Wednesday, May 24, 2006

DoN Challenge: You Be the Teacher!

Okay, so here's a conundrum for all of you in the "real world", and by that term, I mean the world outside the confines of education. Because, you know, it's different here on The Inside. On The Inside, all logic is suspended and all laws of physics, science, and everything else that defines normalcy is/are just plain up for grabs.

Here goes. Today, I handed back my sophomore honors students' essays over The Catcher in the Rye. They had had three days in class to work on them, confer with me, peer conference, yadda yadda yadda. The essays, they knew, had a significant impact on their 4th quarter grades. Many students were disappointed in the grade they earned on the paper. After they had read the extensive comments I made on the papers, the mutterings began. Without fail in each class, the following plaintive cry comes to me: "But I worked really hard on this! I spent hours! And I typed it! How could I have done so bad on it?"

Here is your question: What is the proper response to this? No, really. Keep in mind that, almost without exception, this is coming from a student that never came to my desk to ask for any assistance. That this student had three days in class to take advantage of my individual assistance. That this student was shown a model of how to do this essay--each paragraph, the intro, the conclusion, the citations. That this student truly believes with all his/her heart that he/she "worked hard" on it. That to them TIME, no matter how it is spent, is the measuring stick here, not the product. And that, somehow, I am supposed to know how much time was spent and figure it in, regardless of the product of said time. And--this is critical--that this is an honors student who really doesn't want to hear the answer to this question unless it is "You didn't. I made a mistake. You really got an A."

I hate any essay return day. It is excruciating. It is either the best day in the life of a student or the worst. It is Drama All Over The Place. And the aftermath is just as bad. My school email inbox and voice mail will be flooded with Honors Parents, anxious about the nemesis of every teacher, Extra Credit. "Can Biff do a 17-page book report on War and Peace by Friday for Extra Credit?" "Can Buffy do a 65 slide multimedia extravaganza on The Life Of J.D. Salinger, including an Original Song tonight and present it to you after school tomorrow for Extra Credit?" Or worse: "Can Belvedeere rewrite his paper with corrections? He was confused and upset because we had to have his iguana put to sleep and I just know it affected him." AAARRRGGGHHHHHH. And at least one or two of them will demand a conference with me and the principal. Every end of the school year is fraught with this shit and I hate it.

So, you play teacher in the comments. Give me the perfect spiel. I'll edit the post and tell you what I usually say. I sure hope your ideas are better. At the very least, give me something to hang onto to get me through till June 7.

It can't be summer soon enough.


  1. Anonymous3:17 AM

    They like DRAMA--go for a dramatic response.

    "I worked so hard to teach you this! I made myself available for hours to help you! And still I get socked with mediocrity? Do you know how much TIME I spent preparing, teaching, and grading this unit? I deserve better!"

    Or you could pull a Forrest Gump, "All I have to say is: stupid is as stupid does. And some people are SO STUPID it takes them twice as long to get a D."

  2. Oooh, V-grrrl, your dramatic comment comes darn close to what I actually say. And, without the sarcasm, so does your Gump. Are you a teacher,too?

  3. Anonymous8:41 AM

    Hi Nance,

    No I'm not a teacher, just a parent who hates excuses.

  4. Anonymous10:23 AM

    I take online classes at a community college and I work MY heart out on a paper and it is returned with NO comment. I get 100% but I know there is something that they could say, trust me, I'm not that good of a writer. It is really frustrating, I think that they read so many mediocre papers that when they read a paper that is coherent they just mark an "A" and move on.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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