess word clutter.
Missing thesis. This is a fun one. When I'm writing, on every single page, "What is your main point, argument, thesis?" you know that something didn't get through.
Citations of Wikipedia, Newsmax, WorldNutDaily - yes, I've seen all three. And yes, I've scolded in my comments, because I told them to stick to .edu, .gov and real, peer-reviewed research.
Now, I'm not a grammar or writing teacher, but I feel that college students should know how to write, dammit, even in a history class or a sociology class. I am working towards getting them to write better, and one person put out what I can only term a Herculean effort to improve for this paper. I do have to admit that they are getting better. I just wish I could send them out of my class as thinkers who really know how to write.
On the other hand, one of the TAs at my other school just sent me this e-mail about the papers that he's grading: "These are exceptional - the best undergrad papers I've ever read. What did you do??" So I guess it's not all bad - although I'm jealous of him, getting to read better papers than the ones I've got at the other school.
Anyone have similar grading angst to share? The comments section is open.