Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Happy MumblyMumbly Birthday, Grader Boob!

My Brother-Unit "Grader Boob" was born in the back of a London taxi cab, or so the story goes.

Our Mutual Mother doesn't need more than a thin hint before she'll dig through some ratty old boxes and extract a stained bit of flannel ("never washed!"), along with a yellowed, dog-earred snapshot kept tucked inside a large manila envelope .

Her evidence of motherhood. [She would go on to leave her husband and three children in favor of taking up with her gynecologist/obstetrician. Go ahead, it's okay, you can say it: Ewwww!]

They're called hackneys, these famous London black taxis, and they have been toodling around since the early 1600s. Derived from a French term meaning "ambling nag," hacquenée, the horse-and-carriage set up belonged exclusively to area inns.

And then SumDood came along. There's always a SumDood!

In 1636, the owner of four hackney coaches brought them into the Strand outside the Maypole Inn, and the first taxi rank had appeared. He established a tariff for various parts of London, and his drivers wore livery, so they would be easily recognisable. 'Hackney carriage' is still the official term used to describe taxis.

Our Mutual Mother, the narrator, says that the only person to accompany her on Grader-Boob's-Wilde-Ride was our oldest Brother-Unit, now known as TumbleWeed. He was instructed to sit quietly beside the driver, to face front. He was four years old.

She safely delivered Grader Boob in the back seat of the cab, with TumbleWeed sitting ramrod straight in the front seat, and completely silent. She and the driver exchanged looks, both amazed at his apparent maturity. I am sure she felt considerable pride at her child's advanced comprehension of pregnancy and birth.

When they finally pulled into the hospital A & E, however, TW recovered both his voice and his agility.

An orderly brought a wheelchair to the door. He was busy locking it and preparing to transfer her and the brand new Grader Boob, still attached to the Mutual Mother by umbilical cord, when Tumbleweed announced that no one was going anywhere. It has been reported that he had a certain t o n e.

Scaling the divisive seat, my oldest brother carefully lowered himself next to her, patiently explaining his conundrum: "When we got into the cab, Mother, there were two of us..." He proceeded to hold them hostage until adequate explanations were made, and logic restored.

Everything turned out just fine, of course, as they usually do in these types of stories, and Grader Boob grew up to know that there was no greater big brother than TW.

Grader Boob has been featured in this blog primarily in his role as University Professor. He professes English, and in recent years has been stuck with at least one section of Freshman Comp every semester. I mean "stuck with" in the most amiable way. Someone has to do it, why shouldn't it be Grader Boob? Last October 7, he described how he was celebrating his birthday:

I'm spending the morning looking at first drafts of the song project [they were to analyze the lyrics and impact of protest songs]; things aren't looking too good. I give them minimal guidance for the first drafts, hoping to see just how they've interpreted the assignment. Apparently, the idea of a thesis merging literary and rhetorical analysis escapes most of my writers. (Although I must admit, it is an odd notion indeed, smacking of a grad school assignment adapted for freshmen.)

So they tell me in very broad terms about the singer ("Marley was a Jamican who sometimes visited the island of Hadee"--No, I'm not kidding) or about the hippies roaming free during the 60s or about how Donovan wouldn't dare sing "Universal Soldier" to an audience of American patriots because as "[t]he movie 'The Punisher' said it best: 'if you want peace, prepare for war.'"
War indeed. Where do I begin?

Earlier this year, I went to that audacious website, curious to see, first, if I had ever been rated, then to see how the Brother-Unit fared. It was fascinating, funny, sad, spot on, and way off. And so, of course, it turned into a blog post which I am reposting today, in honor of Grader Boob's MumblyMumbly birthday and in tribute to the infinite care he brings to his [largely] thankless job.

Hang in there, bro! I've got your back! Remember, they can smell the fear!
From the back of a cab to the front of the class, you've come a long way, baby!

One of my brother-units is an English professor at a large public university where he teaches his fair share of comp classes. He's fed up with his department's grand plan of lowering expectations in the face of increasingly ill-prepared incoming Freshmen. It is not unusual for students, parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, guardians, former babysitters, and various administrators to make ardent appeals and complaints about his refusal to doctor grades, lighten up on class participation, and attendance -- plus there is his tendency to drop F-Bombs when mightily frustrated.

