The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Once a year, I get to oversee the collation and standardising of literary coursework submissions for the final examinations.

Today, and only this day, I am the Academy, and I give my awards.

Adding to the sheer disorientation of reading 1750 essays rapidly while mainlining instant coffee and choccie biccies, I was up till the small hours, drafting forms for my own 75 examination coursework folders and organising the mundane details of standardising of 350 others. I did mention it's a large school?

Onto the awards: the usual gems of shining wit and scintillating insight turned up:

Most Unwittingly Lascivious
"Mary Shelley thought the wilderness and glaciers were a beautiful physical example of wild loveliness, and Percy too."

Most Unexpected Topic
The media essay entitled "A Consideration Of Why Austria Is Afraid to Show The Sound Of Music." (Which got an A, you know.)

Most Culturally Confused [joint winners]
"The 1950s was a time of backstreet abortions of black babies and the Wind Rush",

... so it seems logical that ...

"gay black men, as well as homosexuals were frowned upon, just like other forms of sexism."

Most Dramatic Opening
My favourite short story, 'The Tooth Fairy' (which plagiarised Mo Haydar's 'Birdman' outrageously - do they think we teachers too cerebral to read modern horror?) contained the classic opening lines:

"The man who hacked up women and kept putting their teeth inbetween the treads of the tyres on his car pulled up next to a prostitute on a grimy street that night."

Flakiest Attempt at Cheating
When I announced to a (different) class that two boys had been suspected of copying each other's work, the entire class instantly named the boys in question, which pieces were copied, and stated the exact fee charged by Boy 1 for these services to the rather inept copyist Boy 2.
I'm afraid that the subsequent overdone air of righteous affront when I finally confronted said culprits lost just a little of its dramatic impact as a consequence.

Jason's folder won the prize for Most Tortuously Inexplicable. Each page had ten different marginalia, themselves accompanied by further footnotes. Added to a compulsion to get ideas down the absolute second they occurred - rather than, say, finishing the sentence you're on before your next outburst - produced the most marvellously contorted logic I've ever seen anywhere.

Trunchbull Award For Special Achievement
Not to be selfish with the satire, though: kudos also to Mrs L, whose summative comment on one essay reached the warm, nurturing heights of "AWFUL. Do it again!"

Most Promising Newcomer: Charles Dickens
Finally, a tip for coursework producing students: if you write badly, it's the worst idea to pepper your writing liberally with long quotations from Dickens. His writing is good and that only makes your writing look more bad.