10 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 crack 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. 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 computer screen) and forgotten to capitalize. Were you on drugs 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.


63 thoughts on “10 Reasons I Hate Grading Your Assignment

    1. I find it strange that someone who chooses teaching as a career feels the need to belittle 14-17 year old teenagers.


  1. I pasted an excuse from one of my students. As you can guess, I have been available for this dude all semester and have clearly posted office hours and paper guidelines, as well as regularly-held classes. Do you think I have seen any drafts from him for any papers this semester?





    1. Just awesome. Much like my guy who, a week after the first paper was due, said he put his essay in internal mail (see reason #7 above) and then when I said I’d give him SOMETHING if he submitted the paper right away, sent it to me three days later with the excuse that his aunt had died. I won’t even get into the footwork around later assignments. Teaching them the ramifications of this stuff is part of our job. A part that I hate.


  2. I am impressed by how much you seem to care given what you have to deal with(or is that “how much with which you have to deal”? ugh)

    I hope, and I am sure they are, that many of your students are impressed too.


  3. wasateacher:
    Some days I really do care. Others…well, it’s amazing what a couple of swigs of gin will accomplish.


  4. Just reading this gets my dander up! Your post is taking the thoughts straight from my last month’s brain. Augh! I’m sending you calming thoughts (those I can find lying around this time of year!).

    Oh, and for #10? A strategy I learned from a former department chair: photocopy the paper. White-out phrases or words that are particularly not this student, and ask him to fill in the blanks. See what ensues.


  5. A very long time ago before there was an Internet, I wrote an essay for a friend on Trafalgar. I was kind of history buff and liked the subject. It was a good essay.

    My friend got his paper back with a big fat F on it. I was stunned and insulted. It was completely original and properly noted. Why did “I” get an F? I demanded my friend go to the teacher and get an answer.

    A week later my friend came into my dorm room. The history professor simply asked him what happened at Trafalgar. My idiot friend did not even take the time to read the essay and just sat there in shameful silence.

    Now I see the story from the other side. I am sorry for the pain and anger I caused. But still – It was damn good essay and I didn’t deserve an F. 🙂


  6. Kmuzu:
    I love it that you now see the error of your ways!

    I can only hope that my plagiarizing students look back someday and see things from your perspective.

    (And I can’t help but feel a surge of pride and triumph for your friend’s teacher – as angry as I’m sure he was, he must have felt some satisfaction in seeing your friend squirm…)


  7. You’re just a ridiculously bitchy, arrogant woman and I find you to be horrible, not only in the way that you rant, but the way you portray women in general. You should enjoy your job, and respect the fact that you deal with those less capable than you- not throw a hissyfit.


    1. I think if she felt they weren’t capable of doing what she asked of them, it wouldn’t make her so irate when they failed to meet those expectations.


  8. Bad teacher, bad bad baaaaaaaad teacher…You are exactly the type of teacher that made me hate school and keeps me awake at night thinking someday I will have to send my children to meet people like YOU.
    You should care about what your students LEARN, not HOW they learn or HOW they present their work. Shame on you.
    This type of thinking is at the core of the educational system: teach people how to follow orders and fear the system, don’t teach them to think.
    You should quit teaching. You are contributing to everything that’s bad in the world. I am so sad for you.
    Go make a military career. Giving orders, having submissive people follow your orders and killing people suits you better.
    Excuse me for my English, I am not a native speaker. My English teacher had those exact same methods you are describing above.
    Now I am going to be sad all day because you reminded me of how stupid teachers can be and how much they contribute to raise stupid people.


    1. Xannax, part of the educational process is learning how to submit things properly. When you are in the real world, you are very frequently expected to submit memos, letters, and other written materials in a very specific format. When resumes are submitted, the person in charge of reading those resumes first checks to see if your resume is formatted like THEY want it to be formatted. If it isn’t, it’s very likely that your resume will never even be read. Other professional documents have their own formatting guidelines, and again, they are frequently not even READ if the documents do not meet the guidelines set forth. Most employers assume that if you are too stupid to take three minutes to find out how they expect a document to be submitted, you are also too stupid for anything you have written to be worth their time. They might occasionally miss out on otherwise good ideas because of this, but that is not their fault.

      There is a very good reason that university teachers give students formatting guidelines – because students in university are SUPPOSED to have enough sense to LISTEN to or READ the many, many, many instructions their professors give them.

