What do you mean, essays don’t just materialize out of thin air?


My students had to do oral presentations, which were then followed up by essays on the topic. So they presented their ideas, had some class discussion, and then had a week to write it up. The marks for the task were evenly divided between the presentation part and the essay part.

Yesterday, a couple weeks after the latter part of the task was due, and I had marked and returned the essays, I had the following conversation with a student – hereinafter referred to as Clueless Carla – at the end of class.

Clueless Carla: So, I missed both classes last week, can I get my grade for my presentation?
Me, gathering up and enormous stack of books I had to bring to class for an activity: Uh, yeah, I don’t have those essays with me, but you can come upstairs to my office and get it back.
CC: I don’t need to get anything back, I just want my grade for the presentation.
Me: Yes, I put participation feedback on the essays; if you get yours back, you will get the feedback.
CC speaking emphatically, because clearly I am an idiot: I am not talking about our midterm essays, I am talking about the MARK for the PRESENTATION.
Me: Yes, those marks were written on the essays.
CC: What essay are you talking about?
Me: The one that was required as the second half of the presentation task.
CC getting a little tone: Oh? When did you tell us about this?
Me: It’s in your syllabus along with the instructions for the presentation, so, like, on the first day of class.
CC: Huh. Well, I didn’t know anything about it. Are you sure you made it clear?
Me: What can I say?  It was in the instructions, and I handed back a bunch of essays last week.

At this point, Carla goes to check with her friend, Sensible Sue.

CC: Did we have to hand in an essay about our presentations?
SS: Yes.

Carla then lowers her voice considerably and has a long conversation involving Sue and a couple of other students. I head out and go upstairs to my office. A few minutes later, Carla and Sue show up – Sue is playing the role of prop in this scene.

CC: So I am thinking that I did write that essay. I might have just forgot that I handed it in.
Me going through a charade of looking: Okay, here’s my pile of unreturned work. Let me have a look… Nope. No essay here. Let me check this other pile from my other class… Nope. Sorry, I don’t have your essay.
CC: Do you think maybe you lost it?
Me: Do I think I maybe lost an essay that 10 minutes ago you were saying I had not told you to write? No.
CC: Well, can I get my grade for the presentation?
Me: Your grade for the TASK is an F, because you didn’t do 50% of it.

Exeunt Carla and Sue .

4 thoughts on “What do you mean, essays don’t just materialize out of thin air?

  1. B.

    I have one of these right now. “But I TURNED IN the assignment on time! Why don’t I get partial credit?”

    Me: “Because what you turned in was actually a piece of roadkill, not the assignment.”

    Well, that’s what I said in my head.

  2. Pingback: Prof Blaming. « What Ladder?

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