A for Effort

I was watching last night’s American Idol, and there is this guy on the show called Danny something that the judges cannot stop fawning over. He’s a good singer and everything, but really, it’s getting to be a bit over the top. Last night he performed well, but not the best that we’ve seen from him, but still the judges declared him inspirational and life-changing and orgasmic and whatever.

(Except for my boy Simon, who declared him “good, but not excellent.” Speaking of Simon, Captain Jelly Belly says he should play Mr. Carl Sagan in a story about his life.)

Anyway, I was thinking about Danny and wondering if he actually believes his own hype, or if he is starting to feel kind of awkward about it. He seems like a smart, nice guy, and I suspect he knows when he’s given it his all, as opposed to when he just didn’t quite nail it.

And that got me thinking about high school English. I did really well in high school English, and I almost always got an A or A+…even on a few occasions when something didn’t turn out just the way I wanted, or when I half-assed the effort, or when I rushed through (probably because American Idol was on!).

I always knew when one of my essays was iffy. Yet still, I’d get an A. I always felt like such a poser, and when other kids called me a teacher’s pet, it did seem kind of true. Did I get an A based on my name alone? Did I get an A because even though it was a weak paper for me, it was still the best in the class? Or did I get an A because I had met some sort of minimum requirement, and the extra distance of originality and readability were not actually required?

So I wonder, do you think that English teachers (and other essay-type teachers, like teachers of History or Sociology) grade their papers:

A. Comparatively — so that the best paper gets an A, and the worst gets a D, and all the other papers fall in between as appropriate;

B. Objectively — so that papers that meet criteria X, Y, and Z get an A, and those that don’t get a D, and those that meet only X or Y get a B;

C. Personally — so that if someone who is usually a B student makes a big effort, they get an A, because it’s a good job for them, even if it wouldn’t be a good job for someone else; or,

D. By Reputation — so that someone who always gets an A, gets an A, unless they really screw it up.

Let’s put it to a vote — oooh, my first ever poll!

7 thoughts on “A for Effort

  1. MrsCarlSagan

    Hmmm…interesting. I was always led to believe that grading was done objectively, but who really knows…..

    Simon Cowel would make a good MrCarlSagan – just the right mix of good looks, charm and crankiness! 🙂

  2. fame_throwa

    Although I did have a history teacher who very much marked objectively, and I think that is the best way to mark university students, I always felt that most high school teachers marked comparatively, and I think that’s okay.

    I think it’s very likely you were the best in your class. English is easy to pass but hard to do well at. I, too, got A’s, and I’m not a great writer, but the people in my class were just that much worse.

    It’s sad how English is taught in schools now. I don’t find there is enough emphasis on good writing. I hate the bullsh*t theory that kids will pick up grammar just from reading lots. So not true!

    Anyway, I won’t rant further…

  3. Oh I’m fawning over him too. I think they meant the inspiring part in reference to his recently deceased wife. Or that’s how I took it, at least.

  4. I sucked at school. I just cruised through it barely noticing anything so i really have no idea how teachers grade. I do know that once (as in 1 time) I got a good grade in English and the teacher wrote a really nice note about how good my story was, and I have never forgotten it.

    Come to think of it, the way my son cruises though his school is very similar to how I did with mine. Only I had a lot of natural ability that allowed me to pass everything (in elementary school it was always A’s in high school it was B’s or C’s). He has a hard time in school, which makes his cruising through it frustrating for me… Maybe it is because I see myself in him.

  5. Miker

    Well, I never did well in English class in high school. Really, the only reason I passed at all is that I scored well on the grammar tests. I just wasn’t that interested in the books we had to read, so it was difficult to get the motivation to write essays about them.

    What’s interesting is that with the introduction of OAC English, a standard method of marking essays was introduced. Suddenly my grades on essays went up. Things that make you go “hmmm”.

  6. I voted personally only because I once had an English teacher that absolutely loved my writing and always gave me a perfect grade on papers.
    The next year my younger sister had him and she’d put everything she had into writing her papers only to receive a C or a B.
    She finally asked him about it and his reply was that it was hard to give her a better mark when he KNEW that she could write better and that he was disappointed that her standard of writing hadn’t stayed at the level it had been at the year before.

    …strangely, after she explained to him that he’d had her mixed up with me her grades went right up.
    Although, he did do the same thing to each of my other sisters after that as well.

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