AGGG: A Rant about Stupid Profs and Dumbass TAs

When I started thinking about this article, I had planned on starting it with an excessive amount of swearing, screaming and name calling. IÂ’ve calmed myself slightly though, so IÂ’m actually going to attempt be civil. That isnÂ’t likely to prove easy, such is the state of my shock and disappointment.

I got an assignment back, a little under an hour ago. That in itself isnÂ’t amazing, nor is my mark of C- the oddest or most infuriating thing in my lifeÂ…or it wouldnÂ’t be, if the assignment werenÂ’t an essay. I write good essays. I make very few (in this case no) grammatical errors, word things well and am always clear and concise in my meaning. Honestly, my formal essays are boring beyond reason, but theyÂ’re full of useful information and interesting points, presented in the style my Prof has asked for. I get the feeling this particular essay would have turned out better if the class had be told what the hell it was we were supposed to be doing.

We chose a passage—either an excerpt from a children’s book or poem—and were to do a critical analysis of that passage. We were given a tiny amount of qualifying information; we ought to have looked at plot, characterization, language and narrative voice. That’s it. No, really, it is. Our Prof did not discuss the essay in class, except to say (after it was handed in) that she wanted an analysis, not an interpretation. Pretty much everyone bombed it; the average grade seems to be the same as mine.

I was *almost* dealing with the fact that *I* nearly got a D on an essay. It hasnÂ’t happened since grade 9, but anything is possible, no matter how much work you throw at something (I should mention that I did far more work on this than I have done on any essay since my grade 12 ISU). Then I read the little comment card my TA stapled to the back of my paper. DonÂ’t get me wrong; my TA is great, but good god.

She started out saying that my intro was good, and that I write clearly. I donÂ’t fault her for that; itÂ’s true, and a cute attempt at softening the blow. She went on to say that I made good points, but thereÂ’s room for further analysis. She gave no examples. Some of my ideas were not fully explained, she says. Up until this point, I was attempting to see what she was talking about, reading over my essay, to see where I messed up. Then she said that my paragraphs are choppy. No. If she wants choppy, I have some choppy sentences strung out of impolite vernacular I could throw at her. Now, I enjoy constructive criticism as much as the next slightly insane, overly obsessed write-aholic, but I donÂ’t except it very well from people who canÂ’t/donÂ’t write properly. My lovely comment card, after the dig at my writing style, went on to repeat (three more times) that I should have done further analysis. It was otherwise poorly written, with little grammatical errors and poor word choices.

Then there are the other stupid, little things. For example, there is red pen all over my title page. I followed the specifications of the MLA format we were supposed to use exactly. The pages are covered with little notes that say “what is the significance of this?” Oddly enough, they all seem to appear near sentences the provide examples of something that has just been said. The significance would be obvious, if she just read the fucking beginning of the paragraph. She has told me that using “cunning” to describe the spider is incorrect word choice. Have any of you read the Spider and the Fly? The excerpt we were given begins on line 13: “said the cunning Spider to the Fly…” how in the hell is cunning the wrong word to describe a cunning spider, one might ask.

In one place I mention the traits of the characters. I say the author refers directly to the character traits of the characters in the passage. My TA asks: “what are the traits?” now, because there are several ways in which the traits are demonstrated, I have broken the main concept of character traits into several paragraphs. The paragraph directly following the one where I first mention the character traits begins: “the author uses adjectives that directly refer to the characters, such as…” and gives several examples. My TA asks “significance?” Well, you blundering idiot, it’s significant because it tells you what the god damn traits are. You know, the ones you took marks off my paper over, because they weren’t mentioned. Yeah, those traits. Surprisingly, that paragraph is significant for the same reason as the two following it, which both refer back to character traits and how they are shown by the author.

Here’s a good question for you: How would giving two bugs human character traits make the messages of a text more relevant to child readers? Well, if you can’t work that one out, you *really* should not be in a position such that students have to listen to you. If I was writing this essay for five year olds, I might have said: “If the spider and the fly had no human traits, and no dialogue, this poem would be like watching the discovery channel on mute, and it wouldn’t teach you that you shouldn’t go into strangers’ houses.” However, as I thought my audience consisted of adults, I left the ‘forgive me, I forgot you were stupid’ explanations out.

It’s all okay, though; it’s *only* worth 15% of our overall grade. Yep. Only. No big deal, right? I mean, it could mean the difference between an 85% to get me into a better school, or a 70% to keep me stuck here. Or the difference in getting a B or a C. Hell, it could mean the difference between passing and failing, but it’s “only 15%” as my Prof and my TA keep telling us. So there you have my rant. I am still pissed, but at least this way I’m not having a fit in the hall in front of my seminar room. I must say, though, I have half a mind to march up to my professor on Monday, throw the paper in front of her and say “fix this; you’re an idiot”. Somehow, though, I think that would do me more harm than good. For now, I shall just breathe and sleep. All ailments are cured through sleep.

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