      I am very sorry you appear to have never actually learned from your English teacher, but it’s obvious from your attitude that your own pride prevented you from appreciating the ways in which your teacher was attempting to prepare you for the real world.


  9. I used to be a teacher, so I can relate!

    What some people don’t seem to realize is that you’re not just teaching English or math or history (or whatever). You’re teaching about getting work complete on time, correctly.

    Try telling your boss that you didn’t finish an important project because of (insert excuse here) and see how that goes for you. Or maybe explain that you didn’t do the work as asked because you’re a non-conformist and don’t want to follow orders.

    Good luck with that.

    Doing something incorrectly isn’t the same as being a genius who does it BETTER.


  10. I think learning “HOW” to present your work is pretty important. It’s important in the workplace.

    In an English class, especially, learning to write properly is part of the subject matter. In many cases, that’s the whole point of the course.

    I don’t think letting someone be late or sloppy with their work is teaching them to think. I don’t think teaching them form is neglecting that. The purpose of essay writing is TO THINK and to present your thoughts in a way that is accessible to others. Things like grammar and form are the way we do that. You can have brilliant ideas, but if they’re not presented in a readable way, they won’t be read.

    Similarly, things like plagarism cannot be tolerated. Do you propose that they should? Should students be allowed to take credit for the work of others? That’s hardly a good learning experience.

    Either way, I don’t see how that’s comparable to killing people. Glad you were paying attention when you were taught hyperbole, I suppose.


  11. Britt,

    Get a life.

    I can only assume that you are either one of the offending students or an instructor who has gone to the dark side, passing on students who don’t deserve to pass in order to avoid work.

    I teach Eng. 102 at a school that uses hundreds upon hundreds of adjuncts. I am one. Because these schools essentially use us as slave labor, the incentive for an adjunct to actually do his or her job is minimal (literally minimum wage if you do your job right). The tendency is to simple glance at the papers and pass those students who act nice, write in something resembling English, and who manage to turn in papers on time. That means that many students with little to no skill get passed on to me. Because I believe in actually teaching and holding students responsible, I often flunk them, and they go berserk, demanding investigations etc. We need to quit treating college and high school as a gimme machine where merely showing up and not eating your fellow students means a passing grade.

    My suggestion: flunk them. Be harsh, be demanding, quit treating school like a social finishing academy. We need ditch-diggers and fast-food shovelers, so let them flunk. I won’t miss them. The intelligent students won’t miss them. The motivated students won’t miss them. I won’t be taxed by thugs and eye-rollers and can really teach those who genuinely want to be there.

    On the subject of funerals, etc.: I inform my students at the beginning of each semester that my class is perhaps the most dangerous class they will ever take. On average, four grandmothers/grandfathers, three cousins, and one sibling will die as a direct result of taking my class. In addition, you will be fifty times more likely to suffer an illness that will cause you to be bedridden, your doctor will only have appointments available during class, your car will suddenly become a piece of crap, or it will be in a wreck, precisely on the day of our class and, to boot, just before it. I know you can’t replace your car, and your doctor works in mysterious ways, but please, please, I beg you all: Go home and speak one last time with your beloved relatives and inform them that you must get this college degree and one or more of them will have to die for that to happen.


    1. I wish I’d thought of that! Great. I used to tell my students that I gave grades based on where they sat: first seat in the row got an A, second seat a B, etc. I never had too much trouble filling the front seats. I just think with high school students being outrageous really can get results when “brute force” doesn’t work.


  12. 10) Is it really THAT big a deal that its space-and-a-half rather than double space? I understand that double space makes it easier to grade, but space and a half is not that much different.

    9) I don’t always have black printer ink, granted i wont print in purple or green because that’s unreasonable to expect someone to read, but i try to get close; plus “do you know what printer ink costs? Of course you don’t.” You don’t print you rants.

    8) Email is far easier to check for errors and plagiarism so take the break and just grade it online.

    7) At least I submitted it, which is surprising considering how much you like to complain. Don’t give me a grade, I just tuned it in to shut you up.

    6) People are dumb, I actually can’t argue with you on this one, i agree.

    5) Basically the same issue you brought up in #6 don’t be redundant you were just starting to win me over.

