Reading While Knitting

Nothing complicated; nothing too exciting, but yes, I do knit while I read. As well as during many other domestic activities.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How to make your English teacher cry

Each week, my college level literature students are to write a 350-500 word critical analysis essay. It's week 3, and this is what one student submitted (it's actually longer and more coherent than the earlier papers from the same student), along with my response. I have had enough.

Critical Analysis Assignment 3

Compare and Contrast the allegories of Everyman and Piers Plowman. Which one is easier to interpret?What criticism do they make of Medieval English society (if they do)? Do they both seem to view salvation in the same way? Explain your answer. Which one is easier to interpret?

To me, it would be easier to contrast when interpreting this material, because of the humorous brightness, the laughter, and the light setting of this story. It was also; esteem to know that at this time, (year) that it was outstanding in those days. I am not sure and I could be wrong, but I did not fine any information stating if Medieval English made any criticism in society. I also, could be wrong about my first response to the question, but it was just what I thought.

2. How do you assess Margery Kempe’s personality as her book presents it? Give specific examples to argue for your view of her Character traits. Do you think it is falsifies our view of her personality if we only have excerpts from her book?

I am not sure about my answer that I am about to give, but I goggled this information and this is what I found. It said that her personality was express through her spirituality and her body. Yes, I think it was false because it does not make any sense.

Student Name, you said you wanted feedback for improvement. Okay, here goes. First off, how many times have I asked, through announcements, reminders, comments on papers, that you only answer one prompt? So first, do the minimum of doing what you’re asked.

Second. I know this doesn’t seem to have any connection to the rest of your life, and here’s a big tip – it doesn’t matter. Just do the work – and that DOES have a lot of connection to the rest of your life.

So, let’s say you were going to write about the second one. First, do not use Google to find your answer. First, read the material. Do you understand all the words? If not, use a dictionary to look them up. Do you understand the story? Read all of the supporting material in the Norton book. Do you understand the paper prompt? It tells you to use her writing to assess her personality. Does it matter that she didn’t write her book herself? Why or why not?
So your job is to say to yourself, “Hmmm. What would I think of a person like this, if all I had was this writing?” Then – and here’s the exciting part – you outline your ARGUMENT, supporting it with quotes FROM THE READING, and you WRITE AN ESSAY with paragraphs that make sense and flow from one to another and make an argument.

Say you think she’ nuts. So you make that argument, support it with evidence, and turn it in. When you do that, I’ll be able to give you feedback on what you’ve actually written, instead of telling you what you should have done. I’m happy to answer questions that are real – asked ahead of time, asked about the reading or the assignment, but I’m not throwing feedback into the void.

I’m not going to spend another one of my precious work minutes on work that shows such lack of effort.


At 11:09 PM, Anonymous P.B.R said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2:32 AM, Blogger Amy said...

Oh, Stef. And I'm complaining because my third and fourth grade students ask for help without even giving it a Not so good to know it doesn't ever change for some kids.

At 4:35 AM, Blogger turtlegirl76 said...

What the fuck was the first comment? A spammer child? A spamlet?

What that student turned in to you was a joke. Seriously. Can ya take more than 5 minutes to do the assignment? And what's with all the "I could be wrong..." statements? Well, duh.

At 7:48 AM, Blogger allisonmariecat said...

Oh, geez. That's...tragic. Does she really think she's answering the question? If so, it makes me afraid for the future of the English language and critical thinking.

A friend of mine taught intro English at the college level and had told me that the kids weren't learning how to write or even think in high school. Not sure if it's the teaching or the learning where things are going awry, but this is awful. I can't believe you're not half-sloshed on Scotch all the time to get through this :)

At 8:02 AM, Blogger Charity said...

Oh, my goodness. I don't even have words. Good answer!

At 9:24 AM, OpenID NeedleDancer said...

Suddenly, my college students (seniors in an advanced composition course) seem like geniuses -- they didn't know the difference between adverbs and adjectives.
You were far too kind.
I'd have insisted that the said student come see me, and then quite clearly told him/her that a failing grade was in the future unless miraculous changes ensued.

my kids (ages 10 & 12) could, and probably would do better.

I may have to send you yarn or something... you deserve special rewards for not taking a gun to class and just shooting this one to put it out of all of our misery.

At 11:01 AM, Blogger cpurl17 said...

