Lest You Imagine I’m Bitter…

In case my posts about marking and plagiarism leave readers thinking I am bitter or unhappy in my work, I don’t mean to leave you with that impression. I have had one of those days which, well, which I find come after midterm exams: I’ve been interacting a lot with students, in all kinds of capacities.

I had lunch with one student who’s genuinely worried about his writing and wants to get it in shape. We talked about different exercises he could do, the importance of analyzing his readings and reading a lot (and aloud), and of course, the importance of studying all the grammar he seems to have forgotten.

During my office hour, a pair of students visited me and asked advice about a presentation they’ll be making as a graduation requirement in a week or two. I gave them some ideas, but mostly asked them a bunch of questions to help them focus and decide on a kind of thread to use to stitch together the various ideas they’re interested in working on.

After they left, a young woman came to visit me and inspect her midterm exam. She’d missed the evening when I’d handed the exams to the students to inspect, and wanted to see how she did. I was happy to give it to her, because she’s really a sweet kid and very shy, but when she writes, she’s absolutely a killer. She got a perfect score, which would probably have made her a lot more happy if she’d not had a good reason for missing class. A good, bad reason she had, though, and she volunteered it to me without me even asking. Her mother had passed on, and suddenly, I was that teacher, trying to kindly offer condolences, and wondering if I should say more, or not. I asked a question or two, not prying, and told her I was very sorry, and told her my father had passed on only a few months before. She seems to be holding herself together. It’s a scary resilience, and I wonder if that’s how I looked to other people when I read his eulogy without crying, when I returned to Korea and though I looked, well, a bit worn down, could still have a beer and chat. I don’t know. It was heartbreaking to see someone so young pause to think of the expression, and then say about her mother, “She went so fast.”

Finally, after my evening class, one of my most enthusiastic and dedicated students popped into my classroom after I dealt with several plagiarists, and asked if I could help him and his team prepare a little bit for their presentation tomorrow. Since doing a good presentation would get him and his team a trip to the UK, and since he’s a really good student, I sat right down and helped them. It took about an hour.

Needless to say, I am tired, but I think I may just read a hundred pages of the novel I’m just getting into, just because I am done marking now, and I can. (At least until tomorrow, when I am meeting a reporter to discuss the outline of her upcoming article for, yes, the next edition of the Campus English-language Magazine. It looks like I’ll be editing something on the subject of Dokdo, and, well, I’m wondering what their take is going to be, because, well, the average take on Dokdo makes me twitch from the effort to remain polite.)

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