    4) Ok #6,5, and 4 can be combined into one statement: “Don’t hand me and incomplete paper.” Your down to only 7 reasons so far.

    3) See #4

    2) Im gunna go ahead and just combine #1 and 2 now seance you clearly can’t be bothered to do it your self.

    1) See #2

    Over all your 10 reason rant only ended up having about 5, and that’s the reason im gunna have to give you and “F” on this paper, see me after class, and don’t be such a tool.


    1. Such a spectacular example of why we need to flunk these semi-literate, overly-touchy, self-esteem junkies.

      Learn to spell, to think, and to edit, and you may get a modicum of respect. Otherwise, you just made a boo-boo all over yourself, and yet you demand our respect.


  13. Now, I would never even dream of letting these things show up in my own papers that I have handed in…

    But frankly, you sound like a bitch. I don’t know how you actually break it to your students when this crap comes up in your papers, but if it were as sarcastic and bitchy as these, I would probably drop your class. If that was impossible, I would do everything perfectly so that I wouldn’t have to deal with your bitchiness!

    Well I guess you should keep up the bitchiness because your students wouldn’t want to deal with it and they will do everything perfect! Problem solved!



    1. Isn’t it weird that students worry more about a instructor’s demeanor than what that instructor can teach?

      I rarely hear a student complain that an instructor teaches too well. Students who refuse to do their job as students and then complain that the instructor held them accountable and therefore is a “bitch” deserve that career in the hospitality field.

      I could only hope that such students drop my class. Hallelujah!


      1. There are different ways to hold a student accountable is all I’m saying.

        Like I said before, I’ll format all my papers however you like them, just lay it out and we won’t have any problems.

        Maybe this instructor is brilliant in the classroom, I don’t know. I’m just saying that from what I have gathered from this blog post, she sounds like a bitch.



      2. Wait… why would a student complain that an instructor teaches too well?

        I think complaining about an instructor’s demeanor is a fair thing. I’ve had profs & teachers who had attitudes that made learning from them harder. When instructors have a negative attitude, that has an impact on learning.

        That said, I’ve had some unplesant teachers who taught subject matter adequately, and friendly teachers who didn’t. But it’s still a factor, and if you’re paying for your tuition, it’s important.


      3. My dear, if my teachers flunked me for not double spacing I would tell them: “Quite frankly, fuck you.”
        I’m a better writer than most teachers could ever hope to be and I’m quite proud of it. It’s teachers like you that repress students and make them dread going to an English class, even though it is a subject they would one day love to pursue.
        There is honestly no reason for so much nit-picking. I can understand the printing issue, e-mail issue, the color issue, but the style and format of the paper are not something you should be able to judge.
        I had a teacher question my paper once, because I made absolutely no effort in her class. The reason for this was because she was a complete prude and a fat, maniacal bitch. That might be a little exaggerated, but you get the point. So when we finished the grammar portion of our learning, she was shocked to find that I could write well and she repeatedly told me she didn’t believe it was my work.
        It was my work, every bit of it. It drove me mad that she was so shallow and stupid. So maybe you should re-think number one just a bit.


    2. When I was a freshman (9 years ago, now), I heard every single non-English Major (and quite a few English majors) complaining about one specific teacher, claiming you were almost guaranteed to fail his class and talking about what a horrible teacher he was. He happened to sub for an absolutely horrible teacher that many of these same students loved, and I realized what was going on – he was actually teaching, while the other professor, whom everyone seemed to love, was just barely presenting any challenge at all.

      My sophomore year, I knew I had to take a course from this “evil” teacher. I took my first American Lit survey and ended up with a C, because all I’d had up until then had been courses from professors like the one everyone loved. For this “evil” professor’s class, you were expected to have actually paid attention in your freshman English classes, and you were expected to actually pay attention in class and read the material he assigned. If you decided you would just coast by on Cliff’s Notes, you would fail. If you decided to occasionally zone out in class, you might not fail, but your grade would suffer.

      That was the best course I ever took, and he remained one of my favorite teachers throughout my college career. I never made less than a B in his classes after that first class, and managed an A in one class (one of the proudest moments of my college career).

      Students who weren’t willing to do the work swore he was evil incarnate, that he was mean, cruel, sadistic, and the list goes on, but surprisingly, every student who WAS willing to do the work loved him and left his classes MUCH better off for the experience.