He's a *fantastic* teacher. It's just a fact. The breadth and depth of his knowledge, plus the ability he has to make learning hilarious -- these are his greatest gifts. He cares a great deal about his students, but is not keen that they should know this.

The English department dictates the grading rubrique and general format of these types of classes. Students write two drafts of their compositions, the first edited by their prof for grammar and content, the second receiving peer review from a classmate, after which they have a week to craft the final paper. He's available to help during some pretty generous office hours -- yet it's rare for anyone to turn up.

I went to this morning to see what comp students had to say about my darling brother, Professor X, known to family and friends by his chosen nickname of Grader Boob. Below are his "reviews," verbatim:

This class was difficult. You really have to go to class and pay attention. The assignments aren't very interesting and he grades them harshly. I'm usually an A English student and ended up with a mid-range B. He's a funny guy and knows his stuff. He's willing to help you and is fairly flexable.

You have to work and pay attention in his class but the Dr. X is very organized and knows the topic he is teaching. I thought he was friendly and have no negative criticism.

He's not the nicest person...he's very blunt and if you dont particpate then he gets upset about it

Great Professor! To pass his class though you have to attend every lecture meeting and complete all the assignments. Do not leave anything for the night before, it WON't work out.

I may be one of the few who liked this guy. He was always friendly and helped out when he could. His papers are very easy if you pay attention in class and TALK! he likes the class better if they talk. Dont piss him him off or your class will be miserable.

the man is a wack job. dont take this class.

He's a really cool guy, but he grades the essays really hard, so unless you know what you're doing, you had better pray for a C

Pretends like he's one of those cool teachers, but he's really not

Very Hard. Does not like what he reads.

Yes, he is a hard teacher. He gives difficult work and demands that you complete it all. My biggest complaint is that he is very unprofessional. He revealed individual students' grades in front of the class, insulted the entire class, and threw tantrums. However, my writing skills have improved.

Great teacher! Knows what he is doing, and is always willing to help you out. Very tough grader, but well worth the work. Dr. X ROCKS!!!

Please stay away from this professor! He even told us that his best writers only get a mid B in the class. Got nothing but C's on my papers and as soon as a took 1102 with a different teacher i got an A on my first paper. He has somewhat lame humor and likes to cuss in class which was the only thing that helped. he is very moody! watch out!

I regret not dropping this class when I had the chance lets put it that way. He is not helpful, grades hard especially on the drafts. And he kicked entire class out one morning because nobody had any notes when he never said we had to have notes for the section we had to read. Drop before you take his class you are better off with another professor

Funny but not helpful what so ever

He is a very interesting professor and trys to involve everyone in his classa and get opnions. The class is difficult because most of it comes from 3 projects, but he helps it you ask for it. Ultimately he prepares his students well, and he is purposely ambiguous to offer writing freedom.

The guy is the Hitler of all English classes...As a matter of fact, you'd be better off having Hitler as your professor...Dr. X blows...DO NOT TAKE THIS CLASS!!!!..skip a semseter of english if you have to in order to get another teacher....STAY AWAY FROM THIS CLASS!!!

Good teacher but also very hard. Will make you work for the grade but you get to choose a lot of the projects yourself. Helps out a lot. Three absences equals a B at the highest. Just ask for help and you will get it.

artificially caps grades. First essay average is always low to try and scare people off. Last two improve but corners are cut to lower the grade in other areas such as participation. Claims a student can ace the class but then sets a flat average for an assignment to a B-. Avoid this professor, the only thing you can learn is frustration.

Terrible teacher who is unclear about any assignments. Out of all of his class 2/3rds of the way, the highest grade was a C and 60% of his students were failing, DON'T take this teacher. He curses in his lectures and actually dropped the F bomb in one of em. Someone stole his phone and his book too.

Great Teacher! You have to come to class, however to do well, and he grades pretty harshly. Funny guy, and very smart.

