Paper time….

It’s been forever since I posted…I am once again reminded of why blogs go dry. It’s hard damn work trying to do this consistently, especially when it’s not really related to work. I wanted to comment on a phenomenon that I’ve only recently started to notice as more and more of my friends and colleagues become classroom teachers, and also use Facebook.

That’s right…I’m talking about the posting of ridiculous comments, observations, and botched sentences from student papers.

I don’t think anyone should be surprised that teachers share their students’ absurd, ignorant, hyperbolic, misinformed, or inappropriately homonym’d sentences. And I don’t think this is something that started with Facebook. Back when I did my master’s, we had a chalkboard in our T.A. office that was full of embarrassing comments. There’s even a professor at my college who posts bad tests on his office door! As if to show students “here’s what happens if you don’t study and try to be a wiseass on your exams.” But Facebook has such a long arm, and I’m able to simply filter all the comments from friends at all stages of their careers.

I don’t think I’m really “outing” anyone here, and besides, is there anything philosophically wrong with doing this? None of my friends are naive enough to think that anything they post on Facebook is actually “private,” even with all of Facebook’s privacy filters turned up to code red status. Besides, names are never attached, usually not even class sections or anything like that. But it makes me wonder…

Did my teachers do this with my fellow students’ and my own papers?

OF COURSE they did! I think that one of the only ways we can lighten the mood from the slowly diminishing pile of “to-be-graded” papers is to laugh a little. Besides, we often find these sentences in the papers of those students for whom a B- is all they’re looking to get out of this class, who did well enough on the tests that they could half-ass the paper, and barely proofread. For us, it’s partially the knowledge that we are putting in a tremendous amount of effort to grade these papers, sometimes more intellectual effort than the student took in writing them. And so, as a sort of schadenfreude-inspired punishment, we air out their dirty laundry. Look at what my student wrote!

The fun thing about Facebook is that it allows us to all share in the collective agony of huge piles of concert reports and under-researched survey papers. We inevitably reward ourselves every few papers by tooling around on the internet, and when we get to Facebook, we can feel comforted by the fact that 1) our friends and colleagues are just as beleaguered and swamped as us, and 2) their students are just as careless, and sometimes moronic, as ours.

So, friends, keep posting your gems of quotes from student papers. I love reading about the “mellon collie of Schubert’s Lieder” and the “rice of Spring.” As for me, I’ll start the season with this good one:

-on a performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring four-hand piano arrangement:

“There were a few trills here and there. There were a lot of questions and answers. They played soft, they played loud.”

Brilliant observations 🙂


~ by Jake on December 13, 2010.

2 Responses to “Paper time….”

  1. I am one of the very few people at the GC with a fellowship that does not involve teaching, and as such, my experience with teaching is practically nil. Still, I enjoy and benefit from these hilarious student-paper-quotes because it makes me feel less scared about teaching.

    Explanation: I listen to my doctoral colleagues tell such horror stories about their students. Cheating, disrespect, total apathy, unabashed rudeness, lateness, lies, and so on. This is not to say I was unaware students occasionally act crappily, only that it seems more “real” when my FRIENDS are telling me about it. So I appreciate reading funny quotes from students’ papers and tests. It lets me know that, even in the stupidity, there will be things to look forward to in addition to imparting knowledge. Like laughing at something dumb or accidentally (or purposefully) silly.

    Reading silly student comments also makes me feel like I’m not totally out of the teaching loop. At least I am exposed to teachers on a regular basis and hear what the experience has been like for them.

    As for posting comments on the door, I’m not sure if that’s very… professional. Seeing a humiliatingly stupid comment on your professor’s door might make most people laugh–but not all people. College isn’t exactly a time of emotional stability and I’m not sure I’d want to risk chipping away at someone’s potentially minuscule self-esteem. On the other hand, they ARE hilarious and it might motivate students to look over their work ONCE before handing in a paper or essay.

    • Correction: One of the few in the MUSIC department with a non-teaching fellowship. I really can’t speak for people outside of our program!

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