Grading Codes I Want to Give

I have a stack of final papers on my desk. Soon, it will be joined by a stack of final exams. Whee.

I’ve found that comment codes are useful ways to keep myself sane while grading – if I can just scrawl “E” for “You are making the baby English language cry. If you do not take your next paper to the campus writing center before turning it in you are at serious risk of dictionaries leaping off the shelves to pummel you”, I feel less compulsion to make time-consuming line-by-line edits that my students are very unlikely to ever read. Plus, while no one bothers to pick up their old work after the semester is over, most people will log in to the online gradebook. If I put a brief note there, they might actually read it.

When I prepare the actual comment decoder sheets, I try to be constructive. Sometimes it takes a few drafts to remove all the snark. (Note to any students who might be reading this: sometimes I also put in extra snark, just because it’s funny. Most of your papers were actually pretty good.)

B: You forgot to include a bibliography. I am going to prosecute this as a case of plagiarism, because I totally have that kind of time on my hands. Die in a fire.

I am amazed by the number of students who think that it is okay to submit an assignment that explicitly asks for outside research, without citing their sources in any way. I mean, I can understand that some students are doing their papers at 3 am the night before they’re due, and they just fuck it up… but the ones who come up and ask me if a bibliography is required completely throw me for a loop. Was there ever a time when they asked this question and the answer was “no, you must do your own research but you don’t need to cite your sources”? I want to throttle their high school teachers.

C: You are clearly just putting shit down on the page because it is vaguely related to what you are actually trying to say and you think it sounds fancy. It’s actually a sad batch of cliches and weird-ass inappropriate metaphors. Try actually thinking about what you are saying. Also, if you are going to impress your GSI with a really big word, you should look it up in the dictionary first.

D: Did you read the directions? Read the directions. It might also help if you followed them.

E: The first assignment in this class was to assemble (or at least think about) your own earthquake survival kit. Did you do that assignment? Why are you telling me that you will rely on campus emergency rations, when you don’t even live in the dorms? I am going to send a pack of rabid libertarians after you, and you can try telling them why you don’t have your own first aid kit and see how far you get. I’m pretty sure campus emergency resources don’t include enough supplies to remove all the “Ron Paul ’08” messages they will scrawl on your face. Sucker.

F: No one cares about your feelings. I mean, okay, yes, it does give me the warm fuzzies to hear that this class has taken you on some kind of personal journey of fear and enlightenment. As one human being to another, I care. But remember, science is performed by emotionless robots! In my professional capacity as a science educator, I only care about your ability to use basic principles of science and engineering to support a critical analysis of your environment. Save your emotional progress for your yoga life coach therapist guru.

Fucking Californians, always on a fucking journey.

P: I sprayed pomegranate juice all over your paper. This was not just a coincidence arising from my messy eating habits. It actually means that you are too dumb to be at Berkeley. Sorry.

W: Do you even know what words mean? You have handed in a stream of minimally-punctuated gibberish that bears a striking resemblance to cut-up literature. Tristan Tzara was making a statement about the nature of art, and Robert Anton Wilson did too many drugs in the 60s, back when people thought LSD would change the world – what’s your excuse?

S: This is science, the study of the natural world of reality. You’re not allowed to just make shit up. Did you think I wouldn’t notice? Stop that.

M: Oh thank god some of you grasp the basic concept of using logic and facts to support an argument. I mean, your paper is still basically a pile of non sequiturs, but at least you put down some numbers and cited some relevant examples from historical earthquakes and tried. There might even be hope for the future. I think I need to lie down for a minute.


  1. Wren wrote:

    I am having flashbacks to EPS2. Acccck.

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