    1. Fred, how is your comment even remotely relevant? Did you read the post? Did you think about its contents? If you disliked the post, at least bother to give an opinion on its contents rather than using expletives and insults which merely show you have nothing of interest to say.


    2. Fred, I believe this teacher is giving students the chance to make a better grade. Just shut up and grade the paper means that many students, yourself included no doubt, will fail for failing to comply with some fairly basic guidelines.


  14. By the way I’ve never had a problem in the classroom. I’ve been very lucky with the instructors I have had from HS through college.

    I’m just sick of this ‘me VS. you’ attitude some teachers bring into the classroom. Get off your high horse, and maybe we can learn a thing or two from each other.


    1. Good for you–not having a problem in the classroom.

      It is not “me vs. them.”

      It is me vs. thugs, eye-rollers, layabouts, time-wasters, manipulators, liars, cheats, and crybabies.

      The rest of the class gets along famously with me, and I with them.

      I do not want to learn anything from that group I list above. What would I learn? Thuggishness? No thanks.

      The day I pay you to teach me, I will arrive at your classroom on time, prepared, willing to work, willing to participate, respectful, and engaged. I will not get in an ego-joust with you since, presumably, you know more than I do on this subject which you are teaching. If not, why take your course?

      No, there is no high horse, just the mistaken belief that students are somehow co-teachers. They are not. That you mention the high horse is a strong indication that it is your ego that is offended and not your actual being. In other words, you are more worried about ego damage than your education.


  15. Yeah, I don’t know. I’d give people a break for the black ink issue, unless it’s the final, and you’ve brought it up several times. I mean, not everyone is computer savvy, and some people buy printers that will never work right unless you really know what you’re doing.

    And for anyone about to buy a printer for school, buy a $80 black and white laser printer. By the time the toner runs out, you’d have wasted another $100-$200 on replacement ink cartridges for an inkjet, and the toner is always black. Plus, it prints faster, isn’t noisy, and doesn’t jam.

    Also, don’t blame drugs for bad papers. I know plenty of people who write bad papers sober, and several people who write excellent papers stoned.


    1. Though, I suppose that if you can’t make your printer print black, you’re not going to get a job, either. So in that college is preparing you for the slap in the face that life is, keep up the good face-slapping! 🙂


  16. On your #1 point, I remember a teacher in high school giving me a ‘D’ on a paper because she didn’t believe that I had written it. I concede that I wasn’t the most driven student to that point in my high school career, her class being a blaring example of that, but, after she had challenged me to put some effort into just ONE of her assignments, I finally did, and what did I get for it? A freakin’ D! and note to the effect of “next time you copy from a book, please do us both a favor and not make it so obvious.”
    It was an inner-city school, and I was from a particularly unsophisticated background, so I felt I had no means of fighting it other than my word. Conversely, at the time she had no tool (e.g. the internet) to check whether or not I was telling the truth. Nevertheless, the ‘D’ was permanent and that pretty much sealed the deal on why I wasn’t willing to work in junior high and high school. I was never stimulated, and when I finally did respond I was shunned. Thanks a LOT to teachers who can’t let go of predispositions. That’s REAL open-minded of you.


  17. Xannax,
    Maybe it would be good to stand in the teacher’s shoes for a minute.
    It may make you a little less sad and a lot more balanced in your judgment.
    Have you ever tried to read 50 single-spaced papers printed in light ink? (Or 20, or 10…)
    Does it matter, do you think, that students may or may not be answering what was asked or following the guidelines (which, of course, makes it really difficult to grade them fairly)?
    Is it unfair to expect a student who has not been able to hand in a paper on time (and reasons for that go from the justifiable to the surreal) to be responsible for ensuring the teacher gets it? Or do you think the teacher should be just sitting there at the student’s beck and call? (While the other 49 single-spaced, light ink papers await.)
    Is it unfair, under those circumstances, to expect the student to adapt to the teacher’s needs in such things as e-mails to confirm the date a paper was finally handed in? Is it reasonable for the teacher not to want just emails since that requires his or her time and expense to pay for what was the student’s responsibiity?
    Does it matter that someone hands in a paper without taking the time to read it even once to see if it makes sense? By the way, I guess that like the rest of us, when something is really badly written you just drop it and take up something else… But have you ever been FORCED to read such a text AND assess it fairly -especially when you often know that what’s at stake is carelessness, not ignorance?
    What about plagiarism? Just another way of learning?!
    For a teacher to care about any of this -regardless of how much passion he or she uses to express it- is is a sign of committment to students. Would an indifferent teacher be better? Would an undemanding one who is fine with whatever students do, be preferable?
    I agree that just following orders is not the way to teach students how to think.
    However, it seems to me that what you are calling “orders” are just logistic rules of the game so the thinking you wish for can occur. None of what is in those ten points -which are in fact pretty good example of end of semester humor- has to do with thinking, just with how you make those thoughts readable to your inteded audience… just your basic think responsibly! So that we don’t become stupid people… and so that teachers don’t feel the need for Xanax.


