Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A Dose of Reality

In my post "Experiment A," I told of my scientific experiment to determine if my grading scale was in line with what students will experience next year at college. This week, I showed the results to my students.
The professor who scored the essays marked the first page of one essay before quitting. She quit because she knew she would be marking the same mistakes throughout the essay. The professor marked mistakes like missing commas before coordinating conjunctions, missing commas after introductory clauses and phrases, pronoun disagreement, tense switches, and illogical connections. She also noted that the student often left thoughts unfinished, creating confusion.
I didn't take the "I told you so" approach; I merely explained the importance of adhering to the grammatical rules as well as the importance of expressing oneself clearly. I thought that my students would appreciate what I had done for them, and also what this wonderful professor had done as well. Here they were, seniors in high school, having an essay scored by a professor at a private liberal arts university. The information they received should benefit them greatly.
Apparently they all don't see it that way:


When we read over the essay that the college professor graded it really stunned me how hard she was. I thought that the essay was above-average, obviously she didn’t. I really began to think that her grading was way too extreme when she began ranting about how to use the word “they.” I have had many english teachers, but none of them have told me to use “him or her” instead of “they” when talking about someone. I’m not saying that she was wrong, I’m just saying that she was being way too picky.
Another thing that stood out to me was how she said replace “a kid’s” with “child’s”, and the reason was becasuse it “just sounds better.” That is pure opinion, and she should keep that to herself and not just add it to things that were wrong, because it wasn’t wrong. I also didn’t appreciate how she used terms such as “MCCC, MCI, UFP, and UNC”, because it seems that she was just showing off her knowledge of english grammar, instead of just grading the paper. If I have a college professor that grades that picky when I’m in college, I would probably drop the class and get another teacher.


I'm not sure how to respond to this. The saying seems more true than ever, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."

13 Comments:

At 8:57 PM , Blogger Mrs. Walker said...

And it's this attitude that is causing me to leave the only profession I ever wanted to do. This attitude of entitlement, this attitude of "it's someone else's problem." It saddens me.

 
At 5:08 AM , Anonymous Keith said...

Unbelievable...

 
At 6:23 PM , Anonymous Keith said...

Oh, I just noticed a grammatical error in your last line...shouldn't it read, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink"? :)

 
At 7:46 AM , Blogger MountainLaurel said...

I wish him or her luck in "getting another teacher." Or should it be, "I wish them luck?"

 
At 1:46 PM , Anonymous MellowOut said...

Um, "a kid" is a baby goat. Using it to refer to a human child in a formal paper is akin to using slang terms. That's why.

Wake up and smell the reality, kid. ; )

 
At 7:34 AM , Blogger Jessie Herrick said...

And in reality, that "child" just paid a lot of money for that course "he or she" dropped and will have to take the class over next semester because add/drop is over. Sad...

 
At 7:31 AM , Blogger graycie said...

Won't the cherub be surprised when he (or she?) finds out that ALL of the teachers at college will have the same expectations of correctness?

Keith -- The proverb about the horse and the water is correct as stated: the single horse is an 'it' not a 'them.'

 
At 5:57 PM , Anonymous Keith said...

Graycie...that was my intention, but I think my emoticon should have looked like this: ;) in order to make the point clear.

 
At 11:09 AM , Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Nice.

Don't despair, though; this little exercise may have shaken up the pretty little cocoons inhabited by a few of your students, and the lesson may make an impact upon them later.

 
At 5:35 PM , Blogger Liz said...

It's Liz from I Speak of Dreams.

While lax or indulgent parenting certainly is a part of a student's sense of entitlement, I suspect this attitude also has some of its roots in the constructivist theory of education.

If a student is taught that reading (and therefore writing) is "naturally acquired", and all meaning is constructed in the mind of the learner, whyever should a student pay attention to details like commas, if the student understands the meaning of what he or she has written?

If the teacher is assumed to be "the guide on the side" rather than "the sage on the stage", doesn't that imply that the student may well assume that his or her opinion is equal to the opinion of the guide?

 
At 3:26 AM , Blogger Alisha said...

Don't cave, sir!

I wish one of my teachers had done this when I was a senior in high school. I was the best writer in my graduating class. Imagine my surprise when my first college paper looked like the TA had opened a vein and bled on it! I ended up learning a lot from him, however, and I credit him with really teaching me the questions I needed to ask myself in order to become a better writer.

I used to be a TA for first-year writing courses at Hiram College (the school that basically invented "writing across the curriculum"), and I wish that every last one of my students had had a teacher in high school who did exactly what you did. They were all pretty shocked when they received their first papers. For my students, though, the issue wasn't just grammar--a lot of the time it was a misunderstanding of audience. When they had to write an analytical paper on something we all had read in class, they spent over half of it summarizing the book. I explained over and over that I had read the book. I wanted to know what they were thinking while they were reading. On another occasion a student turned in a paper that actually contained "l33t," as if she were texting to her friend about Jane Eyre.

Stick to your guns, _don't_ let their laziness win! College-level standards are just that--they are standards, and they're very similar from one "teacher" to another.

 
At 5:19 AM , Anonymous Lisa said...

My 9th grade English teacher gave two grades for each essay - one for mechanics, and one for content and analysis. He would then average the two grades together to come up with the assignment's final score. His students quickly noticed that their otherwise A papers were being dropped down to Bs and Cs due to misplaced commas and incorrect tenses. There were some complaints about it, but he could easily turn around and say, "You think I graded you unfairly? Hmm, maybe that A for content IS unfair..." and that would put an end to it.

 
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