Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Humble Pie

Looks like that frightening, horrible thing Maryann made
Tara and Eggs eat in True Blood season 2 . . . yikes! 

I'm eating a big ol' bite right about now. 

So, I've been grading student papers for a few days now (very very slowly) and, for the most part, they're pretty impressive. Their ideas are sophisticated and well-organized; their introductions make an attempt to be engaging; the papers use good sources in a smart way and even seem to be getting somewhere with the dreaded Topic Sentence. And the students seemed to have grasped the need for evidence to support their claims and the difference b/t analysis and summary

Of course, this doesn't apply to all of the papers, but, on the whole, I'm pretty happy with what we accomplished this semester, and I feel like they've really learned something (hopefully multiple somethings). 

There are, however, writing habits you can't train out of people in 16 short weeks - for example, their beloved "From the beginning of time . . . " or "In all of human history . . . " statements in the introductory paragraphs. (Hate those.) Another bad habit? Relentless use of "is" and other bland helping verbs instead of interesting active verbs. 

But this post concerns not about a bruise to my ego for failing to be Super Teacher (I would hate that whole leotard thing anyway [though a cape would be awesome]). Instead it's about an ego bruise resulting from my own writing. 

While I should be grading, I've spent the last half hour looking over the article that I'm revising before returning it to the journal that has accepted it for publication. And what I've seen in this half hour of looking at my written-in-about-three-days-under-the-great-duress-of-a-looming-class-deadline essay is that the writing, well, kinda stinks. 

No, I'm not fishing for compliments (none of you have seen the paper anyway!) - I'm being serious. I pride myself, if anything, on my good writing, so I wouldn't say it wasn't so great unless it really wasn't. For instance, if the word "is" shows up one more time in that paper, I'm pretty sure the authorities are going to restrict my use. 

But that's not the worst thing I've found so far. The worst thing comes in the form of grammatical incorrectness and general non-sense-making-ness. The following isn't an actual line from the paper, but it conveys an appalling sentence structure that I can not believe I wrote and did not revise out immediately, let alone sent out for the world to see

The neighbor's attitude regarding Sally's new minimum-wage job suggests that having even low-paying employment can be viewed as being a hard worker, much the way Tony's willingness to accept a pay cut suggests blah blah blah. 

There are so many things wrong with that sentence - most notably the glaringly hideous mess pairing of "having" and "can be viewed as being" - that I shudder to think three people read (my real version of) it and had only to assume I thought it was a reasonable expression of my ideas. (Well, three people - at least three - other than me and Brad. Those were my professor, the journal's managing editor, and the outside reviewer). And the idea that this sentence could appear in a journal several pages below my name . . . 

The horror! The horror! (For all you Conrad fans out there.) 
It's okay if you're embarrassed for me; I'm embarrassed for myself. But I guess a kick in the butt is good every now and again, just so you don't get complacent (right?). 

Anyway, I'm gonna go work on that sentence, cut my students some slack, and try to get away from that awful offal pie . . . .


  1. Haha! I am so much like you in this aspect. My B.A. is English Lit and I went to graduate school to study education (AYA Language Arts). I am so picky about my own writing. I used to proof my sister's papers (she was a microbiology/clinical lab sciences major) and I would just writhe with discomfort and change things left and right. Poor girl.

  2. I say leave the critiquing to your readers. ;) That's what I do...all 2 of them.

  3. Oh...and p.s. y'all are Truebies!? I have been literally whining about True Blood coming back since...umm...probably January? ;)

  4. Oh yes, ma'am! Brad and I are still waiting for season 3 to come out on dvd so we can Netflix it - I can't wait!