A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Just who do you think you're hurting here, kid?

I just got finished grading a stack of essays, and once again, there is a troubling pattern that emerges. A certain student-- let's call him Timmy-- has once again slapped together a mishmash of an analytical essay, even though he had over a week to write three pages... in a college credit class. I had a feeling from the smirk he gave me when he handed it in that it was going to be the purest moonshine, and the essay didn't disappoint. Undeveloped, unresearched, unwept, unmourned, unsung... sorry, I got carried away for a second. I asked for a minimum of 750 words, and he used the word count feature in his word processor and printed at the bottom of the page that it was 752 words exactly.

Since it was typed, and he doesn't have a study hall, the best that I can say is that he didn't do it the hour before it was due. It was chock-a-block with comma splices, sentence fragments, random abbreviations, slang (for example, one does not use "Dude" in an academic paper unless perhaps it is an analysis of The Big Lebowski, but I digress), and cliches. There was not a single reference to a specific event in the entire thing. Then there was the section where he committed major historical errors on the scale of claiming that the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor and Moses led the animals two by two onto the ark of the covenant.

From what I understand from some discreet inquiries, he spends much of his time outside of school playing basketball and hanging out with friends. He is a bit of a party animal. He boasts about not doing school work. That's all fine, and it's a free country. He is welcome to waste my time grading the dreck he deigns to turn in, and he's welcome to wallow in the grade that he has gone to more effort to earn than if he just put his head down and did a half-decent effort at the assignment. He is also a potentially intelligent young man with an IQ of probably about 125, were we privy to such things, which we are not.

I feel like telling him that I can outlast him, so if he's waiting for me to "yell" at him (the generic term used by kids for any sort of word other than praise), he's going to just keep on waiting. But the poor little guy thinks he's being clever and putting one over on the system. He'll get his ridiculous little D and pass the class, sure, but someday....


Someday, he'll find out he can't get in to State U with that GPA, much less the out-of-state school he's been talking about. I've tried gently to counsel him; I've called mom, but...

he just... doesn't... believe... us.

And he is only hurting himself. Sad.

Thanks to this site for the cool illustration.

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At 2/7/08, 7:52 PM, Blogger 100 Farmers said...

I am trying to figure out how you go from Moses(Noah)and the Ark to Pearl Harbor in one essay. I love reading your blog.

At 2/7/08, 9:27 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Oh heavens, I have this type coming out my ears this year. I had this fantasy that they'd turn around second semester, but it isn't happening. Very frustrating. I certainly HOPE these guys won't be showing up in my AP class senior year.

At 2/8/08, 5:22 AM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

This is the kind of thing that continues to kill me, and I teach junior college. Students simply DO NOT CARE - they don't see how any of this (whether "this" is a math course or a writing class) can POSSIBLY be of ANY benefit to them whatsoever, so they just blow it off. I DO resent wasting my time on the crap they turn in, but I signed up for this gig and I'm going to keep pushing them in the hopes that I get through to one or two. Sometimes, that's the best we can hope for.

At 2/8/08, 3:46 PM, Blogger fillyjonk said...

"one does not use "Dude" in an academic paper "

If I were getting a tattoo, that would be in my top three choices. (But it would have to be somewhere where my students could see it.)

Like Mrs. Chili, I continue to be killed by students who don't care...who sit in class and text message or who talk with their friends (forcing me to stop class every 3 minutes to glare at them) and who then get upset because they got a 50% on the test.

The only thing that keeps me from running off into the night screaming is the fact that I do have a few students in each class who DO care, who ask interesting questions, who bring in examples from other classes they've had when they are answering essay questions on my tests, who demonstrate to me by their actions that they want something better than to be a lump sitting there going "Entertain me!"

If I could just get them to convince the "Timmys" of the world to be more like them...

At 2/10/08, 6:46 PM, Blogger Dan Edwards said...

Life often requires one to learn from their own experiences.....so be it.


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