MARKING PAPERS… (IF YOU’RE A TEACHER, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!)

I’m taking a break from marking the 39 papers (minimum 1,000 words – maximum 2,500 words) I need to mark by Thursday, unless I want to spoil my weekend once more (my Friday is busy with other academic activities). I’m about to fulfil my 15 paper quota for today, which is not too bad, and I need to let steam off. If any teacher is reading me, I know s/he’ll sympathise but this is not for you. This is for the students, mine or anyone else’s.

Despite the constant, universal plagiarising, I still believe in papers and in the importance of teaching Literature students to write them well. I convince myself that students work hard and, so, deserve my whole attention when I mark their work. This is why I spend an unreasonable amount of time, taken off writing my own papers, making notes and comments -like most of us, I’m sure. I find that doing this on a Word file instead of a paper copy is less time-consuming but I’m not sure how it works for students (or other teachers). Anyway, my students, if you’re reading me: I understand that my duties include investing my time on marking your papers but how am I supposed to feel regarding those papers clearly showing that the student author doesn’t care and won’t bother? Marking those is, for me, a complete waste of my teaching time and, so, of the resources that should benefit those who do care and bother.

Well-written, well-researched papers are, of course, a pleasure to read. Marking becomes then less relevant than establishing a dialogue with the student author. Other papers may be not so perfect but work well, nonetheless, because the student has given his or her best: you can hear the brain wheels purr and spin, and sense the wish to do well, to impress. In these two cases, the papers striving for perfection and the papers born of making an effort beyond one’s limits, teaching is no burden at all. Quite the contrary.

The real killjoy are the papers that demand my attention even though their authors have paid no attention whatsoever to ‘minor’ problems such as: spelling (Dr. Kekyll?), layout, referencing, use of quotations, writing intelligible sentences, etc… you name it! The whole paper screams at me: I don’t care and I won’t bother. Not even to check the painstakingly written guidelines and samples available on Virtual Campus and, what is even more puzzling, the secondary sources that could have been so easily used… Why, oh why?? You lose by getting a lower mark, I only gain frustration, no one benefits. What a sad waste.

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