Monday, January 29, 2018


Graduate-level students do not follow basic directions, write 8 pages when asked to write a 15-page paper, cite popular websites instead of peer-reviewed research papers (or do not cite at all), write twisted sentences like "Of the previously mentioned topics, the latter of the five has by far the most implication ......" and on being graded accordingly, write me emails like, "Professor, I am really disappointed with your grading." (Technically, they are addressing me incorrectly too, but I'll let that pass. I am doctor, not professor, not yet).

Many native English speakers struggle with basic grammar and punctuation, messing their commas and apostrophes, using colloquial language as if they were chatting with their buddies, using words like "cool" in an academic paper and writing "student's" instead of "students" repeatedly. It makes me think, "You only had to learn one language, and you messed that up too?" I won’t even talk about how bad some of their handwriting is. They most likely haven’t done a single day of cursive writing practice.

And for those who got a zero on their assignment for plagiarizing (I used a plagiarism tracker software to show them objective evidence of their plagiarism too), they write me emails like, "I am both shocked and appalled at your plagiarism allegations" and "I am offended at the language used in your email by saying that I plagiarized. This leaves no room for error on your part." Error on my part?

And then, a student wrote half the minimum required length for a final paper, and when graded accordingly, wrote me an aggressive email about how the student was extremely disappointed with my grading (My grading? Not their own writing, or the lack of it?). The student also played the "I am an international student, I was not able to follow directions" card. Understanding how students push your buttons has been a learning experience. I wrote an objective reply, addressing all the concerns with a compassionate stance, letting them know that I understand it is hurtful to get a low grade. However, I could not resist asking one question:

"Can you explain what aspect of you being international contributed to you not following directions or not asking me for clarification?" When a British talks about not following directions written in English, I am not sure what language I should use to give direction.  

I don’t know if they do this with everyone, or just me.

Teaching graduate-level classes here has given me a first-hand picture of what entitlement looks like. I wonder how I can break this pattern and encourage the students to learn from feedback rather than challenge my grading.

There is an extreme end in India where many teachers are treated like gods. And here, when students do not get the grades they expected (their expectations being asynchronous with reality), students will not think twice before treating you like you don’t know your shit. If a few points less (because of their own fault) disappoints them so much, I wonder how they will handle the stress due to constant rejections that is so characteristic of life in academia. The bigger question here is: Is our education merely training us to ace standardized tests like robots, or is it teaching us real life skills, like handling rejections and disappointments in life?


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