  18. I have to confess I ranted without really thinking there was room for constructive criticism, so let me apologize for the tone and explain what I meant.
    First, let me take a few steps back: Yeah, I went overboard with my hyperbole, as Colin says. Sorry for this.
    I also just want to say I am going to be teaching in a few months, so I really care about this discussion.
    Ok, here we go:
    Of course, people should not be allowed to be late, or sloppy. I believe education should be firm. When I was a student, I was in constant rebellion against most of my teachers, but some earned my respect. Those who did were rarely “cool”. Most of them were hard and demanding. I am preparing to be a teacher myself (in a few months), and I am going to give my students hell. But that alone is not sufficient to make a good teacher.
    Plagiarism should not be tolerated, nor should grammar or typos. But;
    What does it matter if there is double-space or not?
    What does it matter if the text is green, blue, or dark pink, as long as it is readable?
    Why does it matter if it’s sent by email or by paper?
    Those rules are simply, in my opinion, there to sink students that could enjoy the class but just can’t fit in the system.
    There is in each class two to three students that are particularly smart, gifted even, I would say, and who do genuine efforts to improve, but those rules breaks them. Some people just can’t fit in that kind of system. Most of my friends were like this. Those students sit usually apart, are either respected or bullied by the other students, but are left alone. Those people, later in life, grow to be fairly important people, artists, movie makers, advertising creatives, etc…
    I mean, what I like to do most in life is learn. I knew all about biology long before biology class, I learned physics on my own long before physics class. I used to read one book a day for years. I enjoyed reading my school books, I used to read them cover to cover several times before the first day at school. School should have been fun for me, right? But it was hell. I am not exagerating when I say that passing near my old school makes me want to puke.
    I am not against rules, only against arbitrary rules.
    And, @joanie: Yes you are right. But that’s exactly what makes me angry. If the school system was more logical and allowed for non-conformist to perform, or rather, if there was no word such as “non-conformist” because the system would be thought in such a way that “conformism” would mean nothing, your boss WOULD accept that you submit your work in a non-conformist way. it all begins in school. That’s exactly why I wouldn’t be sad if the same article was written by a boss addressing employees.
    @Cherenkov: What I regret in your article is that you sound bitter. Your way of teaching lacks love. Your tone lacks love. the intent to teach is not obvious. In my opinion you should teach as if you had a sacred mission. You have the most beautiful, the hardest, the less rewarding, and the most important job of western civilization. Please be aware I am not judging you: I do not know you. I am only saying what your article reflects (in my opinion).
    On the subject of funerals: great. I would’ve enjoyed such a speech and I would have liked you on day one. In fact, this is what pushed me to post again. It seems you do care about your students, something that was not obvious in your article.


    1. >>> What does it matter if there is double-space or not?

      To leave space to indicate corrections.

      >>> What does it matter if the text is green, blue, or dark pink, as long as it is readable?

      I’ve actually had instructors who don’t care about the colour of ink for this reason. But it’s not exactly professional, especially in the workforce, to use coloured ink. Sure, teachers could change the school system and say it’s fine. Then people would get to work, use it, and be confused by their bosses who don’t take them seriously.

      Besides all of that, academic writing is supposed to be somewhat bland. You’re not supposed to be using fancy literary devices, or dressing up your papers with colour, illustration, etc. It’s a content-focused approach. The goal is to present arguments, and things that subtract from that goal are supposed to be removed.

      Don’t worry, society has plenty of room left for aesthetics. I provide my clients with colourful marketing reports. I write my university essays in black Times print using standard MLA format.

      >>> Why does it matter if it’s sent by email or by paper?

