10 Reasons I Hate Grading Your Assignment: Blogiversary Post #2

mflfn0II hesitate to put this post out there again!  Not only does it feel outdated (I haven’t asked for a paper copy of an at-home assignment in three years), but at the time it was published, it attracted some passionate critics (and defenders); if you go to the original and read the comments, you will see what I mean.  I came of age as a blogger when this post went moderately viral and I got my first taste of what it means to blog for the “public” and not just for a small and like-minded group of readers.

Nonetheless, it is the 9th-most-shared post I’ve ever written, and it still gets a fair number of views at the end of each semester/year when teachers everywhere are apoplectic and need someone to vent for them.  What’s more, it tickles me to look back at the quaint concerns we had in 2009, like printer ink and Hotmail.

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Ten Reasons I Hate Grading Your Assignment

10. You don’t double-space. You KNOW that I take formatting points off when you don’t double-space. Double-space does NOT mean space-and-a-half. We’ve discussed this.

9. Your printer ink is not black. You KNOW that I take formatting points off when you print in blue, purple or green. You also know that if your print is pale, smudgy grey, I will stomp on your paper in a rage. I told you this in class, twice. You need to change your printer cartridge if you want to get an A.

8. You send me your paper by email only. Let me explain this policy again. If you do not place your paper directly in my hands – if, for example, you slide it under my office door – you should email me a copy to confirm the time you submitted it. The email, however, does not replace your hard copy. I can’t print everyone’s paper – do you know what printer ink costs? Of course you don’t. You don’t print your assignments.

7. You don’t send me your paper by email. Ok, let’s review. If you did NOT email me your late paper in addition to submitting the hard copy, I don’t know when you submitted it. The term is over; I’m not sitting in my office waiting for your paper to shoot through the gap under the door.

6. You didn’t follow the structure guidelines. You wrote numbered paragraphs instead of an essay, or an essay instead of numbered paragraphs. You answered in point form instead of full sentences. You handed in a collection of random thoughts that you printed directly from your Hotmail inbox. Yes you did – the Hotmail logo is on the top of the page!

5. You haven’t answered the question. Let me be clear: this paper is great. It’s insightful and well-organized and even funny in parts. What’s more, you being who you are, I’m pretty sure you wrote it yourself. The problem is, you didn’t do the assignment. You wrote a very good paper about the texts we studied that has nothing to do with the question(s) you were asked to address. This paper is going to get a failing grade, and this is going to keep me up tonight.

4. You didn’t proofread after printing. You’ve repeated your introductory paragraph halfway into your essay for no discernible reason. There also seems to be a page missing.

3. You didn’t proofread at all, at any point. I’ve been reading your work all semester, so I know you’re capable of writing comprehensible English sentences, but in this paper you have frequently left out important nouns, switched from present to past tense and back again (ALWAYS WRITE ABOUT LITERATURE IN THE PRESENT TENSE. How many times do I have to say it?), misspelled “their” and “friend” (sometimes your spell check really does know the answer; all you have to do is look at the screen) and forgotten to capitalize. Were you high when you wrote this?

2. You copied parts of your paper from the Internet. I’m not even going to discuss this with you. Zero.

1. You didn’t write this paper. I don’t know who did. You didn’t copy it from SparksNotes or a classmate. You simply handed the guidelines over to someone – either your girlfriend or an essay mill or someone who owes you protection money – and he or she wrote it for you. Now I have to call you into my office and sit you down and either try to trick you into a confession or quiz you on the paper content or announce that, regardless of the fact that I have no concrete proof, I know you didn’t write this and you’re not getting credit for it. The depth and breadth of my rage about this is inexpressible. No matter what delightful experiences I’ve had with my classes this semester, this is what I’m going to remember. What’s more, I fully expect you to drag me through mediation and/or grades review, so this situation is going to escalate over the coming months. I’m tempted to pretend I don’t notice that you didn’t write this. But I’m not going to pretend I don’t notice, and I’m going to be sorry.

Image by Richard Dudley

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14 responses

  1. Great post my friend. Perhaps you can tell your students that I, a little miniature pot bellied pig, will be grading their next assignment – snorts. Maybe that will make them listen? Snorts – have a great one! XOXO – Bacon

  2. I am thoroughly enjoying this – the original post sounds all too familiar & I’m still on summer holidays. I felt like I was back in my classroom and there was an echo. Better than that, was the responses – I won’t even comment on.

    SiobhanC: I too have had a “few months off” this year, as I contemplated whether to continue in this field – what I learned: I can’t stop: I love seeing them with their “a-ha” moment. I love coaching them to be the people they want to become. I’ve learned not to give (at this point) anything to mgmt who has no clue what it takes to be teaching. I’m getting my “out of class rewards” from their parents – who must hear some wicked stories at home, about how strict I am and what not, but who back me up – high school parents seem to be more sympathetic than the college group. I’m about to embark on my M.Ed. – why? So I can have a bigger stage & audience.

    You are able to put into words what I don’t have enough time for – and I love the laughter it provides. Thanks for posting & keep it going – there’s not enough entertainment in our industry and this is quite the salve. Lovely!

    • Katherine: Yes, writing the original post was quite a release, and the vitriol that it inspired was baffling to me! That said, I have come quite a way since then, and I now greet problems like incorrect spacing and even, in some cases, plagiarism with mild, resigned exasperation instead of rage. I’m glad this post gave you a laugh!

  3. Even after two blissful months of not grading a single paper, this post still resonates with me. I’m a high school English teacher who is just dipping her toes into the blogging world. I would so appreciate it if you’d stop by!

    • When I first started teaching CEGEP, typewritten (as opposed to computer printed) papers were one clue; paper mills seemed to use them, as though they thought teachers would find them less suspicious. One incident that comes to mind is a student who was failing miserably all term and then handed in a grad-school-level thematic analysis of Life of Pi. When I consulted with him and tried to discuss the paper with him, he was unable to explain a single idea in it. He took me to mediation when I charged him with plagiarism, and then stopped showing up to proceedings; a phone call to his mother finally revealed that he had left town for the summer to sell t-shirts in Florida. As far as I know, the case was never resolved, although I did spot him in the corridors of the college the following semester.

  4. I’m still in college (to hopefully become a teacher and then professor), but I always feel so bad for my professors when it’s time for them to grade papers. I’ve overheard some of the conversations with other students they’ve had, and I just don’t understand. I’m far from the best student, but come on now.

    • Tempest: It’s one thing when students truly don’t understand, or when they try to do things and don’t get them quite right – it’s another when they just don’t bother! There’s not a lot a teacher can do in those cases.

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