Category Archives: paper


I don’t understand people. Especially when you think you have someone relatively figured out, they appear stable, and then they do something completely out of the blue that makes no sense, essentially ruining themselves in the process.

As I am tabulating final grades, I have several students who have been diligently coming to class, doing all of their work, earning good grades, did well on the final, but have not submitted their final papers. Papers were due last week, and depending on the class they are worth 20-25 percent of the final grade. I even sent out a mass email last night to all of my students stating that I will give them until Sunday to turn in any late work for partial credit.

Why would someone expend this much energy all semester, only to totally drop everything at the end and receive a C in a class where they had an A in the week before?

I have some students that have been on and off all semester, turning in some things but not others, and then at the end they came through and managed to pass the course. None of that was terribly shocking.

But a couple of the students I am referring to are exceedingly bright, write very well, understand the concepts, and as I have to enter a C on their final grade it makes me cringe. Which is basically why I emailed everyone giving them until Sunday night to submit any late work. I am really hoping they take this very last chance to produce something grade worthy.

I knew grading would be stressful (and so far has been my least favorite part of teaching), but no one warned me it would be emotionally draining as well.


Plagiarism is apparently a thing. I thought it was a myth, and maybe once or twice in my teaching career I would come across it. My co workers warned me of its existence, but I didn’t believe them. A few times when reading papers I had doubts, but could not find any evidence. Then final papers came in.

One student blatantly plagiarized her entire paper. Aside from the fact that the writing was far too different from her previous work, including in-class writing, she hadn’t even bothered to edit out the bits which indicated where she obtained the work (1.5 pages from Wikipedia, 2 pages from GradeSaver, and 2 pages from the Poetry Foundation). Of course I now started second guessing her previous papers, but I had no proof, and had already returned them to her.

The policy at my institution for plagiarism is an immediate fail, and a report on file. She wasn’t doing terribly in my class, and would have probably ended up with a B or B+ had she not done this. I didn’t want to wreck her entire academic record (even though she arguably just did that herself). The final decision was mine, so I emailed her letting her know that she will receive a zero on the paper, and if she does exceptionally well on the in-class final, she may end up with a C in my class. According to my co workers I was being extremely lenient.

She came to my office in a tizzy stating it was totally unfair that she should receive a zero on her final paper because she “had plagiarized the last paper too and didn’t get a zero on it.”

And I just lost all pity for her.

Form Informs Content

Form informs content. I always assumed this means that the form in which something is written intones the type of writing; poetry has a specific form, essays conform to a different style, and so forth. That all made sense. But apparently I missed the most important point in all of this; form supersedes content. If a perceived correct form is not practiced, then content becomes irrelevant. And here, form, takes on its most basic meaning. It is not overall structure, or literary awareness, but reduced to the usage of proper punctuation. One mislaid comma, or worse, dash or semi colon, completely derails an argument. It becomes so distracting it no longer matters what is being said as the focus is shifted from the writing to the mechanics of writing. Or, the choices engaged when creating these mechanics.

There is a school of thought that has somehow decided which punctuation marks are appropriate, while the rest are “unnecessary” or “pretentious.” I completely understand the criticism if these punctuation marks are being misused. In which case, please let me know. But to eliminate them from writing altogether simply because they are somehow deemed inferior sounds absolutely ridiculous. In fact, after all the rules have been taken into account, I am left with the comma and the period, with an occasional colon or perhaps question mark. The latter two are generally useless most of the time, and the former are great, but if used too often can produce either short, truncated, choppy sentences, or complete run-ons that never seem to end.

Why can’t I just have every valid form of punctuation at my disposal and then moderated for propriety? If I go overboard, or misuse something, let me know. If I continuously do it, grade me down. And while you are doing it, feel free to comment on the content parallel to the form.

While everyone is in a tizzy counting my commas, I would actually like to know if my argument works, and whether I read the text correctly.