Monthly Archives: March 2007

Oh, The Irony…

images2.jpeg…I’ve just discovered, after sorting through all the portfolios that my Monday class has handed in, that Megadeth Dave did not submit his final project.

This final project is worth 40% of the grade.

Factoring in the zero brings Dave from a 67.7 to a 40.6.

I still haven’t heard any response back from him over our latest little exchange.  I suspect I scared him off by offering to bring in another professor who, in all likelihood, would advise me that I was too lenient with Dave’s research paper grade.

I’m done stressing over the kid.

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Filed under concerns, General Griping, Learning

Seriously

This is kind of a long story. Bear with me.

I have a particular student in one of my classes; we’ll call him Dave. I had this student before – in my public speaking class last term – and found him to be… how shall I put this?… challenging. His demeanor is that of someone who couldn’t care less about the classes; to him, they are pointless hoops to be jumped through because someone, who obviously doesn’t know any better, says he has to. Dave is studying to be a chef; what possible good could English classes be to him?

Dave’s behavior in my classes has made him one of my least favorite students. His writing journal was filled with inappropriate entries about pornography and drug use. He doesn’t turn in homework. He ambles in whenever he feels like it, more often than not refuses to participate in in-class assignments, and spends a good portion of the class chatting and laughing and making a general disruption of himself with some of my other (not so favorite) students in the back of the room. It got to the point last term where I actually implemented a seating chart to separate him from his buddy in the back (who, in some sort of cosmic challenge, ended up in my class this term, too, which has made for ALL kinds of fun on Monday mornings).

Now, remember at the beginning of the term when I complained that only one of my students did the very first homework assignments I gave? Do you also remember the discussion I had with my boss about how to deal with that issue? As I promised, I gave an extra credit assignment at the mid-term, and Dave did it. Dave not only did the assignment, but did it well and on time and, consequently, earned full credit – the removal of four zeroes from his average.

Apparently, this was not enough for him.

I received this email from Dave the other day (please note that I have not altered the email in any way – this is cut and pasted from the original):

hey i was looking at the progress report you gave me and the extra credit i got the followinbg week back from you and i noticed that my grade did not rise at all in the class after factoring out the four zerros, I then calculated my grade and you have it marked down as me having a 67.3 on the report and a 67.3 after the extra credit. So i did the math myself and it should be a 69.26 before the extra credit and i cant have done the math wrong since the numbers are so close together. I just wanted to bring this to your attention so that we can see what is going on and resolve the situation.

I replied with a comment about how all my grading math is done by the program I use, then sent him a file copy of his grade from that same program. This file included all of his grades, including the four zeroes I removed from the average AND all the zeroes for the homework assignment he didn’t do.

This was in my inbox when I got home this afternoon:

but the figures you told me were the same and i put alot of time and effort into it and got less thana apoint added to my grade, i figured it would raise it more than that or i wouldnt have tried so hard, also how was my paper a 45? the facts are all factual and documented and the content is excelent, i feel i met more than adequatly met the requirements of the assignment and i feel my grade was no way near where it should be i should have at least passed the assignment, students that had a bullieted 1 1/2 page assignment got higher grades than i did and that is not right for the amount of effort that was put into it

I’ve responded (with carbon copies to my boss, another English professor and Dave’s culinary department head; I feel an undeniable urge to cover my ass) with this:

Dave:

I understand your concern for your grade, but I have to reiterate that I DID delete the four zeroes from your average, as I promised I would. The impact that deleting those zeroes had on your grade is a function of the math and is beyond my influence.

As far as your research paper is concerned, I am willing to have another teacher read and assess it. I infer from your e-mail that you feel I graded your paper unfairly; would having a disinterested third person determine a grade be agreeable to you? If so, please bring your paper (along with the rubric I used to grade it) to Mrs. Mooney at the front desk of the main campus building. E-mail me after you’ve delivered the paper; I will pick it up and have a colleague read and grade it and, if I feel it’s warranted, will adjust your grade.

This student is certainly presenting a learning opportunity for me. He’s not failing the class; at the moment, he’s got a 68 average. There’s no possible way I will grade him much higher than that; the work he has done (when he’s done it) has not deserved anything above a D. I will re-grade his research paper if my colleague thinks I graded too harshly, but I can’t see how that is going to matter all that much to his overall average (his was the Megadeth paper, by the way), especially considering he chose not to do the in-class assignment on Monday.

