Wednesday, April 28, 2010

lessons learned.

when i opened the paper, i knew.

the first clue? strange font.  second clue? single spaced. in my experience, no one turns in a single spaced paper unless they haven't written it.  the reason? they've been praying that it would be long enough, so they long ago double spaced it to see just how much more they'd have to write before they were done.

i didn't have to read much of the introductory paragraph to know that this entire paper on water pollution had been plagiarized. first of all, i've yet to have a real paper on water pollution. yes, it's a problem. but, for wrong or for right, it is rarely a problem that anyone that i encounter in my freshman comp classes wants to try to propose a solution to.

that is, unless they want to plagiarize. then it's quite popular.

feeling stressed as i was, and this being an unexpected late paper that i need to grade before the true deluge of papers fell in my metaphorical lap (and literally into my emailbox), i got to it.

google is the true champion of the writing teacher.

i'm not sure why students think we don't know how to do the same things they do. i'm not sure why they think that by cutting and pasting here and there and combining sources into the same paragraph that we won't know that they have stolen it all from other sources.

so i googled. and i highlighted. and i inserted comments that said "Plagiarized from..." with the web address.  the longer it went, and the more yellow that appeared in this file, the more lighthearted i became.

it's not because i want to give 0s to people. it's because it was one less paper i actually had to read.  i don't read plagiarized papers. i find the plagiarism, judge how much of it is actually the student's writing, and assess that.

i asked musicboy, who was sitting next to me playing video games and was privy to my occasional snort at the true lack of thinking on the part of this student, if it would be unprofessional to write, as my final comment, "are you kidding me?"

i settled for "this paper is plagiarized, almost 100%, from online sources. don't do it again."

the google lesson, and how to deal with plagiarism, is just one of the many lessons i've learned from my years teaching college classes.  the other lesson is how to anticipate the very anxious Collegetown U students who are nearly maniacal about their grades.  they will argue with you hard and fast about anything that will allow them to get even one or two more points--just enough to push them up to that next grade rung.

this process has gotten even more tense and fraught with anxiety since Collegetown U instituted the minus grades.  there has been much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

today, i got smart. my Collegetown U class ended today, with an exam that i quickly graded (oh the miracles of multiple choice!).  i figured up grades and posted them in Blackboard, then sent an email that essentially said this:  some of you made grades by the skin of your teeth. several others of you are a breath away from another grade, but points are points and grades are grades and i'm not changing them because i have been deliberate about everything i've done thus far.

it already shut down someone.  i anticipate some more stragglers will try, but having sent the email makes me feel confident in saying "no, sorry. i feel your pain, but that's the way it is."

i enjoy that confidence.

as i finished grades for the Collegetown U class (i have four classes at rural cc and one at online institution of higher learning left), i said, wistfully, to musicboy: "i remember when i only had one class and so when i was done, i was really done, instead of just being on this revolving cycle of grading horror."

it's true. i do remember those days wistfully. 

but i also know that someday soon i'll be looking back and saying "i remember when i only had six classes to grade and no kids to worry about and no dog to walk and [insert incredibly time-taxing life circumstance here]" and i will sigh and then i will go back to it.

which is what i will do now.


and get back to it.

1 comment:

  1. That's hilarious. Surely it can't take that much longer to do original research.