Thursday, April 5, 2012

If you feel that others have not graded you keenly enough

I had not heard from Brother-Unit Grader Boob in a week or so, and was concerned.  Happily, he checked in this morning.

Well, not happily.

Since the USAmerican large public university at which he teaches had its state revenue contribution cut by an insane amount (the initial threat was a 58% reduction, from $178 million to $74 million), Grader Boob has suffered from severe underemployment, on the one hand, and aggravated exploitation in every wee aspect of the tiny bit of teaching he undertook this semester, on the other.  In fact, he is thinking of retiring the compound "Grader Boob" moniker, and going with the simpler, eloquent "Boob."  Desperate times, desperate measures.

He has spent his entire adult working life educating the 18-22 year old population of his state, with the occasional "mature" student or young genius to blur distinctions.  He loves his work and is excellent at it.  [Read:  There is only so much, however, that any soul can take.]

The candid nature of his communications to me about the perils of teaching comes from knowing that I spent all my adult working life doing the same thing -- though there at the end of my career, I baled from university education for the more secure contractual arrangement of an urban public high school.  [Read: Better benefits.]

What I like about his recent evolutions, most of all, is that he's extending candor to his students.  (And I am always heartened by his humor!)

Hi there--
Although I'm grateful for the classes I have, I do get tired of the carping about grades.
So, since I'm still smack in the middle of grading, I've cut and pasted below my latest retreat from advocating any kind of standard. After all, apparently they're all A writers.
Hope you enjoy the spelling and grammar errors in the student email. I did. (I also enjoyed the chalk-drawn announcement, warning of an upcoming motivational lecture, on the sidewalk outside X Hall:  The Path to Succes.)
Love to all--and I have to ask: Shouldn't your bacteria have its own wing at NIH? Goddamn.Sound the retreat!
Boob (Not so sure about the Grader part anymore)

Subject:   Grading Practices
English 4,847
Professor Boob

Dear Proffessor Boob,
There seems to be a HUGE gap in the grading practices of the Proffessors at X . It seems this entire class is favoring poorly. I have never received such poor grades on essays. It seems as if the ENG 4,845 and ENG 4,846, did not do a very good job at preparing the students for your class. An essay that I received an A on in ENG 4,845.05, I would receive a C in your class. This gap needs addressed, because it is not fair to the students.
Eleanor Rigby

Hi Eleanor and everyone else--
I never discuss how other instructors grade, for in order to offer an informed assessment, I'd have to see their curriculum, their grading rubric, the individual assignments, and so on.

But you've hit on a key point. Grade inflation, in which teachers award students grades they've not earned, is rampant in the college system today, and it is an issue that should be addressed. If you feel that I'm holding you to an unattainable standard, be sure to note that when you do the course evaluations at the end of the semester. If you feel that others have not graded you keenly enough to prepare you for upper-level work, mention that as well.

But the key here is to figure out what I can do to help your writing--particularly the Insightful Compositions and the  Edgy Essays. I'm already allowing you to revise 2 of the 3 essays, so let me add the same opportunity to the Insightful Compositions--you can revise 2 of the 3. (Be sure that you have the time to do so, though. Always keep your focus on the current batch of assignments.)

I've posted an announcement, titled "About the grades...", which gives you some hints on how to address your complaints/arguments to me, so that should help.

The key thing, and this is why Ms. Rigby's email is so important, is this: Don't suffer in silence over your grade. Make a case for its regrading or take advantage of the opportunity to revise.

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