I’m not sure that I can convince Dave that his grade has nothing whatsoever to do with my personal feelings about him, and I’m hoping that having as many witnesses to our exchanges as possible (and having another professor confirm my grade, which I’m almost certain she will) will keep this entire exchange from getting ugly.

Wish me luck. I’ll keep you posted.

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Filed under General Griping, Teaching

I’ll Brag to You…

… but I’m not breathing a word of this to my students.

I spent the better part of yesterday morning cleaning up my desk. A term’s worth of composition class materials had been building up there, and was threatening to spill out into the kitchen (as it was, things were already creeping past the confines of the desk and onto the counter that we’d designated as belonging to the kitchen). I needed to get a handle on the paper before it threatened to get out of control.

In the process of cleaning up and organizing, I reprinted the comma and grammar quiz I gave to my students last week. When I originally printed the thing out, I had failed to change a couple of questions on it that I hated, and there was a typo on it (the finding of which earned the student an extra five points, by the way; further proof that I am kind and generous – see the title to the post immediately below this one…), so I fixed the problems and reprinted the quiz. Punkin’ Pie heard the printer running and went upstairs to retrieve it for me.

As she was coming down the stairs, she was reading the first page of the exam, which is entirely devoted to the correct placement of commas. She did the first sentence out loud (“he took Amy – comma – the girl with the freckles -comma – to the dance last night.”), correctly and to my loud and enthusiastic praise, so she asked if she could take the test with a pen. I printed off another copy of the first page and let her have at it.

The end result is that my almost-ten-year-old daughter scored an 80% on the quiz. Only 11 of my college students did as well or better than she did. Eleven. Not only that, but she found the two trickiest comma placements – one of which I know for SURE that only three of my students found.

I am so proud of her.

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Filed under little bits of nothingness

Proof That I am NOT a Heartless Bitch of a Teacher

I have a student who, as a result of a lot of extenuating circumstances in her life, has had significant trouble keeping up with the assignments in our composition class.

She came to me about two weeks ago – right around progress report time – to tell me that she was aware that she was in trouble but that she thought she could pull herself out of it. She was up-front and honest about her shortcomings and was COMPLETELY accepting of her responsibilities. She wasn’t asking me to let her off easy – she’s entirely willing to do anything I ask her to do to pass the class. It was refreshing to deal with her, and I’m more than happy to work with students like her:

Dear Jeanne:

I know I said we could talk today after class, and I’m sorry that my
meeting with my department head took so much longer than I thought it
would (I hoped that you’d still be in the room when I got back, but
totally understand why you weren’t).

How would you like to handle finishing this course? The way I see it,
we have two options: we can either submit a request for an
“incomplete,” which will give you an extension for finishing the work,
or you can jam on the assignments and finish them by the last official
day of class (which, if I’m not mistaken, is the 22nd, but I’m not sure
I’ll make us meet that day) and not have to worry about it beyond that.
Which would you prefer?

I’m thinking that what I want to give you to do will be completely
manageable for you in the time we have left, but that’s me assuming
that you don’t have a ton of other work to do for the rest of the
classes in your schedule. I have the utmost confidence in your writing
skills, and would pass you as it stands now if it weren’t for the fact
that you’ve missed quite a few assignments. The work I’ll give you
will likely just be the assignments that you haven’t completed – along
with a few quick-writes – certainly nothing overly intense or taxing.

Let me know how you want to handle it – whatever is best for you is
what I want, too. I’m invested in seeing you succeed.

Warmly,

-Mrs. Chili

I have every confidence that she’s going to do just fine, and I’ll be able to take one F off of my grade book.

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Filed under Teaching

Good Writing

As per Wayfarer‘s request, I give you an example of good writing from one of my students.

This was done in response to a quick-write assignment asking that the students describe something.  This student, who has proclaimed loudly and often that she hates this class and sees no point in it (this post was about her), has turned in almost nothing noteworthy all term.  For her, this piece represents an outstanding effort:

From the time that I was born until I was fourteen years old, I lived in Carson, KY.  I lived in a nice little neighborhood where there were plenty of children my age to play with.  There were hardly any homes with gates in their back yards, so the whole neighborhood was our playground.

