Tag Archives: papers

Grading Papers

I dislike grading papers because most aren’t very good but I feel bad every time I give someone less than an A. Mostly because I cannot imagine anyone would be satisfied with less than an A. It is like I am dealing the ultimate humiliation….a B. Or, gasp, a C

But some of the papers need serious work. Like, the-5-page-paper-consists-of-4-paragraphs kind of work.

And some of these sentences…just…well…see for yourself. 

  • “Being true to his evasive nature, Socrates’ loose construction of metaphors lays the groundwork for this definition of justice without any hard evidence.”
  • “The squirrel eats when it’s hungry, drinks when it’s thirsty, and procreates, well, whenever. It very much does not write essays or study geometry, as far as we know at least.”
  • “As the group became dissatisfied with these definitions, Socrates conjured his own. He meandered around the question, elaborately constructing the ideal City.”
  • “Say a man was preparing to steal a pig from his neighbor. A rational man will see that this will take a food source away from his pig, as well as make him a criminal.”
  • “To conclude: the term “soul’s eye” has two parts, the soul and the eye.” 
  • [And my personal favorite] “Despite what it might seem like, Plato’s Republic is not an early version of The Hunger Games.”

Forget Plato, though. The next discussion group we’re going to have a long talk about the proper use of semi colons. (Hint: when in doubt, don’t.) 

The Harder Prompt

“WHY do my students all choose the harder prompt?!” I wail to my old college friend. “They’ve got two options. One is easy. The other is difficult and they’re doing much worse than if they just chose the easy one!”

Friend: “It’s a competitive school. They all think they’re the only one choosing the hard one.

Me: “Yes, but they don’t need to! They could pick the easy one, do well, and ace the paper!” 

Friend: “What would college Amy do?”

Me: “…pick the harder prompt…”

If TAing has taught me anything it is that I was the more annoying type of student in college. That time my professor wanted a 4 page paper and I turned in a 12 page one because he didn’t put a word limit on the assignment? Yeah, sorry about that, Mr. Palmer. 

Working Harder Not Smarter

I wrote four paragraphs today for a memo at work.

Four paragraphs in four hours. 

Four excruciating, painstaking, correct, perfectly cited paragraphs. 

And then as I was wrapping it up, I saw a document I wrote a month ago saying the exact same thing…but better. 

Bang Head On Desk GIF

Image result for head desk gif

Clerk of Courts

Today I got to walk across the street and deliver a brief to the clerk of courts. 

AKA, my favorite activity ever.

Since I started my job about a year and a half ago, delivering a physical copy of the completed brief became my particular role. And I love it. I love the feeling of walking with a giant stack of papers (why do 7 Supreme Court justices need 23 copies of the same 30+ page paper?!) I love walking in, handing them over, and receiving the confirming stamp. Then walking back. 

I get such a thrill from it. All that energy and hours of work climaxing in the moment I walk through the doors of the Clerk of Court.

The only thing more fun might be getting the decision back from the Supreme Court. But even then I’m not sure. The buildup is the best. 

Minimum Word Count

In high school and college, and even law school though to a lesser extent, I constantly ran into problems with maximum word counts. If the professor said the paper needed to fall under 2,000 words, I guarantee I pushed 1,999. It became something of a game. One communications professor I knew quite well set a word minimum and no word maximum. Instead of the 4 page paper he expected, I turned in a 15 page paper. 

Words rarely fail me.

So it continually shocks me how much difficulty I have meeting word minimums for papers here in Thailand. If they expect at least 1,000 words, I guarantee I will find 500 and spend the next 500 on random stuff trying to fill space. I don’t like it at all. 

Partially, I think as a native English speaker (and moreover, a legal English speaker) I can communicate more concisely than my average classmate. It would make sense for the professor to expect it to take longer to convey the same information. But I still do not think that explains why I usually run out of things about halfway through! 

I tell myself it probably doesn’t mean much, but the few grades I have got back do not encourage this assumption. 

It does not help that the usual learning method of Thai students involves memorizing as much as you can and spitting it all out for the exam! You include everything. But including everything goes against everything I’ve learned as a writer these past two years. 

So there you have it, folks. If I fail any of these courses, I’m going to blame paper lengths. (Never mind that the class I am doing the worst in has not had a paper!) 

Also, WELCOME TO FINALS! I’ve got exams for the next two weeks. I’ll try and keep things cheery but no promises. 😉 

Group Projects

I know I complained in my last post about how group papers are more awful than group presentations, but let’s pause for a moment to appreciate the group presentation I had today. 

For some inexplicable reason, the professor decided to make “peer evaluation” 50% of the grade. Now, let’s recap. Do Thai students pay attention in class? No. Do they focus on the professor when he talks? No. So, do you think they magically pay attention when a fellow student talks? Not on your life.

Maybe he hoped the responsibility of grading the other groups would mean people would stay engaged. I can confidently say that did not work. While presenting, I looked out across the room and saw….someone sleeping, two people with earbuds in, and exactly everyone on their phones. Not that my group acted much better. The girl next to me ate her breakfast (very pungent rice and liver) and then started talking on the phone (all while groups presented.) 

At least the professor was not on his phone. I’ve had some presentations here where the professor spent most the class period scrolling through Facebook. 

My group decided to put me in charge of the “peer” evaluation. Except, I am not really a peer. I am a former debate coach and captain who judges high school forensics for fun. Tell me to evaluate and I will evaluate. Just probably more than anyone expects. 

The professor handed out evaluation sheets and I professionally filled out my information on the ballots evaluation sheets within a matter of seconds. I then waited, pen poised, for the first group. Of the 10 groups present, mine went nearly last so I got to witness quite a bit. 

Different groups struggled with different things. Consistently, but I stress differently with each group, I noted lack of eye contact, a tendency to read block paragraphs off the slide, and a habit of sitting on the floor while other group members presented. I kept thinking, ‘Our group should do so much better.’

But oh, oh, oh, how wrong I was. My group got up there and literally did every. single. thing. I criticized the other groups for doing. My groupmates mumbled into the mic. They read block paragraphs from the slides. They sat on the floor. They chatted amongst one another while someone else presented. I suppose I did not actually see them avoid eye contact, but I did watch them stare avidly at the paper in front of them instead of looking up so I can only imagine what it looked like to the listeners. 

 That is, presuming someone actually listened. 

Group Papers

I have discovered something worse than group projects: group papers. 

The first time a professor assigned one, I thought maybe it was a fluke. Like, he did not think through what he was asking and accidentally assigned 4 of us to write 1 paper instead of 1 of us writing 4 papers or something. But now I know better. I think I have had a group paper due in every single class.

To put it mildly…I am not a fan.

Think of all the hassle of a group project. Now imagine the stress of writing a paper. Put them together. 

99.9% of the time I look at our finished work and think, “I do not want to put my name on that.” 

To give credit to my classmates, they are undergraduates and English is their secondary language. I admire them for trying. They do their best.

But besides being a native English speaker and grad student, I am a trained legal writer and editor. I expect more from myself and any work I turn in. 

It creates a difficult tension. On the one hand, I am stressed because I just read through my classmates’ writing three times and I’m still not sure what they are saying. At the same time, outside of completely rewriting everything, there is not much I can do to change it. Helpful hints only go so far when your audience does not see a problem. 

It does not help any that we have not gotten back any grades for group papers yet. I just keep telling myself, “Surely the professors cannot expect more than what your classmates are turning in. This must be the norm.” Right? Right?