Pain in the butt to be around...degrading. Makes the students feel like total fools. Talks down to us and grades papers totally unfairly.

He's willing to help for the few that seek it. Overall grades over excessively to the point it reflects as him trying to find any kind of grammatical or MLA error than reading the papers' contents themselves. Most likely done to isolate and eliminate slackers but hurts everyone in the process. Save yourself the headache and take someone else.

X is a terrible professor. He is egotistical and has crazy mood swings. got a comp 1 class he grades way too difficult. other papers that i have seen from other classes that suck have made better grades than papers i worked my butt off on.

Horrible teacher and biased with his grading. Dropped the F bomb in class and wondered why one of his students had stolen his textbook. I would highly recommend NOT taking this class and picking another professor like Y who actually care about their students. This class isn't worth the time or the effort to struggle for a "C" or a "B".

this professor was one of the best professors in writing i've ever had. his class wasn't the easiest class but i learned a lot, one of the only teachers that actually grades on quality and not completion. really helpful, whenever i needed help, he helped me understand whatever i needed help with. class isn't that hard though, i have a B so far...

ok here's the deal, the rest of the people posting on prof X obviously haven't quite mastered the english language, i was late every day, he gave the answers to every quiz, and homework. so automatic A on all, the final he gives ansers to during the test. The projects sre easy, i got an A-B starting every one at 10:00 the night before. take him.

Demands both respect and hard work from his class. He is strict but fair. You can't slack off in his class, so don't try it.

Prof X is a pretty good teacher. He is a harder grader, but if you're willing to put the work he demands into your school work, you can do well. He will tell you that he is the hardest grader in the English department, and he could possibly be. I just can't stress enough that if you are not willing to work hard, you will not succeed in his class!

He is a very good teacher contrary to others belief. I did very well in class and he only flipped out on us one time the whole semester. He will tell you he is considered one of the hardest teachers at U but that's just a scare tactic. He's actually really good.

Yikes. He wears the same outfir every day or so...He grades fairly hard, and didn't give any good feedback, only negative. He even walked out in the middle of someone's presentation b/c he didn't like it. Crazy guy, not too nice, but if you work really, really hard, you might get a B-. A bit of a grupmy guss I think. Good luck, you'll need it!

Alright, GRADES HARD! Definitly not a class to slack in. He tries to show you what you did wrong, but you never really understand. Also he has a good sense of humor on his GOOD days, on bad days, shut up listen and leave.

Ok heres the deal..i suck at english and still got a b+ in his class. If you go to class, sit in the front and talk to him even if you have no idea hwta your talking about, he will grade you easier!!He's alrite just a hard grader (if he doesnt like you:)

Great Teacher. He is a tough grader and expects you to work to your full potential. Will always keep you busy with some assignment but explains everything well. Awesome sense of humor. If you are willing to work hard, then I recommend you take him. If you are a slacker, DO NOT sign up for him.

Very bad teacher whos got something to complain about on all of your papers. Very hard grader and complained on one of my papers "This information hasn't been seen in a new light". If you don't already have PH.D writing, don't waste your time in this class.

hard grader, if you aren't already mark twain, then don't expect anything better than a B (if you're lucky). he has lots of bad days. towards the end of the semester it seemed like his goal was to get as many students as possible to drop. he would scare us by telling us the majority was failing

Teaches usually early classes, but if you are looking for a good laugh in the morning, then take his class. Very hard grader but always available to help. Teaches from a student's point of view and tries to make curriculm more interesting. Be willing to work, but overall a good professor.

I really enjoy this professor. He grades hard by a lot of peoples standards, but I believe he grades pretty fairly. The class is fun because of him, he gives you a lot of laughs, and a sort of carefree environment. He likes to get things done. Not a good class to slack off in. Great teacher.

This teacher is a complete nazi! Very hard to get a good grade, I do not think he wants anyone to recieve a B or higher. He grades super hard and writes comments that make students feel stupid. You won't learn anything new either. He expects you to be a perfect english major writer or graduate level

I am going to cry now, please get out of this class as fast as you can say "I'm outta here."

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