      This specific instructor is saying that paper is the standard way, because the instructor shouldn’t have to print off assignments to mark it. Email submission is only used as a time-stamp for LATE submissions. The instructor still wants a hard copy, but the purpose of the email submission is to rule out ambiguity over submission times. That makes perfect sense to me.


      1. The thing about email is that there’s absolutely ZERO reason in this day and age that the paper EVER needs to be printed BY ANYONE. Turn on Track Changes, under Tools, in the Word menu, and go to town. You can make corrections, write comments, etc… Then just go to Save As, under the File menu, and add the word “corrected” to the file name. You email it back to the student.

        This allows timestamps on both ends, as well as copies of the original submission AND the graded paper on both ends. In addition, the prof has a digital copy with which to conduct online plagiarism searches.


    2. Bitter? No. I know I am a great teacher.

      Frustrated? Yes.

      You see, there is a basic conundrum here. The school system is designed to create cogs for the capitalist machine, nothing more, nothing less. The powers that be do not want well-educated, thinking people as they tend to be creative and disruptive and demand things like universal health care and fair wages. No. They want good little automatons.

      I teach students to think, and this makes them uncomfortable. They are used to being presented with a few simple hoops to jump through which merely repeat the dominant paradigm. I make them really consider the world, to question the basis for our society.

      The “creative” students you allude to regarding the color of ink they use are not really creative. Think about it. Their entire creativity is expressed in the purchase of a pink Bic? That’s just sad. No, the real creatives absorb what you say, master the rules then use them, or break them, in their real lives to carve out a niche that does not fit the standard societal model. The classroom is not their primary life arena.

      The reason there are formats is because there are rules. Why rules? Because this nearly fascistic society requires that you conform. Our job is essentially to keep students from challenging the status quo. If you want to really break out of the paradigm, teach them about peak oil, global climate change, the ongoing extinction event, and the impending population crash. Teach them about our food system that uses ten calories of fossil fuel to make one calorie of food, and that oil production has peaked, which means that food has peaked, which means a dieoff. Yes, it is hard to be all starry-eyed when you’ve looked behind the curtain and seen the truth of our physical world, the fact that the carrying capacity of the planet is only one billion and has been kept aloft at the 6.8 billion level like a magic trick by fossil fuel.

      The idea that that student’s world should revolve around a teacher is kind of sick. Too many teachers would rather have a bunch of sycophants created by not holding students accountable, than a bunch of students who learn what needs to be learned, but who find you repressive. In other words, you will subvert their education for the sake of feeling cool, of wanting to remain young, of not becoming like those old-school wheezers, of becoming that really cool teacher that all the students love. I beg to differ. Education first, ego gratification last.


      1. Ok. I am convinced.
        Maybe the idea of being the cool teacher weighted more in what I said than the idea of teaching the best way. I am not sure, but I can not deny it either.
        I completely agree that if I want to teach my students to be free thinkers, it’s more effective to tell them how illogical this world is than to let them be “creative”.
        It was not on purpose, but I guess I was a bit arrogant trying to tell you how to teach without having any kind of field experience.
        I will keep what you said in mind when I’ll confront my first students…Thanks


  19. Ten Reasons I Hate Having You For a Teacher

    1. You’re overly critical of simple mistakes. Yeah, I get it, I screwed up, but honestly, do you expect me to go out and buy a printer cartridge in the middle of the night? Stuff happens. Margins and spacing shouldn’t overshadow the content of my essay.

    2. You’re not yet in the 21st century. More and more teachers are accepting essays via email- you can do a word count easily, you can type notes in, you can email grades back, and you save paper. Get with it.

    3. You write rants about me on the internet. Are you actually this repressed? You don’t have a couple of equally irritating friends you can complain to over your knitting and tea?

    4. You’re self-righteous. Are you personally offended because I find you too mind-numbing to really put any effort into your class? You should be. Be interesting or get over yourself. Recognize that there are going to be moronic students who don’t do the work right and move on.

    5. You make judgments without knowing me from Adam. You have no idea what’s going on in my life. Maybe I’ve recently started dealing with some depression, or my friend died, or my boyfriend broke up with me. Maybe it’s something dumb, but something might be upsetting me, and your harping on about my font color really isn’t helping.

