More Tips For Teaching English Composition: Grading.


To foresee the outcome of grading before the outcome is obtained is indeed an egregious error. Listen! The “Fish-Scale” formation must be deeply pondered. It has nine fins. Let us discuss the Nine Fins of Grading.

1.) The fin of red ink is the realm of the Taimen, a mighty fish known as “river wolf.” Tread lightly about the Taimen, wear a bell. Feelings may be hurt, and also retinas. Criteria may change, in rubric circles, as the orbit of planets. If you use red ink, allowed, but never hot sauce, cranberries, rose hips, Christmas lights, lipstick, or Sam Pink‘s blood. Once I rode a camel two days through a Sirocco to pick up Confucius at the airport. His flight was delayed three days and so I sat in the bar and drank as a fire drinks air—one of every bottle. The night flickered, days melted into pools of mechanical flower. Hunger came for me like a great sneeze. I never left my barstool; I never slept. For several hours I was convinced I was a toadstool in the dark hollow of a log within a cave beneath a lost sea, on Mars. Finally, Confucius arrived, tapped me on the shoulder, and we returned home. He never thanked me. He simply bowed and advised I should stop talking to myself in public.

“Ok, but may I think to myself?” I asked.

His answer: “As you wish.”

2.) The fin of lost-to-knowing is the F student. Were we not all young, moons ago? Kendra Grant Malone broke her arm three times one weekend while paragliding drunk in a thunderstorm, but so? Never once did she leave the heavens. Until she passed out. Even the Korean tern seeks a stronger draft, and will change altitude to leave still air. This is a powerful lesson. How could a student hand in 2.4 pages—the assignment clearly stated three. Yet your credit card bill sits on the kitchen floor in a pool of oily coffee, ten days overdue. Or is that coffee?

3.) The fin of mist is all remaining students. What can you see? What can you know? Are you qualified to mar the blackboard? Sometimes dark beer brings forth the light; light beer reveals the darkness. What I can’t stand is when some guy like Billy Collins orders a Corona in the middle of a snowstorm. Have a sense of mood. I wish Blake Butler would punch B.C. in the spleen. Even the bear prefers sleep in winter. Even the heavy glissando. This is what I mean by mist.

5.) In marking essays, do use the word terrible, when you mean terribly good. This is the fin of Splish.

Do not use the word AWK, when you mean awkward. AWK is the mating call of an Eurasian Wild Ass. This is also the fin of Splish.

6.) Do not the dull coin and the shiny coin hold the same value? Now you know the fin of hummingbird.

7.) The fin of unawareness is critical to grading. When Noah Cicero greets Dick Cheney do they talk pheasant, or duel with skillet, or just politely avoid one another? How pleasantly pissed off is Sara Crowley? (I would like to meet her over biscuits and tequila.) When the Burmese python greets a fellow python, are they troubled to hug? Maybe. I don’t like when some bartender at an airport comments on somebody’s drinking. Really, I don’t. Like she’ll stand in front of you, slide you another beer, and say, “You’re really putting in a shift tonight.” And later she’ll say, “Wow! I bet you’re trying to drink some girl off your mind.” Bartender’s a big woman, bright, loud, shouts everything, but I don’t want to criticize. I’ll call her brassy. Now I’m depressed. This taste in my mouth like campground. Who can say why? Not me. I don’t know all the duties of a bartender, all those white rags they carry, the little openers and spoons. I can’t change out a keg. Sometimes two stag will fight for a certain vein of salt. They battle until their antlers entangle. Now neither can feed; they starve. Now you see the fin of awareness.

8.) You say enough has been written about alcohol and writing. I could answer enough has been driven about cars, but I don’t see you walking home tonight.

9.) No mark taken in vain. No grade submitted lightly. One time I saw Matt Bell eating KFC inside a Mobil Station (oxymoron). Tip: Microsoft DOES NOT work. Etc. One time, late in the dawn of the first frost, Confucius told me to gather—what? No! No way! Yes way. Mia Farrow just floated past my window. Like some marvelous meteor, a shooting star. Dandelion seeds. To where is she floating? She wears a flowing dress, a flock of bluebirds, much too unique for a Friday in Indiana. Hmm…Look, seriously, I have to go.

shhhh…I am reading Mr. Lovelace

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2 responses to “More Tips For Teaching English Composition: Grading.

  1. Reading compositions is like being on the rack, you have nothing to say, you don’t want to talk, but you have a fondness for that right leg that’s separating from your torso, so you spill it all.

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