The TA rant.

Any other TAs or teachers around who get REALLY PISSED OFF by some student habits?

Formatting peeves

  • Using a flimsy plastic clip instead of stapling the assignment.

  • Stapling on the right hand side

  • Stapling two corners, book-style

  • Triple-spacing program output so it takes 15 pages

  • Printing formatted output in variable width font

  • Not having the solutions in order
    More to come… these fucking assignments are driving me crazy. :mad:

I’ve never understood stapling on the right, but I really hate it.

I don’t think students should be allowed to register for classes until they’ve presented evidence of owning a stapler.

Other pet peeves:
Learn your TAs name before the first exam. Their first name will do. Hell, even the first letter of their first name will probably do.

Write your first and last name on exams. ‘Jenny’ is not helpful when we have 400 exam papers.

I mostly like TAing … but stacks of exams / lab reports / programs / etc. manage to bring out the bitterness in all of us.

Oh man, I feel a lot better now that I finished… 130 papers… grr.

It’s bad when a student goes on and on, getting the question completely wrong. First of all because it’s sad to see an ignorant student, and second because I have to sniff around and justify a self-evident shitty mark.

I also hate it when they obviously have no idea what they’re talking about, but they think that if they’re vague enough, they’ll get marks… to paraphrase:

“When the value of k increases, so too does the value of 10^k. In this case, the value increases dramatically as a result of the nature of the function. As we can see, the relative error becomes large for larger k. This leads to inaccuracy of the function, which is due to the error which is a result of the computation… etc. etc.”

Except the spelling would be shite.

I’m taking notes on what I can do to torture my demon statistics TA. (This is the man who argued with me about what my name is. “Kathryn” is evidentally not actually Kathryn (pronouced like Katherine, Catherine, etc…) and my parents and I have been wrong for over 22 years. The most recent among many idiotic moments.)

Stapling on the right, you say?

Oh DAMN! I forgot putting the assignment in a sealed envelope! That’s classic. What a fucking pain in the ass.

A good strategy is to put only tiny pieces of the assignment on each page, so it’s super-long and hard to leaf through.

A paper clip? Luxury. Better than the “I’ll just fold over the corner so that my pages stay together until you actually, you know, turn the page or pick them up or something” strategy.

I’ve actually considered investing in a box of paper clips that I can bring out when the students hand in assignments.

A brief perspective from the other side - it seems to me like every different piece of work I hand in (rarely, admitedly) has a different way preferred to collate it.

I really do appreciate your pain when you get something like that, and I hope your students have been told plainly what (and preferably why) to do, but you need to make that clear. I remember a couple of teachers at school who seemed to think staples not clip was self-evident, and others who thought clip not staples was, so in that case a student who gets it wrong isn’t just being lazy and contrary.

Back on topic: bad handwriting

To second Shade, I was so often told in high school AND university courses that I had to paper-clip or fold the corner, some professors even going so far as to demonstrate techniques, that I find myself getting twitchy when I staple my own work at WORK.

That’s not to mention plastic binders, hard binders, three-ring binders, folders (Wherein we stuck the papers loose into the folder pocket!?!) for assignments.

Or… name and date on the right. Name and date on the left. Just name. Just date. Page numbers. I was taught the most current MLA style by one professor, and then, in using it, got graded down by later professors using older MLA style. Underline books. Italicize books. ::claw::

So, bite me, KarmaComa, if you’re not making it absolutely clear how you want assignments done.

Usually that’s done when there’s a paper length requirement. Are you requiring students to write a minimum of 15 pages? You’d better specific font, size, and margins.

Gaaaah, the horror, the horror!

Errrr… topic… What about things being late? Do you guys really care?

Ok, I’ll make you guys a deal. I’ll keep my assignments neat and legible, I’ll staple on the left, and I’ll keep the assignment in order if you markers do the following:

-don’t take marks off for bullshit reasons

eg: Hm, question asks for student to produce a graph. The student produced a graph, but didn’t label this x-intercept. -1!
Hm, the student didn’t show the the product of two integers is an integer. -1!
Hm, the question asks for the student to graph this function. He gave the graph perfectly, but he didn’t give any reasons for the graph. Never mind that the question doesn’t ask for reasons, that’s -2 on all three questions

-if I do make a mistake that’s worth taking marks off, don’t go overboard

eg: Well, the student correctly used the Euclidean algorithm to calculate the three GCDs that I wanted. However, each time he forgot to write down ax + by = GCD(a, b) (this wasn’t necessary to get the correct answer, it’s just how they wanted us to present the answer). That’s -3 out of 5

-if, god forbid, I do make a mistake and staple my papers in the wrong order(it happens), don’t give me a zero. I did do the correct work, and I am numbering all of my questions, so it’s not like it’s hard to notice that a proof starts suddenly at an odd point

eg: The student uses the correct assumption that 2^n/n! <= 4/n. He must have just copied that out of the assignment question and started from there. Never mind that there are several pages after this and that this is the last question, he must not have understood how this works

  • If we have a midterm covering material on this assignment, and you have a week to mark it, for god’s sake get it done in time. It’s nice to know what we do know and what we don’t before we write our exams

  • If you’re going to give a reason for taking off marks instead of directing me to the solution, give me a reason that makes sense. If you don’t, I’m going to assume that you’re an idiot who’s taking marks off for fun, and then when I take the same question on an exam, I’m going to get it wrong again.

eg: Consider the case when ln(7) <= 0, 7 <= 0. DNE!!!

