Diehards

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Dialectic

I am currently marking essays. Good god, what a job. I haven't come up for air for a week. I can't believe that those marvellous Americans have elected a new leader of the western world and I haven't even managed to pass comment on it. My husband has managed to secure some freelance work and all I've been able to say is 'that's nice dear' before getting back to writing in pencil on some poor first year's effort 'you must support your claim' or 'how does this connect to your argument?' and, thankfully, sometimes 'good point!'

I had no idea how difficult marking essays would be. It involves trying to assess to what degree the student answers the question. This is nowhere near as easy as it sounds; I've had to read and reread every single one and some are clearer than others. Some you really have to put in a bit of effort to extract their argument, these are first essays after all, and you really don't want to demoralise anyone. Is demoralise the right word here, cripes words are beginning to look and sound terribly alien? And do you know how much it pays, this essay marking malarkey? Two pounds and five pence a piece. I've had twelve to do and it's taken me over a week. Some have taken longer than others but on average it probably takes about two hours an essay. Giving useful, positive feedback is the hardest thing: I have to be able to support my claim. It's been like sitting the worlds most arduous exam. I've even pulled a muscle in my upper right thigh from sitting down too much. There are good things about it though, and I'm glad I'm doing it. Most of my students have managed some moments of brilliant insight and one or two of their essays have been a joy to read. I hope my comments have made that clear and they'll all feel uplifted when they get the essays back in tomorrow's class. I also hope they'll challenge me if they feel I've misunderstood them. After all I'm not the goddess of academic writing. If I get a moment I'll let you know how it went, once it's been that is.

Now I have to write a CV and a covering letter for that job I mentioned. Will I ever get time to write fiction and poetry again?

Anyway, well done America, and I'll be over to visit all my American (and other) cyber pals as soon as I can .

17 comments:

Jane Dearie said...

Crumbs, what a task .....and it is for crumbs too! How many coffees will that get you? I remember it vaguely from my day of mass head scratching and "what are they really trying to say?" I don't envy you and I'm pleased I'm no longer up to such serious stuff!
Good luck with the job application Eryl.I know you'll be great at it, just make sure they know you'll be great at it too!
Love Jane xxx

Kanani said...

oh! They're advertising for an opening doing that here for Princeton testing. I thought of it --but I'm a nightmare at academic style writing. I truly don't get it.

I'm glad your husband has gotten some freelance work. Must feel good for both of you!

Now back to work! And get another pillow to sit on!!

Eryl Shields said...

Jane ~ therein lies my problem: how do I do that in a CV and brief letter? It's going to take me a while.

Kanani ~ it took me years to get to grips with academic style writing, and I'm still not great at it, the parameters are so strict yet they want flair! One or two of my students are soon going to be much better at it than I ever will be. Creative and academic writing are so. different.

Conan Drumm said...

When I was correcting essays (post grad) it came down to reasoning, and familiarity with (rather than just citing) primary sources. But I was amazed at the poor quality of writing shown by many of the students. It wouldn't have been acceptable when I was doing school exams decades ago.

Kim Ayres said...

You need to create a stock of phrases you can copy in to the appropriate place. Things like:

"where's your source?"
"is this plagiarised?"
and
"any more like this and I'll start typing random phrases from your essays into Google"

Then carve them into potato prints and just stamp them on the appropriate places.

Will save you hours in the long run

Carole said...

Sounds like you are giving an extra effort that the normal prof wouldn't go to. Reading more than once, wanting to encourage instead of demoralize, trying to understand their argument when the writing is anything but clear...

I give you an A+ for teaching. You get a C for making a living at it though. You are dreadfully underpaid.

debra said...

And if you use potatoes as Kim suggests, you can at least make potato soup....

Kim Ayres said...

Especially if you use food dyes instead of ink!

Eryl Shields said...

Conan ~ yeah, that sounds about right. I'm always telling my students to summarise so they can become intimate with the material. Marking their essays it was patently obvious who had bothered to do that.

Kim ~ now that's the best tip anyone has given me so far!

Carole ~ I'm hoping to speed up a bit with experience, and by employing Kim's method. That's if I can afford some potatoes of course.

Debra ~ this just gets better.

Kim ~ pink potato soup, mmm...

PI said...

Your students are lucky to have someone so conscientious and the more you do it the less laborious it will seem.
I've every confidence that you can polish off a good CV and letter. Remember they will be lucky to get you. Believe!

The World According To Me said...

It sounds like you're doing a grand job.

Good luck with the CV. As pi has said, they will be lucky to get you.

Mary Witzl said...

What a coincidence: I am sitting here staring at 32 papers describing the favorite 'Shall We Dance?' characters of 32 Turkish teenagers. Mostly they are boys lusting after Jennifer Lopez, so this ought to be fun. Sigh.

I'll be thinking of you, my sister in marking!

Eryl Shields said...

Pat ~ the cv is done and gone, thank goodness. Now I can forget about it unless I get a call asking me for an interview, then I'll really panic!

World ~ let's hope they can tell that from the CV!

Mary ~ 'Shall We Dance?' characters? You have my utmost sympathy. I've finished my marking, thankfully, but I'll most definitely be thinking of you.

savannah said...

hey, sugar! i thought i'd left a comment already, but i guess it just shows how tired i've been...anyway, glad the marking is done and all things go well for you with the new job! xoxox

Kanani said...

Just checking to see how you're doing!

PI said...

I've got everything crossed - except my eyes natch!

Eryl Shields said...

Savannah ~ thanks honey, and take it easy and get some rest. XXX

Kanani ~ that's sweet of you! I'd say I'm pretty OK.

Pat ~ did your mother tell you that if you crossed your eyes too often they might stay that way, mine did?