To many people, this is the time of year when they are debating whether gift buying really is that important, and whether it might just be a lot easier to give everyone gift cards and be done with the whole shopping mess. But for college professors like myself, December brings other excitement: It’s the end of the Fall Semester! And with it comes the joy of grading research papers, book reviews, exams, etc. Now I know that my students would chime in, “But you wouldn’t have to grade them if you didn’t assign them”…or something along those lines. However, I have an obligation to help them learn how to be better writers, to express their thoughts coherently, to think critically, etc. In other words, I have a duty to make them write, and thus I have a duty to evaluate what they write (and to indicate where they need to improve so that they don’t make the same mistakes again). Last year, homonyms became the pet project (my favorite was the troops waiting for a fairy to carry them across the river); I’m anxious to see what joys await me this semester.
When I am grading research papers, I evaluate two major things: how the student writes (grammar, spelling, logic of argument, historical accuracy, etc.) and how the student documents his/her information (we love citations in history). I encourage them to submit rough drafts (and occasionally require it), and I enjoy seeing how their work improves between the rough draft and the final version as they learn more about the process of writing. Once in a while, though, the rough draft is awfully similar to the final version, as they either fail to heed the suggestions made to improve their work, or just rush through and figure I won’t notice (guess again). I still recall one student who persisted in spelling medieval “mid-evil” and, when I tried to correct her, told me that she was right because spell check did not put the red squiggly line underneath it.
In the future, I might decide to share some of these wonderful accounts on the blog (not including the student’s name, of course–we need to protect the anonymity of the guilty as well as that of the innocent). Hopefully my adventures over the next 1 1/2 weeks will not include adding more stickers to the board, as perhaps the students will realize that I mean business when I tell them plagiarism is not permitted in my classes. Then again, I keep saying that, and they keep challenging me. I still haven’t decided which is my favorite excuse: either “I didn’t cite Wikipedia because we weren’t allowed to use it,” or “But I typed it myself!”
Enjoy the holiday season–and, for any students or faculty members who read this blog, Happy Studying and Happy Grading!