& Here Once Again Commences the Deluge. (Wherein Students Grumble Their Way to a Higher Grade… Not!)

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.

Gordy Wan Kenobi

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.)

pink shirted Korean man

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:

Buying Young

(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.

6 thoughts on “& Here Once Again Commences the Deluge. (Wherein Students Grumble Their Way to a Higher Grade… Not!)

  1. Within an hour of posting grades yesterday, I had a phone call from a student who couldn’t understand her grade . . . not even after I explained that she had plagiarized. She’s coming by today to talk about this.

    Did you find plagiarism this time in your students’ essays?

    The question, of course, is superfluous…

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  2. A student sent me an email that said he needed at least a B to keep his scholarship that somehow allows him to delay his 2-year military service. I had already given him a B+. The odd thing about it was the name in his email address… Dorothy.

  3. Actually, I’ve seen very little of it this semester, probably because of my anti-plagiarism handout (in English and in Korean, so no excuse is possible)…

    Or maybe the fact that I very dramatically threatened to kick a plagiarist out of class for a minor offense.

    (And, indeed, said plagiarist turned out to be both anonymous (because she immediately deleted her blog post) and one of the best students, who was very remorseful and thanked me for scaring the hell out of her before she went abroad and got booted from some program for a similar offense.)

    That said, at least three people lost marks in another class, for plagiarizing not on essays, but “panel discussion preparation papers.” I had a series of panel discussions in my huge class, and every non-panelist had to hand in a preparation paper with ideas & questions for the panel, and a reaction paper grading the panelists (and explaining why & how the grades were chosen) plus reactions to the ideas mentioned during the panel discussion. A few people seemed to think this meant,
    “Go to IMBD.com. Copy plot synopsis and paste into a word processor file with your name and student number. Print and hand in.”

    But overall, plagiarism wasn’t such a big issue. Partly because, outside of the essay-writing class, I give my students very different tasks — tasks that it is very difficult to “cheat” on.

    Of course, the MPAA would probably argue that my Media English students violated copyright law in making their trailer remixes and other video stuff for their final projects — I evaluated them on their creativity, ability to deliver a message, and ability to talk intelligently about the remix, process, and legal issues involved during the presentation on the final day.

    So it’s a combination of few essays, big scare tactics, and a very clear explanation of what plagiarism is and how I will flunk you if you do it (in two languages) that may account for how little plagiarism I saw this semester.

    Oh, plus, in the essay writing class, the process makes it much harder to pass, even if you do plagiarize and don’t get caught. You have to brainstorm your topic & hand it in. You have to propose a thesis with some explanation and hand it in. Then you must do up a rough outline, and hand it in. Then draft, and hand in. Then there’s a peer review and public critique. (And they know if there’s a shred of plagiarism I will say it in front of everyone, and expel them from the class on that most embarrassing of days.) And then there’s the final draft, which must be an improvement of the midterm draft.

    Or maybe I was just lucky to have a good bunch in the class that required essays?

  4. Trevor,

    Ha, Dorothy. Yes. As Jeffery says, we most definitely are not in Kansas anymore. Maybe he’s a friend of Dorothy’s?

    I’ll bet he emails again as soon as he sees the reply, correcting himself that he needs an A, not a B.

  5. Yeah, he might be Dorothy’s friend, and I expected his reply to be like you said, but surprisingly it wasn’t. He was really, really happy to have gotten a B+. And that’s kinda surprising because usually students bitch and moan and ask for an ‘upgrade’ if they get anything lower than A+. Fortunately this semester I’ve only had 3 calls and 1 email from students complaining about their grade. And now I’m off on vacation – a month visiting family back home, then 2 weeks in Japan. Yay! Enjoy your summer.

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