Marking: the good, the bad and the buttsecks.

Last week, I was struggling with a massive pile of essays, and despite having left them out repeatedly for the marking elves, I had to mark them all myself. There were a bunch that made me want to bite them, but a colleague of my mother’s once did this, and then deliberately spilled coffee over the bite mark, thinking this would make it less obvious, which it so did NOT. Having learned from her experience, I thought I would poke them here, which would then hopefully relieve some of my feelings.

There are a couple of categories of things students say that make me go, oh dear lord. First up are the plain stupidities:

“You will be surprised to learn that A. A. Milne was not just a children’s book writer; he wrote children’s poetry as well.” Well, given that I set a bunch of his poems for you to read, not so much.

“Unless I am absolutely mistaken, using the term royalist poet is an oxymoron because the poets that are classified as royalist were not of royal birth.” Generations of literary scholars thank you for pointing out their embarrassing mistake.

“In the modern day some people are led to believe that Shakespeare was a sodomite.” Anyone want to bet on this student’s religious affiliations? But wait, the following sentence seems rather pro-gay: “A sodomite is a kind person who participates in anal intercourse.” Heaven forbid you engage in such activities with an unkind person.

Then there are the unfortunate word choices – like the one that gave this blog its name:

“This is the voice and audience that the poetry apples to…”

… a painful memory, subsided by the mind…

“Therefore, as time transgressed, her life became dull…”

“A child needs a supportive environment to develop their self of steam.” This one is so popular it’s practically a trend; I expect it will be in the dictionary in no time.

“This is much like society in general, and how resources are taken for granite.” If only this had been in a Geology essay.

Then there are the ones that make me go “WTF?” For the life of me, I cannot work out what these students were trying to say:

“Grendel is an exile. In Anglo-Saxon societies, exiles were often radicalists.”

“The illustrations are unique in that they are tartarised to encourage the child to interact with the pictures.”

The best part of marking this semester was marking my Children’s Literature class’ term projects. Students in the class are required to write a children’s story – they may illustrate it if they wish – accompanied by a reflective essay on the process. As usual, there were some wonderful creative efforts, some of which showed the benefit of some fun time at the craft store; foamy stickers were very popular this year. This is the third time I have had students do this assignment, and they are always fabulous; colleagues always drop by to check out my brightly-coloured haul.

Spawn helped me read the books, and we both loved the bug counting book, the backward animal alphabet (the author/manager of this one apparently dragooned everyone she knew into making the illustrations) and the wonderful, gentle story about a special raincoat. That one was so good my colleague Socks and I thought the author should see if she can get it published.

The books are fun, but for me, the reflective essay is where I get the most satisfaction. Students this semester said, as they do every time, “I thought this seemed like a really silly assignment at the beginning of term, but when I thought about everything we learned this semester, and tried to incorporate that into my book, it was actually really hard to make something I thought was good.” I love it when students learn things, but it is even better when they realise that they learned things.

Finally, in the backhanded compliment category, there is this offering from my poetry exam, where the bonus question asked for a haiku (or similar) about students’ experience in the class.

Not as dopey

as expected, much more fun

than pins and needles.


3 thoughts on “Marking: the good, the bad and the buttsecks.

  1. whatladder Post author

    Well, that and his compliment is kind of backhanded; that’s why I thought it was so funny.


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