ain’t that the truth

I just read this article that perfectly describes my experience with a rising minority of student papers. Have you ever read something that made you say, “How did she eavesdrop on our conversation?” I have had these exact dialogues with students, and it seems that I’m having a few more of them each year. I would be interested if any other teachers have had similar experiences. My thanks to Keith Plummer, who linked to this article on Facebook.






6 responses to “ain’t that the truth”

  1. Mike, just point your distressed students to the post describing my first Dr. Crawford grade. !

    It was humbling . . .

  2. By the way, anyone who had Dr. Crawford will verify that the picture on my blog is an authentic Crawford grade and not a forgery. His writing is unmistakable.

  3. Jonathan Shelley


    Sorry that I gave you so much grief over my grades. As it turns out, I really was a bad writer and now I am a slightly less bad writer.

  4. keithp

    Mike, I’m glad you found encouragement in the knowledge that you are not the only one to encounter this phenomenon. I’m grateful to Douglas Groothuis for linking to the article in his Twitter feed.

    I too was glad to see someone acknowledge what seems to be a growing trend. When grading some papers it’s nearly impossible to concentrate on the content due to the grammatical and typographical errors, not to mention the inability to construct a coherent argument. I want to help students become better writers and thinkers but realistically, I don’t have the time to provide the required remedial education. I get the impression from some that they have no such interest in my constructive criticism anyway. Their bottom line is getting the assignment done as quickly as possible (as evidenced by a proliferation of careless mistakes) and getting the highest grade possible or a passing grade at least. When these students have an inflated view of their abilities and express shock and/or insult when on the receiving end of a poor grade, it’s beyond frustrating.

  5. mikewittmer

    Chris: I’m not sure if Joe Crawford’s methods would fly in today’s world, which makes me sad.

    Keith: Your description is spot on. I sometimes feel that I’m grading more for grammar and syntax than anything else, and I blame in part the colleges who passed this on to us. It is almost to the point where a Pelagian who writes consistently in complete sentences will still receive a B-, if for no other reason than he made an effort to write well.

    Jonathan: You have worked hard to become a good writer, and it shows.

  6. Jonathan Shelley


    As the husband of a college freshman comp teacher, I can tell you that college students are taught the correct way to write a paper – including outlining, drafting, organizing, and writing clear, strong sentences. Alas, so many of the students “already know all this stuff” that it goes in one ear and out the other and before you know it they are getting an F on a research paper in seminary and complaining “I always got A’s in my undergrad program. Nobody ever taught me how to write.”

    Did I ever tell you about the student who complained on one of Beth’s evals that she “expects graduate level writting [sic]”? The good news is that when we switch over to all online classes, your papers can be tweets or just video conferences.

    And it seems like there is a joke somewhere in your sentence about a Pelagian receiving a good grade for making an effort.

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