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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Blushless Pleas for Grading Mercies

As an American professor for 16 years, I listened to many pleas for grading leniency. Although my younger professor self really agonized over appropriate responses to requests for mercy, I now find their pleas kind of exhausting endearing.

Now, last semester, when I told my beloved TA that I don't like to post final grades until students have left campus, she was bewildered.  I explained: I do not want to spend time and energy scheduling meetings with students begging for more points, tearfully claiming endangered scholarships and shipwrecked lives.  She, like most strong university students, was completely unaware of the deluge of "oh please oh please have mercy on me" messages that professors get.  Surely, she thought, this would not happen in Korea.  Students here have far more respect for their professors.

It was an empirical question.  And...she was wrong.  Here are a few examples of last semester's desperate messages, couched in painfully polite e-mails. I have omitted names here but made no other changes. You can't make this stuff up.
Hello, Professor. This is Student X.I hope you have a fantastic summer in Korea. I love summer must and Korea has many good place to take a rest. I hope you enjoy those things.Actually I have a request to you.I know these demand is such blushless.So, my request is, If my grade is not far away from B+, can you upgrade my score…?Actually I preparing for graduate school, but my total GPA is quiet low…So this semester, I try to do my best but that was maybe not enough.I know, I should more work hard before exam. So now I am so sorry that ask like these demand to you. But, if you can please give me a favor.Then, have a nice vacation professor!
That student kept her reported grade of B.

This next student had a higher grade but still was not happy:
Hello professor! 
I have enjoyed the class very much and I would like to thank you for all your support and for the lectures!
It was very fun, and helpful.
I wish I can take another class of yours when I come back to school :)
I have checked my grades today and was quite disappointed :(
Could you please let me know the breakdown scores for my grade?
I am a bit cautious whether I am giving you more work.
Would there be any other extra work that I could do to improve my grade please?
I am planing to go to Graduate school and study further, and my grades are quite weak.
I really want to do anything, if possible, to improve my grade!
Thank you very much professor!
I hope you have a great and enjoyable holiday. 
I did not offer extra work after a 16-week semester during which this student did not pursue the offered extra credit opportunities.

And, my favorite, from a weak student who did not submit the final paper (worth 20% of the course grade):
am i really F grade?

i respect your decision and i will agree

however i suggest you revise your standard

it is unfair to student who try to study and don't give up.

surely it is my opinion.

anyway i really appreciate your help and lecture

have a nice vacation!
Ahem.  "Surely it is my opinion ... " that his grade stands.

Poor puppies.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What October Brings

All photos taken by Sherri Lantinga in Oct 2015
unless otherwise noted.




The exuberance of spring prompts even dull students to offer poetic metaphors (which soft-hearted teachers perhaps too easily forgive).  This essay, however, is not about spring. It is about October, my second-favorite month, and its quieter finery. 












Chuseok:
Mountain-side burial mounds fill forest clearings,
tended by families thankful for past generations.

Hangeul Day:  National flags brightly wave over silent schools for the Korean alphabet's
569th anniversary.  Strangely, no language is studied this day.
(note: Photo taken October 2014)
Golden fields of rice:
Brightly-dressed ajummas swish lethally-curved knives
and bind rice sheaves with long stems.
Harvester machines, like tiny Zambonis,
smoothly shear the stalks of rice, invisibly remove the tiny kernels
and neatly return the stems into the shorn fields.


Quiet beach-side roads harbor tarps of rice drying in the warm sun.
(Note: photo by Elisabeth Lantinga)

Plants & animals:  

Grasshoppers, mantises, and dragonflies roam grassy edges, frantic with unfinished fall lists; stinkbugs sneak inside sunny apartment windows, startling human hosts.






Female garden spiders reach massive proportions,
their tiny mates skittering along the edge of family webs
while the lady of the house munches dragonflies.

Purple slugs move imperceptibly across forest paths,
sometimes meeting to create future generations

Asters, mums, and roadside cosmos politely bloom their pastel shades.





Roses reawaken with a spate of drowsy blossoms,
too easily torn by fall's rough touch.

Morning glory vines, twining stealthily for months,
burst into view with seductive blooms.

The cherry trees, a double-season blessing,
offer colorful crunchings underfoot.
Teams of matching ajummas scratch up curbside piles with busy twig brooms.

Traditional fishing villages sport roadside lines
of drying fish and squid;
neat rows of cabbages and peppers promise many
fulfilling pots of kimchi.