Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Students say the darndest things...

I tried posting this before, but I've found that one of the new and improved features of the stupid new beta blogger that they made me upgrade to is that it no longer works on Macs, which is very convenient when all you have at home is a Mac. Yep, it's definitely a huge upgrade. Why is it that people can never leave well enough alone? Why are we constantly getting pointless upgrades that serve only to make life more of a hassle? Ah, but before I sound like too much of an elderly curmudgeon, on with the post I originally wrote at home and then was published as a blank entry.

I recently finished grading somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 term papers, which was not a task I looked forward to, for many reasons. There's the obvious reason that I don't particularly enjoy spending a solid week doing basically nothing but reading student papers. But more so than that, I was scared of the papers themselves. I've graded papers before, both as an undergrad and a grad student, so I was long ago disabused of the notion that college students can write. For example, in the short essays on their midterm, this was a popular response:

Question: Define the term "secret deviance"

Answer: Secret deviance is deviance that is secret.

Brilliant! You know, when you read things like this, it's almost insulting. I mean, did they really think a response like this would garner them many points? Well, everything garners some points, because I'm a softie, but not very many. It kind of blows the mind. What was the thought process? Were students sitting their thinking "All right, I wrote the word down again and added two more words and made a sentence out of it. I nailed it!"?

Well, it turns out the term papers were much, much better. Though I'm sure some sort of ethics code prevents me from reprinting any portion of them here, I wish I could, as they were some pretty amazing essays. The assignment was to write about your own deviant career over the years and do the obligatory sociological explanation of it all. But what these folks wrote about was pretty amazing. Many of the students in the class have been through so much more than I'll ever see, and they seem to have come out of it pretty well.

So I guess that's the trade-off for academia--spending all weekend grading papers instead of having fun, but ending up with much more faith in humanity. I guess I'll take that.

1 comment:

A Miller said...

Hi Jessie,

Great Blog entry. Gives me hope to read that some of our TAs and students are ending the semester on a good note. Thank you for all your hard work with our undergrad students and faculty.