Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Red Ink

Yes it is time. The time hath cometh. It arriveth from on the educathional higheth. Yesterday, I graded quizzes... with a red ink pen.
The professor, that I teach for, and I have weekly meetings to discuss the happenings of class. Our conversations are not journal note-worthy. As our meeting, wherein he nonchalantly handed over a non-negligible piece of computing equipment, wound down to a close and I walked out of his office. Just on the threshold of ear-shot,  he shouted out into the hall, "Hey!" Oh man... I was thinking he wanted his cool toy back. But no... it was worse than that. He handed a small forest worth of papers, heavy and rigidly floppy as all large bundles of paper seem to be. "Here, I want you to grade these. I gave them quizzes today." Egads!!"
    I graded 69 of them, multiple choice, 10 questions, a total of 4 lab sections were graded... with a red ink pen.  I believe it is important to use a red ink pen when grading quizzes. It shows up immediately. It instills a little fear. If red is the color of violence, then it should subliminally say: "If you miss this question again, then some form of abstract violence will befall you, or near you. So next time you miss this question, don't think a horde of undead and drunken pirates won't scallywag their way into your hidden loot at home, or lop off an extra leg in the night and leave you with a peg-leg - a dirty, dirty peg-leg (note: it would help me a great deal if you would tell your children this so that when I am eventually their teacher then the whole fear of red ink markings on quizzes will be substantiated by credible sources - you, their parents)."
     The quiz grades were poor, after creating a distribution diagram in the form of a histogram (which we all know is far better than a stemplot, stupid stemplot) I realized that the median grade was 5/10 and that most of the class scored below a 5. I knew this as I was grading. Seeing low score after low score I knew the overall grades were going to be "a touch bleak" (as I explained it to the professor). I felt like that teacher in A Christmas Story. With every successive grade my rantings grew more furious, my pen strokes more cutting, the pages themselves bleeding a 20¢ Bic red over the once living testament to nature's ingenuity, now cut, mashed, pulped, stamped and pressed into a flexible paper slate upon which the wrath of the mighty red ink pen burns out injustice with 'minus one point' and 'please read both pages of a quiz.' It was a slaughter... Laying upon the battlefield of Quiz 1, were the broken corpses of quiz papers whose sole commanding officers must have been out drinking the night before, or laughing, or clearly enjoying their Life on this planet instead of studying. Fear not frail reader, should the burden of such educational shame imbue you with darkened forebodings about the future of education in America, and indeed all the world, do know that there were a few stalwart students who clearly skewed the bell curve. One student scored a perfect grade. So please, dry your eyes, our future rests in his continued studying of raster graphics.

Overall Score
Red Ink Pen - 1.
Students - 0.

Oh, and I would be remiss to not give the statistics of the grades. But it's late and I am remiss.
Sleep well.


Monday, September 15, 2008

First Day of School (Almost)

Infallible, Statistical Logic...
A common symptom of stress is hair loss. Approximately 42% of all people who undergo dramatic Life changes experience some form of increased hair loss. It leads me to wonder if some balding people just have more stress. Okay, I didn't actually wonder that, I just wanted to fill some space... y'know, to make this journal entry that much more impressive; in case an index of impressiveness exists that can be quantified and calculated by the length of one's rhetoric, necessary or not. Should this measurement for literary impressiveness exist, then surely Melville, and Dickens are Extraordinarily impressive. Haikus... sadly... not so impressive. The Warren Report, IRS Tax Code and the OED... impressive. Perhaps in looking for more examples, humorous to be sure, of impressive literature I have lost more hair at a rapid rate.
What is interesting to note is that I've undergone a few of these great Life events: quitting a job, moving across the country, starting two new jobs (research assistant and teaching assistant), finding new Love, starting school, testing milk for possible spoilage and missing the laundry mat operating hours by 3 minutes (my clothes are STANK!). So... if we multiply 42 by each entry in this list we get... (seven times forty is two hundred and eighty plus fourteen equals two hundred and ninety four) 294. I've lost 294% percent of my hair in the past 3 months. I wonder what my stat professor would say to that?

So many updates!! So much has happened in three weeks of class! To address some of the more memorable issues, here's a fast paced list complete with whatever it is I can remember at midnight on a school night:

Right... well I'm sure more than that has happened. I guess the sleepy bugs have worked their ways into my eyes and are settling down for the night, whispering soft ZZZzzzz's into my ears as they nod off, reminding me that I too should nod off.

I could leave you with one story before I am too tired too think it would be a small description of my students. God bless them. Their collective summation of: inane babbling, whiny accusations, intent study, self-love (more aligned with Narcissus and less with a graphic, if common, practice), near heraldic attempts at underachieving, repetitive questions, obvious talent, obvious lack of talent, misplaced intelligence and befuddled strides toward growing up, all remind me that I am in the right place, that teaching is where I belong. And for the natures of their complete personages hidden beneath the bars of undisclosed self-discovery, I am truly thankful.

I have a Student...
He's a good looking fellow. And... He knows it. His in class projects somehow manifest themselves around his bare-chested visages thrashing on the ax, or wailing on the drums. He, as far as I can see, truly loves how he looks. In one photoshop project, he has created a rock band where he is playing every instrument and only one of him has a shirt on. To be fair... one of their assignments was to put multiples of themselves into an image and make it look natural. I guess what is not natural here is the obvious flexing for the camera and relish at his demeanor. I don't fault the guy. He seems genuinely inspired by what he has, not happy necessarily because that implies a level of gratitude or humility. This young lad is definitely more inspired. It is uncommon these days for someone to have such self-esteem in their looks. The images though... they are funny.

The Monies...
Oh... status report. Monetarily speaking... graduate school is NOT the place to collect large sums of cash and live Life as ghetto fab or ludicrously luxurious. Through the continuously favored efforts of large bureaucratic machinations, I am now not receiving the initially agreed upon loan amount that I was expecting. In short, two of my student loans were dropped.
Contemplate, if you will, a place where sight and sound have no meaning, where $20,000 in student loans disappear. You are in... The Department of Financial Services Zone!!!!

More on that... when time permits.

- Andrew Britton
Rolling with the Punches, and Punching some of the Rolls.