The grades went up late this afternoon, and then I took Lime out to celebrate. She has a job interview next week, and I’m done grading.
On the way home, though, I joked with her that my email inbox would be full of emails from students begging for a higher grade. This is a binannual ritual in Korea: professors enter grades into the system, and then students email pointlessly begging to have their grades increased by some modest, or immodest amount. Korean professors claim that this is much rarer occurrence between Korean students and themselves — that Korean students seem to deluge foreign profs this way because they think we’re all pushovers. I don’t know, though: I’ve seen some Korean profs rant about it very amusingly. One common refrain is the rudeness found in many such emails. A common pattern:
TO: Propessor Gorden
FROM: ㅋㅋㅋ <[email protected]>
SUBJECT:영어 회화 성적? ㅠ.ㅠ
Dear my teacher,
I’m student in your class. I need higher marking. It’s a dormitory problem. I don’t have A+ I don’t have chance to staying at dormitory next seemster. I’m try. I know, many studentd, so you can’t give many A+. But I’m try. But you are only give me C0.
I’m very… but I ask you now, give me A+~!!!! My only hope.
Yes, like Obi Wan Kenobi, I am your only hope, kid.
Actually, wait, no, I’m not. You are your only hope. Study harder. And for heaven’s sakes, if you beg someone to adjust your grade, at least mention your name!
Because, dear readers, please note that nowhere here is there to be found an indication of who the hell is sending this. While this student has avoided the cardinal error of sending an email without a word of English in it to query why his or her grade is not higher, our friend ㅋㅋㅋ (the Korean equivalent of “heh heh heh” — why so many Koreans use the “name” section of their email accounts as a placeholder for random cutesy text is beyond me!), a.k.a. “[email protected]” has not identified himself or herself. Perhaps this is wise, of course, since I am, on first reading such an email, inclined to review the grading history and see how the person escaped getting an F, as well as perhaps correct that apparent error.
(And yes, a man might have a word like “luvely” in his email address — just as sure as he has a pink shirt in his closet — while a young lady might have “psycho” or “criminal” in her email. I’ve seen it all.)
She bet me that I’d have at least three complaints — and that was an educated guess, since she helped me with the grade entry process, thereby cutting the time down significantly. I bet her I’d have only one.
Well, who was right?
I was, sort of. There was an email from a top student asking whether she could see her final essay again, with comments (or meet to talk with me about it) and whether she could see the final breakdown of the grading for the class. She didn’t quite get to, “Could you make my A0 into an A+?” This is cool, as she seems interested in finding out how he essay was, and getting some pointers in terms of improving her writing in general. (She’s one of those students who has spent extra time outside of class asking me writing-related questions.) No grade-related whining as of yet, in other words, which is cool. Last semester, the first email was mere hours after I uploaded the grades.
That, and an email from a former student now in China, asking me whether I have any suggestions on how to attract English teachers to come to China and to stay on for longer than a single year.
So I guess I won, but in the long run, I’ll lose. I’m sure my email inbox will be full tomorrow. But I’ll be ignoring those emails, because it’s the weekend, and I have other stuff to do… like drafting text corrections for textbook chapters, checking the page proofs for another story being published soon, and of course, climbing Wonmi mountain! I will someday be as fit as the old fella who hikes up every weekend (and, as it turns out, many weekday afternoons) with all his ice and cans and snacks to sell at a markup on the top peak:
(And by the way, the mountain hikes are going swimmingly. I missed it today — had to do it to get the grades done on time — but it just didn’t feel right, having breakfast without having first done the mountain, and on Thursday I got to the top and after only a couple of minutes of catching my breath was ready for the trip down, completing it in only an hour and a bit. I think next time, I’m going to continue along the ridge, as I suspect I can reach a whole ‘nother set of peaks further along if I choose the right path.)
At least this time, I had the foresight to post a lengthy discussion of what students should consider before inquiring about their grades. You can see that here. It’s dense on purpose, as that’ll weed out appeals from the people who send emails in Korean asking, “Why is my English mark so low?”
And for those wondering, since I’ll be in Korea, with relatively more free time than usual even with the write-a-thon going on, I’ll be organizing and uploading some archives of pics to Flickr, posting more about my research in SF literature and movies in the context of Korea and other adjacent countries, and (while working on articles and the Write-a-thon at the same time) expanding my research into the area of the Gin Craze (in the 1700s, in London) and the many parallels I have begun to find to exist between it and modern Korean culture’s relationship to soju, as requested by our good friend James at The Grand Narrative. Who, by the way, has a funny contest on, which could earn you a beer next time you’re in Busan… that’s here.