When I read the headline for your post today I was hoping that you had posted a beautifully written essay that caused tears of joy...but sadly, I was wrong.

You DO deserve a stiff Scotch or yarn or both.

At 11:15 AM, Blogger Robin said...

I have to tell you, as frightening as it may be, I am not surprised. I taught accounting and tax online for four years and I could definitely see some of those students writing like this. SCARY! You nailed it with your response though - perfect!

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Lara said...

Wow! This student made it to college, huh?

My fifth grader is writing things far more detailed than this. Our struggle is using supporting details from the reading. She has improved since the beginning of the school year, though.

At 3:00 PM, Blogger meg said...

And their parents are shelling out good money for the "kid" to waste paper & oxygen.
Definitely- scotch & yarn.

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Kate said...

Awesome. Such a good sign for the future of civilization.

I had one student, several years ago, who was just so unreasonably pathetic, in a class which was, admittedly, easier than it should have been, that I gave in and sent copies of his work, along with his weekly reviews, to his basketball coach. Coach had had been sending me increasingly aggressive emails because I wasn't passing his star player. The emails stopped, as soon as the work was forwarded to himself and the dean.

But, seriously. *Anyone* could find ways to involve mention of Allan Iverson into a Psychological Testing course, right? A common mistake, really.

At 7:18 PM, Blogger suzee said...

Who is paying the exorbitant tuition for this person? What could s/he possibly hope to gain from putting this student in a class in which s/he does absolutely nothing, not even pay attention to what the assignment is?

This kind of thing just boggles. Just. Nuts.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Tammy said...

Hi - Thanks for your comment on my blog. I am so glad I found yours... I just love this post. I would like to say I wonder what's going on in this student's mind... but I'm pretty sure I could find the answer in my oldest son. Sadly enough.

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Morenna said...

I realize this is a departure from the other comments, but I suspect I probably was that student when I was an undergraduate. I never have had a good understanding of the analysis of literature. The lit courses I had in high school and college seemed to be based on the student already knowing what all the possible symbolic meanings were and on understanding all the sociological and historical contexts for a given author and work. I have, however, learned that no author ever just tells a story, they always have some hidden meaning, even when the author him/herself says otherwise.

For all my failings in lit classes, I did at least attempt to follow the directions in the assignments, even if I executed them poorly.

At 8:01 AM, Blogger knittycat said...

That's just awful. I hope the rest of your class gives you more hope! Good luck!!!

At 12:56 AM, Blogger amanda j said...

Holy cow! How did this person get so far?

I love your response. There absolutely should be more honesty in response to student work. We aren't doing them any favours pretending it's all okay!!

At 6:14 PM, Blogger Katherine said...

Oh man, that was the funniest thing I've read in a while. I can't even imagine the restraint required to give serious feedback to that drivel. I'm going to have a Scotch for you. I'm sorry, but she "goggled this," and then told you what she found didn't make sense? Hee hee!

So, do you think this sort of thing could be a regular feature for you.

(Seriously, I'm still laughing - even though it's scary).

At 9:56 PM, Blogger Cardinal Fang said...

Is this student a native speaker of English? To me, the writing looks like something written by a Japanese girl who doesn't read or understand English very well. She doesn't seem to be able to parse sentences: the prompt asks whether the two allegories criticize Medieval English society, yet she thinks it's asking whether Medieval English is doing the criticizing.

She may have a problem writing, but clearly her bigger problem is reading. You think she's lazy. I think she doesn't understand what she's supposed to be doing. I doubt that she understands the reading either.

At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ohhhhh!! This takes me back to my year as a teaching assistant to an English 1000 class at Dalhousie University. I was completing a Master's in Eng.Lit. The undergrads were asked to write 6 four-page essays throughout the year. Many of them were like this example of yours. Some students would "forget" to use a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence. Sentence fragments abounded. And often it was clear that the writer had not read the assigned material. Fight the good fight! And may the forces of grammar and critical tinking be channelled to your students!
Meredith (in snowy Montreal)

At 2:40 PM, Blogger B said...

As a second year writing instructor, I am getting incredibly frustrated with the lack of effort my students make. I'm considering having my students read this blog and discuss what they think of it. Any feedback? Would this be ok with you, Stefaneener?

At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Summer said...

We had to write stuff like that in my AP class....
I'm usually one for waiting to the last second to do an assignment....
And even I could write C...or low B worthy paper...
That makes me sad...


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