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I Just Want Them to Get it Right
By Gloria Diaz
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Fort Wayne Reader
It’s nearly 1 a.m. on October 31. I’m not particularly scared by this; I’m freaking exhausted. I’m almost too tired to care about anything.
But here I am, back at school, this time as an instructor. Shut UP—I’m kicking ass! Really! Even my bosses say so!
I’m pretty impressed with my stamina—I started with a 9 a.m. class, headed to the adjunct room at 6:30 p.m., and changed clothes for my 25 minute workout. Dressed in my classy “Morning at the Wood” t-shirt and gray sweatpants, I indulged in my workout-negating snack of Oke-Doke Cheese Popcorn and regular Pepsi. I spent six hours? (Gasp! I did!) grading papers. Oh, I got up to pee every so often, but I wanted to get all of the second Major Papers graded before going home.
I pity my students—nearly halfway through the semester, I replaced their first instructor. I pity them because I’m probably their worst nightmare—a former professional proofreader with resting bitchface. I warned them about the bitchface right off the bat—I frequently look like I’m having the worst day of my life every day, but, it’s just my face.
So not only do I notice that they didn’t put the comma in the right place after their in-text citation, but I look like pure evil pointing it out to them in class. Sorry kids.
Or is it hashtagsorrynotsorry? It’s hard proofing your own stuff. I’ve had to do it for my own work, and after a while your words all blend together in a hallucination of perfection—it’s only after you get your print book back that you see you screwed something up, even after you’ve read it six times before it went to press. So that means my students are dealing with a perfectionist control freak who wants them to GET IT RIGHT, dammit!
I really enjoy teaching, and I want to make sure students understand the basics of MLA formatting (which the MLA Grand Poobahs like to change every other year, just to be jerks, I guess) and that they know getting the right things italicized, in quotes and indented properly will be the most boring part of the paper. Works Cited and in-text citation formatting is something that is beautiful when done right; an absolute nightmare when done wrong. I guess it speaks to the obsessive/compulsive in me—oh wait—it speaks to the obsessive/compulsive master’s degree owning, nitpicky, former professional proofreading control freak that IS me. So how intense should I be? I’ve got rubrics to go by, but true to form, I don’t think they are extensive enough.
But I DO care. If I didn’t care, I’d just make my job easier, and give everyone an A. But unfortunately for my students, I dig deep. The A papers I see are rare, and damn near perfect. But then again, the papers I give A’s to are the ones that I go over more than once and say, “Damn, there’s really not much I can count off for here.”
I guess in an age where everyone gets a participation ribbon, I don’t want to be passing out good grades like tubes of discounted Smarties. I get it from my dad. He inspected electronics for the military, and I guess like father, like daughter. Dad was a difficult man to please, but if you made him happy, you practically walked on water. He was so impressed with the heating/cooling company that handled our furnace, he wrote them a recommendation and they asked his permission to use it in company advertising. And yes, dad’s gone, but the same company services my furnace to this day. They do a good job. And they don’t care that my house is a mess every time they do the annual heating checkup.
So if dad and I would have a motto, in terms of our jobs, it would be Per Deum esse magis bonum! Aut! That’s Google Translate Latin for By God, it better be good! Or else! I can see it now, like a family crest or something, his little inspection stamp on one side, a Bic Cristal red ball point pen for me.
My poor students though. Someday, they’ll thank me, right after they’ve helped deliver a baby with confidence, catered a meal for 100, or did that perfect blood draw. “Yeah, that Ms. Diaz was a nitpicky bitchface, but my tweets are perfectly punctuated and I can help my kids with MLA format. Which is way cooler than APA.”
Yeah, that last sentence is a fantasy. Let a teacher dream, okay?