    6. You remember because of my mistakes, not my highlights. You can’t focus on how delightful I was to have in class because I had someone else write my essay? That’s a little shortsighted. Maybe I’m having some problems, maybe I’m a terrible writer, maybe I had someone help me out. There’s no reason to judge me only by my failure, and when you do, I feel no desire to put in any effort to ever perform well for you. I’m only worth the lowest score to you.

    7. You’re lumping me in with my peer group. “Were you on drugs when you wrote this?” Are you serious? That kind of off-hand comment makes me want to scream. Yeah, you’re right, I’m a college student, I’m irresponsible, I do drugs, I drink every night of the week and then write my essays while hopped up on E and Speed and Xanax. That’s exactly who I am. You knew just who I was when I walked in your door on the first day, didn’t you? You had a box all ready for me so you didn’t have to bother to get to know me.

    8. You treat me like I’m four. Yes, you told me the way to do something, and I messed up. Yup, I did it again. I’m sure you’ve never messed up ever in your life. You’re perfect. You’re the epitome of all essay writers, and you shouldn’t have to suffer anything less, which of course gives you the right to condescend to me. You, obviously, are obligated to write me a list describing all my faults for the world to see, asking me repeatedly, albeit with thinly veiled wording, if I’m dumb. “Okay, let’s review.” I’m an adult, just like you. Treat me like one.

    9. You make generalizations about me. Every other student you’ve had who has made these mistakes was troublesome, frustrating, unworthy, stupid, slacking, addicted to drugs, and therefore I must be. Yeah, teenagers these days, huh?

    10. If you don’t want to accept my assignment late, don’t. If you don’t believe my excuse, don’t take my paper. I’ll hate you and be angry and try to get you to do it, but to be honest, it’s up to you. Be tough. Deal with your students. Say no, be firm, stick to your guns. But don’t write a bitchy little blog about how you’ve been wronged by your spiteful slacker students.


      1. That was the point. A taste of her own medicine, to follow up with your much overused cliche.


    1. Anna, well said!

      I didn’t take extreme offense to this blog, but I am a bit hurt. I believe the author should emphasize that she is speaking to those students who do this time after time, to those who are careless and perhaps even rude. There are plenty of students, however, who make a mistake once, maybe twice, and I absolutely believe teachers should look past such mistakes. Alright, I can understand getting a low grade on an assignment because the question was left unanswered, but to fail and lose respect for a student because he or she 1.5-spaced instead of double-spaced is just, well, wrong.

      I have given my teachers all of my respect throughout the years–even the ones I didn’t particularly like. Since starting college two years ago, I have not gotten under a B in any class. I had a 4.0 GPA in high school. But I will admit that I have misunderstood an assignment in my life. I have sometimes gotten it totally wrong. I have even printed out papers in blue and dark purple before! (Not to whine, but my family didn’t have a lot of extra money, and my mother truly refused to spend what we had on a new ink cartridge. Silly, I know.) Thank God my teachers forgave me!

      Anyways, I suppose what bothers me about this post is that the author is, to me, sweating the small things. I understand that these problems can be annoying, but there seems to be an underlying hatred for those who commit such offenses! I’ve heard nightmare stories from teachers whose students simply will not obey them. At all. It sounds as if the author’s students are at least trying to do the work (except for those in #2 and #1, and perhaps #5. For the record, I find intentional plagiarism inexcusable). But honestly, not every student can be perfect. Everyone comprehends things differently. There may be a lack of understanding here! (Certainly there is on my side, too.)

      Perhaps this is the wrong thing to say, but to me it seems like a teacher should expect these problems. Didn’t they have classmates once who did such things?

      Anyways, interesting blog! I, like many, found this through StumbleUpon. It’s great that so many people have things to say! 🙂


      1. Michelle:

        This is a very even-handed and thoughtful response, and the points you raise are absolutely valid. Regular readers of this blog (for whom this post was written; the fact that it went out into the larger world was a huge surprise) would be aware that this is a last-ditch, exhausted, end-of-term response from a very tired and patient teacher to a pile of essays wherein a handful of students have not followed (again) the very carefully explained guidelines.

        Anna’s comment about “a taste of her own medicine” is inaccurate. This post was not addressed to Anna; she took it personally, but it was not personal. It was not addressed to anyone personally; the “you” in the post is a device. Her response was addressed to me personally, and was meant to be hurtful. So she and I are not doing the same things as all.

