April 27, 2009

Repeated Sentences

I've been reading repeated sentences all day.

It's had the effect of making me crazy and cranky, not a pleasant situation where I'm supposed to be judging 20% of a student's grade (their research papers). This is the Big Kahuna of their grade and we spend approximately six weeks of class time dedicating ourselves to the pursuit of truth, justice, MLA, reputable sources, Works Cited pages, and maybe some happiness along the way.

After reading today's batch, I've decided they spent about six hours of their time pursuing their truth, sources and the American Way. And that's a generous estimation for some papers.

When a student has gone through two library orientations (mine and the librarian's), a section on what constitutes a reputable, scholarly source, and then you have to define for them what "reputable" and "scholarly" means, you know you're in trouble. When you've told them to attach the final paper to an email and send it in, but only if it's a .doc or .docx or .rtf and you draw pictures and the international "not" symbol (red circle with a line through it) and you even put the admonition to song, after which Boyd in the front row joked and said "Don't quit your day job," and then he sent in .wps format so I had to mark him down 10 points on his Mechanics grade, do you think I felt bad about lowering his grade? (The correct answer is "no.")

I have students who get through 3 of the 4 Research Paper assignments and then drop the class, because we are a poor college district and we have the drop date 15 weeks into the semester (where Big U, with lots of money has theirs 5 weeks into their 10-week quarter). In fact, they've been dropping like flies around our college, and while you're glad they gave it their all, you think about how many papers you graded and conferences you held and questions you answered and wished that some of those who are a Few Tacos Short of a Combination Plate would have dropped the second week instead of the 14th.

My husband (also a professor, but over at Big U) and I know to grade the papers all in a batch because of what we call "grade creep." It's when you tend to score the first few students harshly, but then lighten up as you go. Then you norm them all, making sure you were playing fair-n-square with all of them. But today, I've had grade deflation. I've become more and more fed up with their redundant (and yes, I have to define that for some) and repetitive and inane and frankly dumb blathering in between their quoted sources. And then there's others who rarely bother with the blathering but just throw in 12 (TWELVE!) lengthy block quotes in a 7-page paper, with no introductory comments. Just the author's name, their publication, a verb and a colon and the block quote, and I'm supposed to figure it out, make the connections, do the work that the student didn't.

Okay, step away from the keyboard now, lady, and finish up the two last papers. You've saved the best two students for last, and hopefully you'll be rewarded with succinct writing, well-supported statements, and no repeated sentences repeated sentences repeated sentences.


  1. Wow! I'm collecting rough drafts of The Big Kahuna right now in preparation for conferences on their writing this week.

    I get those stupid .wps files too, but I never thought to flat out dock them. From now on, I will. And I won't feel bad either.

    Here's to you, me, and the end of the term!


  2. I wonder if our next generation isn't developing a very limited attention span with all the distractions in their lives. It does seem they don't hold on to details very well. Happy grading.

  3. I am sure you don't mean it to be funny, but it is. People can be so lazy! Adults are as bad as kids.