Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fyling Circus

There was a fierce competition between possible titles for this post tonight. You see, I've finally finished marking that stack of ninety-seven assignments, and amongst those 97,000 words + bibliographies and appendices I've read there has been a lot of material to inspire a week's worth of pun-filled blog post titles about the process of marking.

I decided on 'Fyling Circus' for this post, because there has been something rather Monty Pythonesque about the last few days. It has been a whirl of coloured folders and encroaching numbness, interspersed with bursts of brilliance from outstanding student researchers and writers, followed by moments of unintentional joy brought about by typographical errors overlooked in hastily printed essays and malapropisms from young people still honing their vocabularies.

Ha! Monty Python wish they had thought of the 'Fyling Circus'. I imagine John Cleese sitting on an ergonomic chair with wheels and pushing himself from one side of an office to the other, using his very long legs, showing off his sock covered ankles, in a frenzy of confusion about where to file the folders he is gripping in his hands. I'm sure the room would be filled with stacks of folders, and he'd probably end up crashing into them or running over someone entering the office. Either way, the sketch would end with Cleese screaming and buried underneath a mountain of files.

But perhaps I shouldn't be laughing so heartily. Afterall, the reason why I rejected the other options for blog post titles was because I didn't want to be a hypocrite. I decided against 'There, Their, They're', which would have been a reference to the comfort I needed after wading through these assignments, because just yesterday I posted a comment to another blog and after I clicked Publish, I realised I'd written 'there' instead of 'their'. D'oh! (The assignments were on television, so I've given myself permission to make lame references to The Simpsons).

It just goes to show you can never relax when it comes to spelling, punctuation, grammar and expression. One must be eternally vigilant, even if you fancy yourself quite good with words.

Another possible title that was soon discarded was 'Ethically Diverse'. This title would have alluded to my debate over whether to mark in pencil, which would have allowed me to review any grades where I felt I'd been too impatient in the moment, or in pen, in which case I would have to stand by my first impressions. The dilemma for me arises because before now I have always marked in pencil, just in case I make the wrong decision. On this occasion I decided to mark in pen because I really couldn't afford the time to second guess every mark for every criteria for every essay and meet the deadline. It turns out that taking up the pen worked to focus my thoughts; there was no going back when I wrote in a margin about the need to provide evidence from the text to support the rather general claim being made. Once I'd scribbled a directive about how to improve the argument, there was no opportunity to reward the glimmer of evidence found, only after a third reading, that perhaps, alright, some specific detail had been mentioned.

In the case of the proposed 'Ethically Diverse', the student had clearly meant 'ethnically diverse' when describing the student population of Heartbreak High. 'No doubt, that too', I wrote, 'but I think you mean ethnically'. I could have used this as a title, as it turns out. I just had this moment of doubt when I wondered whether 'ethnically' worked the same way as 'publicly', which I have been know to misspell as 'publically'. There is a word 'ethnical', so 'ethnically' is okay. Phew! In fact there is a word 'publical', but it hasn't really been in use since 1440 according to the OED.

Sigh. It's all so tricky this English language business.

I hope I haven't revealed any information that might be identifiable to the general public about specific students. I don't mean to laugh at students, it's just that coming across these blips provides some welcome relief amid the chore of marking, which, truly, isn't all that fun. That said, I think even the student who wrote that 'Days of Our Lives gyrates around the Horton family', will forgive me my reaction to the mental image they provoked of a scantily clad Chippendale shaking his bootie in old Alice Horton's face! An image like that will sustain me until the next round of essays is delivered.

2 comments:

dogpossum said...

I totally mean to laugh at students. It's bad and it's wrong, but it feels oh, so good.
I love to teach, I love my students (how could you not love all that adolescent enthusiasm and disturbing fashion?), and I love typos. I also love puns, so really, I say GO you GOOD THING!

I know it's also wrong, but I also love to scare my students. I feel that the Cohen Brothers most eloquently described the satisfaction of busting students for poor grammar (dang, I can't actually spell any more, I'm sorry): "I'm gonna NAIL yo ass!"
And is it wrong to have to supress a grin when one of them uses the word 'tact' and all you can think is "you want tact? call a tacticion!"


...all quotes brought to you by the Cohen Brothers, care of Intolerable Cruelty, a work of cinematic genius.

Galaxy said...

I loved Intolerable Cruelty but I have no head for remembering quotes. I'll have to watch it again.

I like the idea of having a compilation tape of such scenes from film and TV and making it compulsory viewing. This is what will happen to you if you don't put an active verb in each and every sentence...

Honestly, you shouldn't give me ideas me. I really don't need any encouragement.