        That being said, the post obviously hit a lot of people’s nerves. Teachers and other professionals tend to find it very funny, even funnier than I intended. Some students also find it funny, and others (like drobs, below) have asked relevant questions that absolutely deserve to be answered (and I’m glad Dance did, because I have been too overwhelmed to take them on.) A few people, for whatever reason, have taken the post to heart and have responded with ad hominem attacks that are really not appropriate, given that this post is not about them, except perhaps in their own minds.

        As for you, though, thank you very much for this response! Because this is my blog, I get to have the last word; comments are now closed. I hope you’ll return, though, to cast your constructively critical eye on other posts as well.


  20. Why is submission by e-mail only unacceptable? It is easier for everyone (assuming the teacher can use outlook), and presumably better for the environment.


    1. A late comment on why submission by email only doesn’t work.

      In short, grading electronically is not the same as grading on paper. I read papers differently, I comment differently, and feedback gets communicated differently. Whether the difference is better or worse is a personal choice, but it isn’t the same thing, and the adjustment is really quite difficult. So if the professor is going to paper-grade anyhow, then the student should meet their responsibility of turning in a printed copy.


      1. So your difficulty with transition takes precedence over sustainability, arguably the most important issue in our modern world?


  21. I am completely bug-eyed over the way this post exploded today – it somehow went viral on StumbleUpon and got thousands of hits. I can’t possibly respond to every comment, but let me say I appreciate the passion with which people have chimed in!

    The post clearly hit a sensitive nerve with some people, and I thought it wisest to let others take you to task, as they have very articulately done.

    There is no question that this post is bitchy – it is the result of many hours of very frustrating struggle with assignments by students who have not come to class, have not paid attention, and have not made any sort of effort. It is obviously not written in response to the many conscientious, hardworking students who have done their very best, even when they have fallen short.

    I want to specifically applaud the converstation started by Xannax. Xannax, I read only your first comment, was rather shocked by it, and then had to leave the computer for a couple of hours. When I came back and saw the evolution in your thinking that you set out in response to Thain, fatnewt and Cherenkov’s comments, I was so impressed. It is highly unusual to see someone respond with such sensitivity and thoughtfulness instead of defensiveness. I think you’re going to make an excellent teacher.


    1. Thanks!
      I was impressed also by the number of comments! I subscribed to the thread when I first posted and kept getting mail every few minutes!
      it definitely hit a sensitive nerve.
      Thanks again for the kind words. I have a gigantic ego but I do my best to shut it up and think coldly.
      What helped me is also the quality of the answers. You are complimenting me, but the answers weren’t so well constructed and so constructive, I would have just went on with my rant.
      I also firmly believe in experience and if someone who has been doing something (for example, teaching) for years, he surely has a better insight on that field than me, even if our views of the world might differ radically. So I might as well listen.
      And finally, I surely hope to be a good teacher!


  22. Xannax:
    I absolutely agree – the even-handed thoughtfulness with which so many people replied, even in the face of other hot-headed responses, was really impressive. Fuzzles, Thain, Joanie, Colin, fatnewt, Cherenkov, Ema, etc., I applaud you.

    As for those who took personal offense, I have to emphasize that the “you” in this post is a literary device. I’m not actually talking to you. You and I haven’t met. One thing I can hope for, though, is that if the post made you that mad, it will stick in your mind! And then, next time you have to submit a paper, a resume, or a letter, you will think of me, and remember to double-space.


  23. Actually, I should amend that – Cherenkov, I can’t really describe your responses as “even-handed.” But I certainly know where you’re coming from, and I appreciate that people with your passion are on my side.


  24. Number 5, you didn’t answer the question. Aaargh, I hate that! I get it all the time, though on the simple question front, not the essay front.

    “Who is on the one dollar bill?”

    “For me to buy a slurpee!”


  25. Great list! I feel your pain because I have had to grade many papers where the writer did not follow directions. Then they expect you to lower your expectations in order to accommodate them. That drives me crazy!


  26. A retro-modernist triumph! As terrifying as Conrad, as lonely as Poe!

    Please write a 1000-1500 word response outlining and examining the main “flaw” in the tortured narrator’s perspective. What does it mean? What does it portend? Excerpts from our readings would make excellent supplements for your paper, so use of them!

    This is a very open-ended assignment, so be creative and have fun!


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