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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Words of Wisdom

I have not had a proper anecdotal post for months, I believe. So, here is one. This has been a very harassing week. First I had to present a seminar on a Marxist poet for a Canadian modernism course, and I've been toiling away marking essays from a first year English course. I was finishing the last twelve papers today in one of the more secluded study areas on campus: a small Edwardian library. There were two other students there- one young man who would stare at a pile of papers covered with crypic biological symbols, and repeatedly cry 'Oh, ____! ____! ____! ___!' every few minutes. The other was more talkative. He inquired about my work, if I was a TA, and the mysteries of the grad student. When he asked what I intended to write my thesis on, I replied the Brontes. He shook his head. He had never heard of them. And so, one thousand miles from home, I find that here too the Brontes are forgotten.

I am extremely proud of my students. I know that I have no right to be proud of them but they're the best English class ever and I often brag about them behind their backs- as I am doing now. The professor apparently got most of the papers which were in the D-C range but I had mostly B papers. Today I finally reached the lower grade papers, and they provided me with some amusement. For instance, one paper on the importance of heritage and the sea to fishermen on Cape Breton island, Nova Scotia, Canada begins with a brief discussion of Chinese culture (there are no Chinese characters in the story, and no furter commentary on the Chinese in the essay...). I learned that I was born within in the Victorian period which, apparently extended until at least 1984. I am also indebted for this piece of knowledge: 'do not take money for granite.'


ChrisV said...

Yes, granite is a gift of the earth. Don't take money for drugs, either. That'll get you arrested ;)

The library sounds wonderful despite your two fellow scholars.

In sympathy to your plight, allow me to share anecdotes from my experience in grad school. I programmed in a pitch black room lit only by the glow from the computer screens - the graphics look better on the screen in the dark. It was a relatively quiet space save for the tapping of keys. There was, however, the one guy who would express his frustration by unexpected loud outbursts of one word curses. Kind of like your guy. Super loud. Scared the heck out of the rest of us and then annoyed the heck out of the rest of us. This would go on for quite a while or until he finally succeeded in compiling or whatever his goal was.

Grading homework was the same but different...rather than essays, there was computer code. It had to run successfully, of course, but looking at the printouts served to expose the cheaters...usually the cheats were not only too lazy to do the work but also were too lazy to even change variable names or comments so that the code looked the same as the other cheater. Luckily I didn't have to do much grading. But oh...good times... :)

Brontëana said...

I love marking. This scared one of my professors last year, but it is true.

Those exams from Leisure and Pleasure in the Ancient World were mines of wisdom. The students were often very squimish about discussing sexuality and so would end up saying some strange things, such as how 'people had sex with men unlike today.' I don't remember the context but one paper coined the term 'feminium' which I thought must be some kind of alloy. Marriage was only meant to 'create super families' like the Incredibles, I guess.

I don't think the professor knew what he was doing when he asked them to name the Roman god of the erection. I think 'Harry Potter' had to be the most creative answer.

kayxyz said...

Everybody's a critic. In my Bantam classic edition paperback, Joyce Carol Oates states she thinks the gypsy scene borders on melodramatic. To me, the gypsy scene is a perfect follow to the charades scene. Charades is a staple at British house parties. It's incumbent upon Rochester to provide further entertainment, and he does.

Melodrama, to me, is the lightning that strikes and cleaves the tree. Yet I know lightning strikes!

pennyforyourdreams said...

What about taking money for pumice stone? Please tell me that's ok, because I've done it!

Feminium: Chemical symbol: Fn.
Atomic weight: thinks it could do with losing a few pounds.
Atomic State: Changeable (apparently it depends on the moon).
Forms common compounds with: Handbags, Shoes and Chocolate;)

ChrisV said...

Ha Ha Ha! Feminium...it belongs on a periodic chart of elements of some sort - maybe as part of your science of Eduardus Rocastrum. Wonder what the atomic weight of Feminium is...or perhaps it is rude to ask ;)

Your essays sound alot more fun to grade than dry old computer program printouts.

Hmmm, Harry Potter...the Roman god of erection...wonder where that one came from...its not like he is very tall or anything. :-D

Brontëana said...

I think we are indebted to penny for her knowledge of chemistry. ;)

Yes... I feel that the best of bad answers usually come out of a sense of desperation. If you don't know the answer, it is sometimes best to be spectacularly wrong and hope to amuse the professor. Some of the other more intesting ones were 'Erector' and 'Me.'

The first class I TAed was Egyptology. Sure enough, someone said that the first pyramid was built by pharaoh 'Loser.' The Egyptians used 'floating boats' as opposed to the sinking kind popular with other peoples. My personal favourite was:

"One of the popular theories of the purpose of the pyramids is that the pyramids were a reflection of a new respect for all workers."

Ancient Egptian communism?!

pennyforyourdreams said...

Why does it suddenly seem that marking essays is so much fun?

I came across a great phrase today in some literature: "Pipe coating electrically tested for holidays." Er, what? Does this mean I can take it to the beach, skiing, scuba diving?

rinabeana said...

I'm catching up on my blog-reading and I was highly amused by this post. Oooooh, fun! Student bashing! (just kidding) So I'm a chemistry graduate student in my eighth semester of teaching. I've graded a LOT of lab reports and had some very interesting answers (though nothing as lovely as feminium). My personal favorite was just a typo, but it was about the morality of acids (as opposed to the molarity, a unit of concentration). My dork friends and I had quite the discussion about the relative morality of various acids. Did I mention we're dorks?

There was also the exam I graded where the (clearly frustrated) student started leaving profane comments about how the question was BS (though written out) and he should have to flippin' (I paraphrased) memorize things. The prof and I had quite a laugh over that...

I'm going to admit my own silliness, though, because I'm amused by the taking "money for granite," but sheepish at the same time. Until a few years ago, I thought the phrase "for all intents and purposes" was "for all intensive purposes." Luckily for me, they sound the same if you speak quickly (which I do) and no one ever said anything (though they may have laughed behind my back). I've since corrected my error. I think I want to start telling people not to take money for granite, though. HEE!