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Good student, bad student

I'm rather taking to this teaching malarkey. I have (as of this morning) just finished my first pile of marking. Now, at first this was a strange experience. Despite having been offered the job, despite all the assurances that I was competent enough for it I found the experience of being the man sitting in judgement on a pile of other people's work somewhat daunting, what with the obvious questions of who am I to judge them etc leaping merrily to the fore. This sensation lasted approximately ten minutes.

You see, whilst I was very proud of my students creative efforts, indeed there was some breathtakingly impressive creative work the supplementary discourses (self-assessment, annotated bibliogaphy) were, with a couple of honourable exceptions, woeful.

I'm making no great claims for myself here, but I am at the very least capable of constructing a reasonably cogent sentence. Repeatedly I was forced to ask myself the question, how the hell did you make it through to third year without even an adequate grasp of how to lay out paragraphs? Sloppy phrasing, inadequate spelling and, worst of all, a wide-ranging failure to question themselves on even the most basic level (to clarify, the self-assessments generally ran to "I wrote this poem I think it's good" with no explanation of why, let alone wondering whether or not it might not be). At a couple of points I was forced to underline sentences and comment that they actually made no sense at all ("for and of the yet", anybody?). Depressing, overall, and I worked myself into a rage wherein I probably marked a lttle too harshly.

It's worth stating again that the poems themselves were, by and large, great, I'm having to stop myself being too negative. But at the risk of sounding like a gout-ridden retired colonel residing in a converted oast-house somewhere in Kent, what on earth are they teaching them in school these days (The ever-reasonable Mrs Coastaltown has a lucid response to this which, once I've negotiated the climb down from my high horse, I'll address)?

So anyway. Bad students.

Then, on my break I wandered over to the shop to buy a bottle of water. In the process of this I encountered two of my first years, one of whom had missed the previous workshop. "Hello Spagnoguland (Not his real name)!" I hailed him "So what's with you not turning up last week then?" He grinned tightly, and said nothing. I was nonplussed. Then he vigorously beckoned his compadre across, at which point the hair-bedecked Bloke Out of XTC (Again, not his real name) explained wearliy that Spagnoguland had "given up speaking for Lent." A novel excuse, and one which I can only applaud for its inventiveness. Good student.

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