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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

entry arrow9:00 AM | In the Middle of the Grading Zone

It's a Thursday morning.

I woke up early, still recuperating from the flu and still playing catch-up this week with the final responsibilities of school's last days. The semestral break is upon us college teachers again, and -- compounded with the endless nights checking abhorrent student compositions (most of them, anyway) -- the soul is tired. The lesson I've learned these past nights while still coughing and sniffling but nevertheless determined to mark, correct, and grade the one hundred and eighty student essays which needed to be released by Wednesday afternoon, is this: checking collegiate composition is a punishment I do not want to wish even for my worst enemy.

One can only imagine the painful grind of going over every single grammatical and syntactical murder committed in what is benignly called College Composition. It's an endless and unforgiving repetition, your green pen scribbling hieroglyphics and squiggly lines and sad erasures which make up your corrections and tired commentaries. I must have written the word "awkward" more than a million times. Imagine 48 hours of that, straight: no sleeping, seldom eating because of sheer concentration. I vomited two times, and cried three times. No wonder my Cheshire Cat, the award-winning poet who teaches in Ateneo de Manila, gave her supervisors notice: I think she was in the middle of checking papers and then just decided to quit. I asked her why, but I already knew the answer: it was almost charming and hilarious handling all those dangling modifiers and inconsistent tenses and grade school vocabulary... but in the end, one realized it was affecting one's being a writer: one learned to have a complete distaste for language, especially if one spent too many days trying to salvage it.

Reflecting deep into the cause of this malaise, I inevitably go back to that unfortunate incident last year, the one with my research student who got a failing grade for plagiarism, and who then attacked me -- emotionally -- with mad mother and father in tow. She publicly humiliated me (in a restaurant) by kicking over a chair and throwing an ugly tantrum. I still remember what her father said, while he leaned over and threatened me: "Sometimes students fail because they have bad teachers." That was the last blow. How does one exactly recover from that? I have not recovered from that at all. Yes, the day after that, the father apologized, and two days after that, the student apologized. But no amount of apology can make up for the psychological damage they did to me. I have to say that incident really changed the way I viewed my profession. When it used to be a "noble" profession, now I couldn't help but think of it as a combat zone. I still remember crying so hard... It's been more than a year, and it's still so hard, and I have yet to climb out of that dark hole.

But I am not quitting just yet, though my soul is tired. People tell me: "You just need inspiration." God, I sincerely hope so.

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