Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Digging out...

At my school, for reasons too complex to go into here, each of the Humanities teachers have a small pile of money (a few hundred bucks) that we may use in one of two ways. One is to have it for "extra hours" we spend grading papers above and beyond our contract. I like that. But if need be, we may use it to get a sub for one or perhaps two days during the year. While the sub runs our classroom, we get to hide somewhere in the building (they won't let us do it at home) grading papers. I have always greatly preferred option #1, and use it most years. When I get the sub, I feel like I'm throwing away money, since I'm as likely to come up short extra grading hours as a desert is to come up short sand (forgive the highly convoluted metaphor). But my two-week rule--get the goddam essays out of my house within two weeks--well, I'm already in violation of that one, and while I'm grading the big stuff, the piddly shit I collect in the meantime accumulates. So I took a sub today, hid upstairs in the library, and graded twenty student essays.

The good news is that the essays are not bad. The sophomores seem to be figuring out how to write a thesis (took 'em three papers and three times teaching it, but we got 'em there). For the most part, they understood the material. Grades are high without me feeling like I'm settling for less. The bad news is that I need to convince the little cherubs that we do not use the word "you" in an essay, unless they are actually referring to me. So "You strap the explosives to your vest and walk into the mall" is not appropriate. In fact, it creeps me out. And I also think it's time to tell them to deep-six the exclamation point unless they are actually dropping something on their toe while writing. So "Israel has had very little peace since its formation in 1948!", well, I can do without that.

I have few enough left that I can finish 'em tonight. It's so much harder to work at home now that I've got the Vile Temptress here...

2 comments:

lemming said...

I tell my cherubs that the first paragraph is a bit like a phone call home - you don't tell Mom every detail of the paper you're writing, just the main premise ("Wellington's sushi skills gave his troops a critical advantage at Waterloo") and the two or three chief pieces of evidence on your side.

What's your hook?

Anonymous said...

The hook is how damned important the intro is. I give them a memory test. I read 20 random nouns, about 2 seconds apart each. They then have to remember as many words as they can. We then write down how many people remembered each word. Most remember words at the start, most remember words at the end. It's called the primacy effect and recency effect. Psych 101, University of Missouri! "That's why the intro and conclusion are so important, people!"

At the tenth grade level...just be relevant and grab my attention. And don't start with "Have you ever wondered..." or "Throughout history..." or "Imagine a place where..."