Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Wait for the Callback...From Jacksonville Jessica.

Joe was in class last week when I said out loud (as I read from a Prezi page on a giant screen): "Your essay must start with a dramatic story about the issue in your paper. If you're writing about legalizing marijuana, make sure you start your first paragraph with a "story," maybe found in research, about an individual in that world, a grower, a user, a doctor, etc. It needs to get the interest of readers. Don't worry about giving all the facts; put a human face on the issue. Tell a story!"

Then I got rough drafts from MANY students AND JOE, most with NO story of any kind, just things like: "Abortion is a big problem in the world today," and "Weed is a big problem in the world today."

I wrote back to these people something like: "I think your issue can work, but in your first paragraph, if you're writing about legalizing marijuana, make sure you start with a "story," maybe found in research, about an individual in that world, a grower, a user, a doctor, etc. It needs to get the interest of readers. Don't worry about giving all the facts; put a human face on the issue. Tell a story first!"

Then the next day I got a lot of emails that said this:

"So, do you want me to start my essay with a story about the issue?"

Joe actually wrote: "I don't get it. It's almost like you want me to start my essay with a story or something, about someone who is in the issue. Is that what you want?"

So I'm planning now to go and drown all the bunnies.



31 comments:

  1. Thanks for getting coffee all over my keyboard!!

    Great rendition of a story all too familiar!

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  2. We have all these highfalutin' assessment rubrics, but seriously, the students who can understand and follow directions (and show up on time and stay off their phones) are the ones who will succeed in life.

    Now if only I could work that observation into something scalable and disruptive I could get myself some venture capital and a front-page story in the Chronicle.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just want to have a rubric: A - Student did what I asked; B - Student tried to do what I asked, but missed; C- Student tried to do what I asked, but not very hard; D - Student doesn't give a shit what I asked.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. F - Student doesn't give a shit who I am.

      Delete
    2. Grade lowered by one full letter grade -- Student has no idea what professor's name is.

      Not to sound self-centered, but so many of my students don't know their professors' last names; in fact, it's common for many full-time students to know the name of only one of their professors in a given semester.

      Delete
    3. I shit you not, we have a rubric with an item on it not dissimilar from what Cal proposed. It's a 1-5 Likert scale item, with 4 being effectively "student did what we told him/her to do." 5 on that scale is "student did what we wish we had thought to ask but didn't because we were too pessimistic to even entertain such fantasy."

      Delete
    4. The grading rubric for my argumentative essay (the capstone project of the semester) has these rating choices for each of the criteria - Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, Below Expectations, and Ignored Expectations. Because yes, sometimes they just don't give a damn.

      By the way, bless your heart for allowing students to write on abortion, legalization of marijuana, and other similar well-trodden topics. I've read too many rehashes of what were certainly high school (or middle school?) essays and just can't anymore, so those topics are banned.

      Delete
  4. I imagine you'll get a bimodal distribution to the reaction to "drown the bunnies"; sometimes drowning the bunnies is the way to go, depending on the bunnies...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With bunnies like the ones in this piece, it's the water being used that has my sympathy.

      Delete
  5. "The tale regarding marijuana usage, and why it needs to be legalized, is a sad one. One time, I was in class, and my professor was describing the paper we'd need to write but I was way too baked to understand her, so I submitted garbage. If weed were legal, I'd have the resources at my disposal (namely avocadoes) to get over my wake and bake more quickly."

    I think that would make a good story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Avocados help you get over being stoned? Bwuh? If this is true, I need to know, for my . . . research, yeah.

      Delete
  6. Callback. A comedy staple! Good story.

    ReplyDelete
  7. College Misery: Drown the bunnies!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Every time someone says that I envision a professor who holds bunnies hostage in order to get students to work harder.

      Introduce them to the bunnies on the first day of class. Let them hop around and let the students pet them and get attached to them. Then bam, in the tank with only a thin trap door between them and a torturous death in the water below.

      Delete
    2. Someone needs to break out the "Every Time A Student Lies, We Kill A Puppy" poster.

      Delete
    3. And in bunny-drowning news: the Mount St. Mary's president (aka the bunny-drowner/shooter) has resigned (http://www.thismess.net/2016/03/bunnies-with-teeth-newman-resigns.html).

      Delete
    4. This came up in my twitter feed (which I don't often check) last night:

      http://ihenow.com/1RgZ7ui

      Delete
  8. But. . .but. . .but. . .none of my other English teachers ever asked me to start with a story, and I've been getting As in English since I was in nursery school. How could these directions possibly be right? It's almost like you want me to try a new approach to writing. Something seems wrong. Are you sure you know what you're doing? Maybe I should check this out with the department chair/office of student appeasement/my mom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is almost certainly the problem. Not only hasn't anyone asked them to write in this way before, but they've been told that the only acceptable way to write is to employ that most nauseating of styles, the hated "Five Paragraph Persuasive Essay" whose sole virtue is being easy to award decent marks on standardized tests.

      Certainly no one was ever entertained or persuaded by a blog-post following that template.

      Delete
    2. One problem - Many of my students couldn't even do a 5-paragraph essay!!!!!

      I'd say "drown the bunnies" but they were already floating face-down by the time I arrived.

      Delete
    3. Love that 2nd sentence!

      Delete
  9. Next up: get them to write a story about somebody OTHER than themselves or their immediate families.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Next up: get them to write a story about somebody OTHER than themselves or their immediate families.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jacksonville JessicaMarch 1, 2016 at 11:18 PM

      My students don't write about themselves or their families. They write researched essays using case studies.

      Delete
  11. OK, I can totally get behind the idea that students should follow the directions to begin with a well-crafted lede. There is serious value to this exercise. The downside is that they may internalize only the basic "rule" but not the nuance of how to do it well, or when not to do it at all. What remains is a situation where a beginning like "In today's modern society..." would almost be a refreshing change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Holy shit, that was two years ago. Time flies.

      Delete
    2. I still remember Dana from Decatur's refrain: "I can work with stupid."

      A student mis-applying a new rule by oversuing it is being stupid. But he or she actually did it! IMHE, that's something to work with.

      Now, once you explain to vary writing approaches and Dimwitted Dora keeps doing it....


      *glug*glug* <---- bunny

      Delete
  12. Oh, God, Ogre, I've seen this before. I once gave my students a model essay that began with a flamboyant, one word exclamation: Drugs! Yep, you guessed it. I had one student who, for the rest of the term, began EVERY STINKING ESSAY with a single word followed by the exclamation. I never used that model essay again.

    The Gog

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would have been way funnier if every essay began with "Drugs!" regardless of the topic.

      Delete