Monday, June 8, 2009

The other end

Though I am somewhat afraid that I will spend purgatory grading high school English papers to atone for this, I thought I’d post a few more grading highlights for this week. I could repeat my dubious moral from last month as an excuse for it. More accurately, I’m feeling somewhat penitent for being angry about my sudden grading bombardment that coincided with a weekend I already knew would be filled with an out-of-town visitor.

Like always, these intercity-high-school papers were terrible, and I was given them less than 48 hours before they needed to be completed. It didn’t help that I spent the first seven years of my adult life wanting to teach intercity kids and I’m still sad that I’m not there right now, so I use my paper comments as my sole opportunity to contribute to the education of kids I imagine have never had their writing taken seriously in their lives. Thus I stayed up past midnight and was up around 4 all weekend trying to redirect sparkling prose like this:
  • “It seemed to me like [Shakespeare] wrote his plays based on what he wanted them to be like.” I read the sentence bewilderedly for a while, trying to find a way to make his statement actually say something.
  • “Shakespeare wrote his many famous plays throughout history.” Wow. I suppose we Renaissance scholars are greedy to keep him to ourselves!
  • “Throughout history, when people read books or watch movies, in the back of their minds they expect a happy ending.” I haven’t checked the ancient Sumerian movie reviews, but my impression is that tragedy was not completely alien to them. Nevertheless, another student went so far as to imply that Shakespeare invented the sad ending.
After spending the weekend angry with the state curriculum that allows these high school seniors to make these kinds of mistakes and with the teacher for giving these to me at the last minute, I met with her yesterday to deliver 14 hours of grading. She used the chance to vent her own frustrations with the infamously corrupt government of the city where she teaches. In this case, due to some absolutely foreseen and unprevented computer issues, the entire county, elementary through high school, lost every bit of data in their entire computer system.
  • Medical records.
  • Transcripts.
  • Honors and awards.
  • Grades.
  • Storage space where the kids would have been storing the drafts they worked on in the computer labs.
Graduation is in two days, and there are kids whose papers I begrudgingly graded this weekend who do not know if they will graduate. Teachers, already infamously underpaid and overworked, have been scrambling for weeks to pull together some semblance of academic records in time for the end of the semester. Students who have spent their lives shafted are finishing this year out a few steps further back.

And I was frustrated because of a few impromptu sleepless nights.

Perhaps there are some valid reasons for me to have been angry at the frantic teacher and the bad papers that kept me from enjoying my weekend with my friend. But anger feels a lot different with a more comprehensive picture of the person on the other end. Perhaps I should try to look for him a little more often.

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