Friday, June 29, 2012

You can kind of tell

One thing I've learned in teaching, is that you can often tell what kind of a student a person will be by their ability to follow instructions, level of attention to detail, and little stuff they do. Not always, because there are some brilliant people who are just big messes on the life-management front, but, by and large, someone who is conscientious in some ways is conscientious in lots of things.

Like my students. I have them write short papers (this is part of a writing-across-the-curriculum thing which is set to expand - wharrrgarblll - to EVERY! class on campus. Yes, even the phys ed classes. Yes, even the absolutely dead-basic non majors classes. Though now that I think of it? I already have all of my students write papers, so nothing will change for me.)

Anyway. When they hand in the papers, some of them have them stapled. Nine times out of ten, the paper that comes in to me already stapled and with a cover sheet (like most of them do) is going to be a better than average paper. Other students hand me a wad of pages, not stapled, and go, "I couldn't find a stapler."

Um, yeah. Every computer lab on campus is supposed to have one. Every secretary has one in her office. And ministaplers - several of my more conscientious students actually CARRY them in their backpacks - cost about a buck fifty.

But no, they expect me to staple their papers for them. (And I do. Because it's too much of a PITA to deal with them otherwise). I could refuse to grade papers that were not stapled, I know some profs do, but you have to choose your battles in life and I don't want to deal with the level of butthurt refusing an unstapled paper would cause. And in many cases, the unstapled papers are incomplete. I had several this round that scored less than 50% because the students didn't bother to look up citations. (Of the stapled papers? They ALL had citations and literature citeds.)

One guy even said to me: "The topic seemed like something kind of futuristic, you know? So I didn't look for resources."

I gave him the Jackie Chan my-brain-is-full-of-**** look (reference for those unfamiliar)

I didn't SAY anything, but I sure said what I wanted to say in my grading of the paper. (For the record: the question was on citizen DNA banks for crime solving. One of the best students in the class came to me the day before it was due and said, "I know you don't like us using direct quotations, but I'd really like to quote the Fourth Amendment in mine, is that OK?" I grinned at her (okay, I don't like to reveal my politics too much but sometimes maybe I do) and told her in that case it was completely appropriate to quote. So there are ways of arguing the topic with sources! (some people who supported the idea also found valid sources. So they're out there. I think "futuristic" dude was just being lazy and seeing what he could get away with.)

But, again and again, I see that people who pay attention to detail, who listen to the instructions and try to follow them, and who ask questions when they don't know for sure, succeed and people who decide they're just going to seat-of-the-pants it, don't always.

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