Should be written as:
Consider the case when x <= 0. ln(x) DNE
(No joke, this actually happened to me)

  • I know that this really isn’t your fault, but don’t ask me to repeat a proof three times over with different numbers, and then only give me marks for the first proof. Especially when each individual proof spans 1.5 pages
    I hope that we can come to an understanding on this.

Shade is right in that TAs and profs have to make it clear about what they expect. But I know that with most of my students, it was in one ear and out the other.

The stapling thing was annoying, but not nearly as bad as the students who didn’t show up to discussion all semester and then expected help on the final. Or they bitched to the prof about their bad grade. Hey, if you missed the line on the syllabus about how discussion is worth 20% of your grade, that’s your own fault. This is not high school anymore.

Saw a lot of bad handwriting and chicken scratches. Also saw a lot of students who thought extremely large handwriting, font type or spacing would make up for the fact that there was no content in their essays.

Looking back on it, it was only the handful of effortful, conscientious students that kept me from shooting myself when I was a TA.

Ah, an excellent and timely topic. This week’s set of mysteries:

  1. Why do students insist on doing their Works Cited page as a separate document, instead of simply inserting a page break? And why do they invariably forget (or perhaps “forget”) to print it off and turn it in with the rest of the paper?

  2. My first name has only four letters, is completely phonetic, and is written at the top of the syllabus. So why can’t anyone spell it?

  3. How do so many people get to be eighteen years old without learning the difference between “were” and “where”? Aarrghh.

I went through all of undergrad and grad school without a single professor being able to spell my name right. Even my advisors. Even the few professors who LIKED me. Its an extremely common name. Its the name of a friggin book half of the country read.

Um, the rest is valid… Why the fuck are students allowed to turn in hand-written assignments at ALL? I sure wasn’t.

Which was fine, because I type 80+ wpm and my handwriting is…Well, let’s not go there.

Since i arrived in the US, i’ve never quite understood the practice of determining assignment length by page numbers.

When i was an undergrad in Australia, our essays and term papers were assigned word limits, which are easily determined when using programs like Word and WordPerfect. This practice avoids the ridiculous practice of trying to stretch out the font and spacing to make it look like you’ve done enough work.

Rysler, I was talking about program output, i.e. a computer program. I TA computer science.

I agree that dictating essay length by page count is ridiculous.

Rysto, don’t blame the TA for your shitty marks. Blame the prof, who designed the grading scheme.

Marking CS assignments isn’t like settling down with a mug of Ovaltine and a 20 page essay. It’s more like assembly line marking. Unusual stapling (or orientation) annoys me a lot more than no stapling.

Ooh, can I add another?

Dear students: If I have not gone completely senile at the age of twenty-seven, we did talk about research and reliable sources in class, didn’t we? Perhaps not as exhaustively as we’re going to later in the semester, but at any rate, you should be aware by now that none of the following counts as a scholarly source:

– “According to statistics printed all over [name of freshman dorm] …”

– Personal interview with Kevin M—, when there is no indication of who Kevin M— is and why he is qualified to speak on the topic.

– “Everyone knows that …”

– The Constitution of the United States, unless you actually cite the article or amendment in question. “Freshmen are people, under the constitution of the United States, they deserve fair treatment, or at least a small percentage of the treatment that upper classmen receive,” doesn’t quite cut it.

– The movie Finding Forrester. (Although this one is marginally closer, since I can at least watch Finding Forrester and verify that it contains support for your point of view, while I am unlikely to be able to do this with the mysterious Kevin M—.)

*Originally posted by KarmaComa *
Rysto, don’t blame the TA for your shitty marks. Blame the prof, who designed the grading scheme.

This is the situation I’m in, too. The prof designed the grading scheme in such a way that it’s damn near impossible to end up with a grade the reflects the quality of the report. I understand the goal of having rubric grading … especially when trying to standardize between 16 TAs. But gah! Our grading scheme:

6 points for having come to lab for both weeks (more or less)
4 points for organization (grammer/spelling, intelligent choice of information presentation (if it’s best put in a table - put it in a table; use diagrams if they make sense) and Physics Stated Correctly.
2 points for data
4 points for results (uncertainties discussed, Physics Stated Correctly)
4 points for conclusions (comparison to prediction, Physics Stated Correctly)

So basically - if the physics isn’t correct (or, more commonly, is missing), points just sorta disappear from sections. The students, rightfully so, HATE this. I do have confidence in the grades I hand back (and comment them out the wazoo) but the problem comes in trying to stuff it into this damn rubric.

And with regards to explicitly telling students things - I do. At least, I try as best I can. Things like staple in the upper right, lab reports must be typed, etc are all explicitly stated. As for ‘what do you want in my lab report’, the only way I could be more explicit would be to do the thing myself.

I’ve got a couple from TAing a lab course.

First, if you’ve managed to set something on fire, this is not the time to be polite and wait for me to finish dealing with other students. I really wouldn’t mind being interrupted, and I would like to think your classmates wouldn’t mind either, so just jump in and let me know what’s burning. This really did happen. Of course, while the student was not trying very hard to get my attention, her lab partner put the fire out successfully.

Second, if I’ve caught you plagarizing, don’t act like it’s all my fault. You were asked, IIRC, for two things you could have done to improve the results of your southern blot. Instead, you reproduced the trouble-shooting guide out of a manufacturer’s kit. Did you really think I wouldn’t notice? You’re just lucky the professor is more lenient than I am - I wanted to give you zero on the whole report, but she decided it was sufficient just to give you zero on the discussion section.