So I was helping a student today who is struggling through an English class. The class has a significant test coming up, and the format of the test is an in-class essay. I've worked with this student off and on and like him; he's not that great of a writer, but he's willing to work hard to try to get there.
I know his teacher fairly well, but I'm not saying that in a positive way. Knowing what a lazy grader she is, I was surprised to see that she gave the class a relatively detailed rubric for the in-class essay.
"Okay, do you know what the essay topics are that you might cover?" I asked.
Yes, he did. The teacher had given them a list of possible topics, and mentally I blessed her for not leaving the students entirely in the dark.
"She says it has to be a five-paragraph essay," he said hesitantly.
"So, okay - wait, what?"
"A five-paragraph essay," he repeated.
I looked at him, aghast. "How long are your classes?"
"Uh, it'll be 45 minutes that day, because of the assembly. And she says we need 3 pieces of quoted evidence per paragraph."
"Okay," I said. "Can you use your book?"
He looked relieved. "I asked that too, but she said no."
So, in 45 minutes, the teacher is expecting the class to crank out a five paragraph essay with 15 pieces of quoted evidence in it? That's some high expectations, in my opinion; so high, in fact, that I was surprised she didn't already have a nosebleed.
"Are you supposed to memorize the quotes?" I asked.
He shrugged. "She says we can't paraphrase. Then she told us not to worry about it. I mean, she actually said that if we didn't have it all, we'd get points taken off, but not to worry about it. She says we don't need a really high grade for this first test."
They don't, huh? Wow, this teacher is incredibly helpful, precise and insightful. I wanted to ask if she showed up fully dressed each day, but thought it was better not to.
You know what's sad? In my new role, I see a TON of this: Teachers who give out instructions to students that are impossible to follow, or that don't make any common sense. These same teachers say crap like "don't worry about it" because the teacher hasn't - apparently.
We worked on a skeleton structure, and I wished him luck. What I really wanted to tell him was to count on a B for his grade. Knowing her like I do, she won't read past the second paragraph anyway. So he shouldn't worry about it.