Thursday, March 01, 2007


A couple of weeks ago I took in the grades for one of my universities. I cycled over, spent a little time down at the river watching someone feeding the gulls, and then went into the part-time teachers' room. I chatted with the two other teachers who were there, and then went over to the office to hand in the grades. I took with me only my attendance sheets, the official grading sheets, and a pen. That was one thing too many, it turned out.

I asked the guy at the office what grade I should give students who never turned up to class or only came once or twice. Should I give them a zero, or put a slash through the box? (They have different systems for dealing with this at different universities, and a fail is not the same as a 'did not attend.') He told me to leave the box empty. That was a new one! I signed the sheets cheerfully, not bothering to argue about the ethics of leaving a blank space for the university administration to fill in themselves on a paper I'd signed already. I know they will pass the students they want to pass (the two fourth year students who'd never bothered to turn up) one way or another, and this way is less hassle. I do not want to spend my vacation writing 'retests.'

(Aside: The first time I was asked to retest a student I made the mistake of telling the university that I didn't know how to 'retest' a student who had never taken any test in the first place. There WAS no test for that particular class - it was a writing class and graded on work done during the year, and in any case, what was I supposed to test her on? She had never come to class. I didn't even know who she was. If I tested her on work we'd done during the year she would fail. That turned out to be NOT a tactful question. I was told that if she failed, I'd have to re-retest her, and when I asked I was told if she failed THAT test I'd have to re-re-retest her, and so on. I thought about spending my entire vacation writing tests for one student to see how far they'd take it, but decided it wasn't worth it. I passed her on her first retest even though she was not capable of writing a coherent sentence in English, and she graduated with her English degree.)

Anyway, having sorted out the grading (or lack of it), the guy in the office picked up my attendance sheets, which had been lying on the counter while I'd been explaining about the absent students, and said,

"We need these, too."

I went into paroxysms of embarrassed horror.

"NO!" I shouted, and tried to grab them back. He stepped deftly out of reach "But, but, you see I have written all over them! I didn't know you wanted to keep them! They are a mess! Let me tidy them up first."

"They're fine," said the office guy. "All the teachers do that. Don't worry about it."

"But, REALLY," I said, trying to grab them back politely. "Look! It's awful! It's too embarrassing! I'm sure nobody makes as much mess as this!"

"They're FINE," he insisted. "No problem!"

"Let me just take them to make a copy," I tried, desperately.

"I'll do that," he said, and helpfully did. When he came back he left the originals over on his desk, far from my reach. He gave back the copies, and I folded them quickly. I knew I was beaten, and didn't want to even look at them. I didn't want to know how badly I'd embarrassed myself.

I went back to the teachers' room. The secretary had come back from wherever she'd gone, and when she saw my face she asked what was wrong.

"My attendance sheets!" I wailed. "They took them! I'll never be able to look the office staff in the eye again!"

"Why not?" she asked.

"I write stuff on them," I explained. "Silly stuff. Stuff about the students, or about my teaching. Personal notes. God knows. Awful stuff, if I'm in a bad mood. I didn't KNOOOOOOW they were going to take them!" I wailed. "They've never done it before!"

"Never mind," she said soothingly. "Nobody will understand them if they're in English. And anyway, I'm sure nobody will ever look at them. It's just a new requirement from Monkasho."

I hope she's right, but just in case, next year the first thing I'm going to do when I get the new attendance sheets is to photocopy them, so I have one copy for me to scribble on and the other a nice tidy one, to hand in at the end of year.

(I just glanced at my copies of the attendance sheets, and now I'm wondering whether anybody in that office knows what WTF??? means.)


Pkchukiss said...

It seems awfully mean to snatch those from you without having asked you first; I probably would have blown a nuke there and then.

Wiccachicky said...

Yikes! I doubt they know what WTF means, so I wouldn't worry about it. I am really sick of the orientation to students that they HAVE to pass - if they HAVE to pass, why didn't they do the work? I'm in the middle of a case right now that is a pain in my ass...

Pearl said...

Awww. That sudden hand- would wrack my nerves too.

Roy said...

Cool story. I've only ever 'retested' a student once and now state in the syllabus there'll be no retesting. What really burns me is the basketball players or even just 4th years who sit a 60 minute exam but only manage to write "I'm a fourth year and I need to pass this exam to graduate. Yoroshiku". I'm sure other professors pass them...

I've not heard of any Monkasho requirement for attendance and doubt very much that that was the case. It'll just be the jimusho who sees your notes, but I doubt they care about them.

melanie said...

LOL I had a teacher take my roll sheets when I was sick once. I had alsorts of little comments about the students so I could remember who was who. One comment I remember was "little monkey" and lots of comments about physical appearance. The teacher of course could read English and is now a good friend. I've never lived it down.