Sunday, April 21, 2013

Burned to a Crisp

I wouldn’t say that I am burned out, but hey, if you held a cigarette close to me, it would light on fire without a match. I am gaining popularity with scout troops for their camping trips when they want to start the campfire for cooking. As I write this, there are 24 days, 5 hours, and 42 minutes left before the end of my semester. There is nothing that could make me happier at this point other than finding out I have inherited a castle in Scotland, tax-free.

You will notice that I am using all numbers in digital form even 1-9, which would normally be spelled out in an academic format. They are more impressive as digits. Generally, I have to teach 9 classes a semester. This year, I was able to get by with 8 because we have a Fulbrighter teaching one of my classes. She taught one last semester also. Still, the classes that I have are teeming with writing, mostly my fault. However, if a student is getting a degree in a foreign language, shouldn’t they be able to communicate in writing? Duh!

I have four courses where the students are required to blog on a weekly basis. This adds up to over 60 blog posts to read or at least just skim over. There is no way I am going to correct their grammar on the Mystery Novel blog or the Corp-orocracy (a course name self-created), but I do pay attention to those in the Blogging and Website class as well as Race and Ethnicity 2 blogs. These are the journalism specialization students who are in the program due to some plan on getting an English speaking/writing job at some point. Having 115 students this semester if I counted them as separate students within different classes with different projects, I was overwhelmed. Consider that one class was The Methodology of Writing the Cultural Studies Thesis for BA and MA students. In this class, I had 13 students who were trying to meet the April 15th deadline for turning in their work. BA students only need to write 20 pages, but the MA students need to fill 60 pages. Each week, I had them write 3-5 pages depending on their degree for me to read and edit, making sure they were on track and their grammar was acceptable. One of my other courses this semester is Creative Writing. The 18 students in this class write a short story every week, not more than 2 pages, but add it to the pile; we are looking at a mountain of paperwork.

All of this work comes flooding into my e-mail as an attachment. This gives me the opportunity to check it in Word using Track Changes. However, I have gotten smarter over the years. When I return the assignment, I change the format to PDF. For those who need to use my comments for a revision, like the thesis writers, they cannot do Accept Changes and make short work of it. They have to look at my notes and comments, with a bit of hope, think about them, and then make the changes on their own. For others, it blocks them from making any changes and then resubmitting it to tell me I made a mistake, so the grade should be inflated. It has happened. Then there are the students who are enrolled in multiple classes that I am responsible for who send in an assignment as an attachment sans a name on the document, nothing in the subject line, the body of the e-mail or on the document itself to give me any clue as to what class to assign the grade. Perhaps, knowing how much I enjoy mystery novels, they are trying to infect me with their affliction of amenomania. Not!  It is a waste of my time.

I am not alone among the faculty, who are increasingly realizing students are lacking the satisfaction taken in an achievement well done. This semester, I warned that the semester essays would be run through 2 different plagiarism checkers making it a wise choice for them to do the same before their submission. The bonus suggestion was added that they should seriously consider using multiple grammar checkers in addition. If you write well, this will take minutes. If you cannot execute a document at a scholarly level, this will give you pause for thinking about editing.

The problem here for most students is that the last minute to turn in an assignment are the precious moments when they are finishing the works cited page. They haven’t a moment to spare to use superfluous (in their minds) outside aids when they have a pushover instructor who will do it for them. Oh, how they rage when they find that the instructor is no longer willing to be their full-time editor and requires their attention to detail. This is when the revolt begins.

To be continued…

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