This week has been a disaster.  I’ve worked a ton of overtime to work on a huge project which is really only about half done.  I’ll be continuing to work on it this next week and I’m not sure how much overtime I’ll be putting in. 

There’s also been a bit of drama with school.  In my linguistics class I’ve been arguing with my professor about some of the answers on quizzes.  It isn’t really getting me anywhere but I at least want to make a good argument.  I’ve decided to step it up and start actually asking for points back because the subtle approach has not been working. 

Several of the students in my linguistics class have decided the professor is trying to fail everyone so they are taking it to the dean.  I’m not sure that is the right approach.  I’m sitting back and waiting.

I sent off three questions to my creative writing teacher.  One was for clarification on the comments she made on my paper – not saying she was wrong just looking for clarification.  One was asking about her grading scale.  One was a question on the next assignment.  Now I will concede that these were all in one day but I tend to ask things when I come across them.  It just so happened that I came across all of them at once. 

The professor was quite snarky about my questions.  Her attitude seemed to be “don’t question me”.  She insulted my ability to write which was very hurtful to me.  I know I’m a good writer and a good editor but for someone in that position to be so condescending it does make me question. 

I felt slapped.  I know that may sound harsh but if I can’t ask questions – particularly on the comments on my papers – then how am I going to learn?  I don’t know.  I guess then it just becomes her opinion which I can quite easily dismiss if I don’t agree with her. 

I’m disappointed with my creative writing class.  I was looking forward to some new and fun projects to expand my thinking and my abilities but I’ve got three books that don’t really help.  One of them I had to buy so now it is mine which after this class I will never open again. 

To me if you are teaching a writing class then the writing should be out there for discussion.  Here is my sample of work – how can it be made better.  We had a sample poem we had to edit but she never commented on the editing we did.  My question (which I’m not allowed to ask) is did I edit it the way she wanted?  What was she actually looking for?  There were some general comments but she couldn’t be bothered to comment on all the postings. 

I guess I’ll chalk this up to experience and make sure I do not take any more classes that she teaches.  I’ll also think twice before I take more classes.  If the teachers here aren’t able to help me grow then I need to go elsewhere so that I can expand my knowledge and my abilities.

3 thoughts on “School

  1. By chance, Eileen, I'm teaching a writing course this term, so all this is fresh in my mind. True, the courses I'm teaching are for basic writing, but I suspect the same rules apply. Here's the way every college I've worked at has seen the question of student questions about grades:

    1. Students have a legal right to know how their grade is determined. This information needs to be provided in written form in the syllabus and/or course outline.
    2. Teachers should be willing and able to justify a grade. In other words, they should have no problem with a student coming to them and asking how a grade was determined.
    3. Colleges have a vested interest in keeping students happy. I got my first contract teaching job because a teacher made so many students unhappy that they were dropping his class en mass. They also went to the department chair and the dean, I believe. There was a painful conversation and the teacher and the college "mutually decided to part ways." I was hired to do damage control–part of my job was calling all the students letting them know a new teacher was taking over the class, and inviting them to give us another try. I salvaged about eight or nine students that term–but the department chair told me that if there was even one student they were going to pay me to teach the course, strictly from a PR perspective. The point here is that in these days of tight dollars students are a precious commodity, and a teacher who alienates them to the point that they drop the class is costing the college money (if the drop happens early enough to warrant returned tuition money). Students don't realize the power they have.
    3. Here's what you, as a student, should be able to expect.
    A. A clear, concise explanation of how paper and course grades are determined.
    B. Clear, respectful answers to your questions if you don't understand how your paper warranted the grade assigned.
    C. Clear instructions on what an instructor is expecting on any given assignment.

    Many times those student expectations are not met. However, they are more than just a good idea–they are, as I understand it, a legal obligation.

    If you truly think that your linguistics instructor is skewing his grading to fail students, here's what you need to do:
    1. DOCUMENT. This means do the assignments to the best of your ability. Hand in your papers. When they come back mark each answer about which you have a question. Then EMAIL YOUR QUESTIONS AND ASK FOR A FACE TO FACE APPOINTMENT. During your appointment make notes on your paper indicating his responses. The point here is that you need a written record of his actions, and your actions. Make sure that you are courteous and professional, and that you don't split hairs–those things will work against you if this goes to a higher level.

    2. Do your research. If you feel he has been unfairly harsh or inaccurate in assigning your grade hit the books and arm yourself with facts. Cite your sources. You might not persuade your teacher, but if you need to contest your grade later you'll have facts and experts to back you up.

    3. It goes without saying that you save everything. Also, if you can, record your encounters with this teacher–record classes (many students do this as an aid to note taking, anyway) and if you have to meet with him privately I'd suggest doing the same. Again, the point is not to "catch him," but to make sure you have a clear, accurate, record, fully documented, of what has happened, and when. Many times, the knowledge that this is happening acts as a powerful aid to more reasonable behavior.

  2. One last note–when I was in graduate school I took a course in Middle English translation. It was the hardest course I took in grad school, and it was incredibly frustrating. Each week we translated a passage of Middle English, and then in class we went through it again, as a class, and our professor showed us how it should be translated, and why. I ended up with a B+ (the lowest grade I got) and I felt incredibly lucky to have it. Here's why–the central truth he repeated over and over–words seldom if ever have an exact translation. Every word has a range of meanings, and the best translation results from finding the two words whose ranges of meaning best correspond. I can remember him saying, over and over, "Well, that word would work, but it's not the BEST word." I learned in that class that good enough wasn't. And I came away from every class knowing exactly why I had gotten the grade I had. Of every class I took in grad school, I think I learned the most in that one. And I wound up having immense respect for a man I had, on first acquaintance, found to be an abrasive prima donna. I don't know what's happening in your class, but what about if you let the grade issue go (if you can) and just focus on learning everything you can from the man–and that includes asking questions. I don't know if this is helpful, but it's another perspective, at least.

  3. I've spoken to the chair about the creative writing class which is an online class. I didn't get very far but since the conversation with the chair the professor has set up a session so we can do some peer reviews. This was one aspect I felt was missing from the class.

    As for my linguistics professor, I've taken on a formal project with a challenge. I'm going to research the maxims that everyone had issues with the quizzes and analyze his quiz questions based on what I learn. Then if I make a good argument he has agreed to give points back to the whole class. I'm hoping I'll be able to argue my point enough (and I'm finding sources to support it) that the class will get some points back.

    I don't sit back and take crappy teaching. I have two sisters who are teachers and I have a good idea of who I am.

    I think part of the problem with the Creative Writing professor is that email is too easy to shoot off in the heat of the moment. She was annoyed and didn't stop to think about how what she said would be taken in that forum. I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt and move forward…. for now…

    Thank you for this information – it is truly appreciated. I don't mind the grade so long as I feel like I'm learning. While I'd like to get straight A's in my classes, I'm more concerned with growing as a writer and increasing my skills and knowledge. If the teachers aren't doing that then they are failing.

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