Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The shocking time of semester

On Monday the loopy professor asked me to hand back to my class their first big homework assignment, which she had graded. She quite often does this, although she usually gives me homework from the wrong class. I think this is the first time this semester that she has given me the right homework.

This meant that I was actually able to give it back to the students, for a change.

When I started handing it back it was interesting to hear the responses from the students. The first one got hers, and shouted,

"Yay! I got an A!" She bounced up and down in her seat happily for a while, and her friends congratulated her.

The second student got her homework, and shouted,

"Me, too! I got an A!"

The third student got her homework, and said,

"Me, too!"

The fourth student got hers,

"A," she said, looking slightly puzzled.

The fifth,


The sixth,


And so on. By the end they were sounding quite gloomy about it. Some of them had written three sentences, others had written ten, and a couple had written a whole painstaking page. They all got A.

And now they know exactly how much work they need to do to get an A from the loopy professor.

We gaijin teachers are a lot meaner. I spent today grading homework from yesterday's classes, and am looking forward to telling them their grades next week. I TOLD them I was not interested in copied homework and it would get a big fat zero. I TOLD them I was going to actually read it and give it the grade it deserved. The girl who wrote her homework in the last five minutes of the class just after I'd assigned it, and handed it to me cheerfully, pleased because she'd finished so quickly, is going to get a bit of a shock when she sees that she scored four out of twenty. The homework required a little thought – not much, but some – and she managed to get practically everything wrong by not giving it any thought at all. I ASKED her if she was sure, when she gave it to me. I reminded her that I would be checking it carefully. She was sure.

She probably won't be quite so sure next week.

The definition of 'homework' here seems to be 'a bit of paper with anything at all scribbled on it, which will get you a perfect score if you remember to hand it in.' Handing it in is the key point, apparently. And at least some Japanese professors (the loopy professor for one) reinforce this idea by giving an A to everybody. Why make an effort if you'll get an A for spelling your own name right at the top of the page (so the professor will know who to give the A to) and then scribbling any old thing?

It is the shocking time of semester, at least for my students. I am also going to tell my Friday students their grades so far on all the little class tests they've done. They seem to think that just doing them is enough, and have been turning up on time religiously, which is nice. That was the main aim of the tests. The aim was not to fail them. It was supposed to be an easy thirty percent of their grade.

More than half of them are failing, though. It doesn't seem possible, since there are never more than five questions in each test and I tell them the answers the week before. And they are always things they studied in class. I don't quite know how so many have managed to do so spectacularly badly, but they have. They must be determined to fail.



Anonymous said...

Yes... but as BadAunt knows, learners in Japan aren't meant, actually, to learn a language - they'll not really be Nihonjin, real Japanese, if they do. In demonstrating they haven't learnt they're successful - and should be rewarded with A's.

No wonder the loopy prof is loopy - anyone would be in her circumstances, either loopy or very cynical or just plain confused & bored at having to deal with such contradictions.

How does Rilke put it, ah yes "Being here is much!" In Japan, just being with your uchi's (poor trans: home groups, 'inside' groups) is everything! :-)