Be careful what you wish for….


So, other than writing about sports, I am an instructor at a language college, where I teach a university/college preparation course for international students wishing to attend college in Canada.

Anyway, this is meant to be a university/college-prep class, and it’s supposed to be academic. My students are supposed to have passed a prerequisite course in order to join. Now, one student had not met the requirements for my course, but the school’s administrators let him take the program anyway – as long as he hired a private tutor right away to do some extra studying on his own time.

Long story short, this is an academic English course which involved essay writing and speeches. He was essentially failing my course because he simply wasn’t ready for the course and his study skills / habits were suspect to begin with. An example of his poor study habits? He would fold all the handouts I give in class in half, and put them into his bag. I would suggest to him to spend a few dollars to purchase a binder so he could be more organized; doing so might help him study better. He never took my advice. (He did have a habit, however, of spending a few dollars every morning to buy a 7-Eleven hot dog, and he would eat it before class on a daily basis.) Of course, when we had to refer to handouts from previous classes, he would have a hard time finding the relevant sheets.

(Plus, I later found out he never had a tutor and did not follow my suggestions regarding how to improve upon his weaknesses. What he did, instead, was have a Korean friend tutor him – not a real tutor – from the middle of the program onward. When I found out, I told him flat out that if he was serious about improving his skills, asking a Korean friend to explain things in Korean to him was not going to be effective. As I stressed to him, he needed an English-speaking tutor to help him out, using English. But, you know, he preferred his shortcut methods…)

On one essay, I gave him a score of 63% with some constructive feedback written on the paper. What I didn’t find out until later on was that he went behind my back to complain to the school administrators that I was biased against him and he took a photo of that particular assignment as “proof” that I was discriminating against him. (I was also accused of being disrespectful to him – which is not true, by the way – and my actions supposedly weakened his confidence level and caused him to feel depressed… I mean, these were serious allegations.)

As the school director informed me a short time after the assignment was handed back, the student had complained even to his parents in Korea – and they had hired a “university professor” in Korea to look at the mark I had assigned on that one paper (along with the constructive feedback that I had left on there) to see if it was fair or legit. That, according to the student anyway, was his one piece of tangible evidence in his case against me.

But to show the student (and his parents) that he needed to work harder, what I did was something unique. It’s like, “Be careful what you wish for.” From that point on, I sent all of his written assignments and essays (and all of the other students’ too) to an American English teacher acquaintance (who, by the way, has 20+ years’ worth of teaching experience), along with my rubrics, to have her grade all of his work. If I’m going to be accused like that, I want nothing to do with grading his papers moving forward.

Well, maybe that 63% that I had given on that one assignment was way too generous. The marks that the American teacher acquaintance handed back to me for that student’s work… 33%, 60%*, 30%, 50%,* 17%…. Hey, if we look at it a different way, maybe it was my fault. I gave him too high a score to begin with and he let that inflate his ego and overestimate his true abilities.

Well, looking at those scores again… 33, 60, 30, 50, 17, … this is simply a case of “be careful what you wish for.”

I mean, this student’s not a kid. He’s an adult. As far as I’m concerned, if you have any concerns, talk to me before you go making unfounded accusations and complaints. Work harder and follow my advice instead of bitching. Think about where you’ve gone wrong and work on improving yourself instead of being lazy and pointing fingers. Follow the instructions and pay more attention in class instead of doing whatever the heck you want to while ignoring the instructions. You want a “university professor” in Korea to mark these? Fine. I’ll send them all to an American English teacher. Let’s see how that works out.

*There was also a minor dispute about one particular mark I had given him on a speech, on which he did not report the information that was specifically required based on the instructions. He chose to do the speech his own way – even though the day prior to that speech I had given him feedback on what he needed to add to it to make it stronger. Come speech day, he did not do so, and he was, therefore, marked down for missing those specific details. Moving forward, I did things differently. I recorded everyone’s speeches as MP3 files after that and had those graded by a different instructor based on a speech rubric. The 60% and 50% were the speech scores for that student in subsequent speeches.

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