My house was a simple, brown cape and my mother loved to garden.  We had all different types of trees, flowers and shrubs.  My mother even tried to grow a cherry tree in our front yard.  It was just a stick in the ground with a couple of small branches at the top.  The neighbors’ dog, Woodie, dug it up and ran down the street with it.

During the summer, the kids on my street would go riding our bikes, playing flashlight tag, basketball and all other sorts of fun things.  A lot of the times, my neighbor’s father would come home from a long day at work and then take all the kids out for ice cream.  All of the kids were really close, and we still keep in contact today

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Filed under about writing, success!, Teaching

In Lieu of Grammar Wednesday…

…I give you a sampling of some of the lines from my students’ research papers:

Farmers shove cows all together and fill yards as packed as they can just so they can make more meat product.  They also feed them cheap ground corn that is very unnatural for cows because cows normally eat grass, so feeding them corn is just fattening them and making it so they don’t have to pay as much.

 

Snow mobiles and mountain bikes ar not as bad for the enviornment as the other ATVs.  The article says that since snow mobiles run on the show the do very little damage to the soil or ecco system.  Running on the show saves the roots and the soil around the roots a lot of damage.

 

People have tried very hard to prove that aspartame is somehow linked to brain tumors, but the Food and Drug Administration will not back down from their original approval.  Europe has shown a possibility in formaldehyde in the brain, which the FDA admitted that this may happen.

 

Megadeth is more than just a band.  They were activists, enviornmentalists, politicians and Wild men all wrapped up in one.  Megadeth was music with a purpose.  Every song tells its own story about be it extinction of species, to political agendas, stretching as far as songs about what it feels like to lose the one you care about most.

 

Most people hate farmed fish they say it’s bland and is full of chemicals and is bad for you and the planet but I say there wrong.  The U.S. currently dose not have a standard for organically raised fish, so if you see organic and its salmon it is most likely from another country where the restrictions are easer and cost is a lot cheaper but it is a lot better than Atlantic farmed salmon.

 

When using eggs they should always be cold.  If a recipe calls for room temperature egg whites it is necessary to separate the eggs while they are cold.  Any baked products that need flavor, richness, moiture, or color eggs are put into a recipe.

 

Located in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Most likely haunted by a poltergeist or noisy spirit.  Like many other haunted places, noises are heard when no one is around, lights turn off and on when the house is empty, there have been reports of moving objects, banging doors, foot steps, and cold spots.

 

Soon after the succes of The French Laundry Thomas Keller and his brother Joseph Keller (currently owner/chef at Joseph’s in Las Vegas) opened Bouchon in 1998.  This new restaurant located just a few streets down, it served moderately price French bistro fare, which the Bouchon Bakery opened next door. 

I swear on my favorite anthologies; I’m not making ANY of this up…..

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Outside Confirmation

I collected (most of) the research papers from my Monday class yesterday and, while this morning’s class was deeply engaged in a grammar and comma quiz, I began the task of reading and grading them.

testpanic.jpegMy experience with the Monday kids has taught me that my expectations should be very low.  Sadly, not only have I not been disappointed, but I’ve had to readjust a bit to accommodate the reality of what the students submitted.

After about the fourth paper, I knew it was time to call in reinforcements.  Organic Mama is also an English teacher (and a fine one, at that) and has a wealth of experience as an editor; she is the first person I go to when I need to do a reality-check on my standards or my grading performance.  Fortunately, she had invited my chicklets and me to dinner at her place tonight, so I brought my paper-filled briefcase along.

I gave Mama a paper that I hadn’t read yet – one that happened to be from one of the strongest students in the class – and asked her to read it.  She couldn’t mark or edit it (which made her a little crazy) because I didn’t want her corrections influencing my reading of the paper.  My idea was that we would both read the student’s work, assess it based on the rubric I’d created, then compare notes.

When it was all over, we came to damned near the same grade for this representative paper.  She graded a little harder on one standard than I did, and I graded a little harder on one standard than she did, but we were dead-on with everything else.

This tells me two things.  The first thing this tells me is that I am being neither overly lenient nor overly harsh in my grading standards.  I’ve gotten confirmation from Mama that I’m looking at the papers in a balanced and considered way.

The second thing it tells me is that I am not being an unreasonable, irrational bitch when I say that these papers objectively suck.

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Filed under about writing, concerns, General Griping, Learning, Teaching