And Another Semester Fades Away…

Hallelujah! We are now DONE with this semester. I am ready to post grades, which I will do whenever I finish scribbling here and swilling down another cup of coffee.

Actually, one maga-writer has yet to post the final, tiny assignment for the magazine writing course. It’s not due until midnight, but it doesn’t much matter. She has managed to rack up a semester average of 98.3%, and so she’ll get an A in the course whether or not she gets around to filing the last little article.

It sure has been a semester for peculiar ones. One of them, an African student, turned in a SECOND collection of plagiarism for the huge, heavily weighted final freshman comp research paper. This time it looks like she took a fair amount of time trying to put the thing together. I’d like to think it’s a cultural issue: in some parts of the world, copying stuff whole cloth is actually regarded as a sign of respect and admiration. Hadn’t heard that was true in Africa, but the term “non-Western” is frequently bandied about.

But much as I try to squeeze some Benefit of the Doubt Elixir from my flinty heart, the fact that for an earlier paper she kiped a student-level essay out of a composition textbook published online, pasted it into a Word document, and then REPLACED THE CHARACTERS’ NAMES IN IT with her own and an acquaintance’s seems to indicate calculated dishonesty. That’s different from pasting a few sentences out of a source… But also to my mind the fact that she lists none of her final paper’s real sources in her Works Cited also indicates that she knows not to present the stuff as her own work — she’s trying to hide the sources of her plagiarism. If she’d cited them in her bibliography, I might have thought she just didn’t understand how to use sources…but the fact that she conceals them is just too telling.

Another African classmate, a guy who I think comes from central Africa, never did figure out what a position paper is. Since the final paper was a long, fully sourced and documented position paper, this formed a bit of a stumbling block, especially since he has yet to understand the fine points of citation and documentation.

But heaven help us, I can’t imagine trying to take a college-level course in Yoruba or some such. So you have to admire these people’s courage and persistence.

Meanwhile, over in the maga-writing section we have a gent who marches to his own drummer. He at least is going to pass this semester, which will get him out of my hair once and for all, thank Gawd. This is his second try — he just turned all of last semester’s papers back in, unrevised and unedited. As I recall, last spring he missed a couple of assignments, which did not help his semester average. But he’ll pass this time.

There’s a great deal to be said for the arms-length of an online course. I’d be tearing my hair out if I had to deal with these characters in person two or three times a week!

I’ve uploaded the material for the two Spring 2015 sections of 102, so those will be ready to go in January, at the push of a button. In another couple of days I’ll have the magazine-writing course ready to go in Canvas, so all the course prep will be done before I have to go into the hospital to get my boobs chopped off.

And speaking of general course preps I added another criterion to the 102 rubrics: redundancy. Every semester I remind myself to stick that in the list, and every semester I forget. And it is a major lacuna: if I don’t have an issue listed in the grading rubrics, I can’t thwack a student for that particular failing. This semester one classmate, arguing against abortion, filled a fair amount of bandwidth by repeating herself over and over and over and over and over: “Abortion is murder. Abortion is killing. Abortion is murder. Abortion is killing. Abortion is….”  GAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

Also added a separate rubric for focus: “overall focus is clear and stays on point throughout the document.” Ugh. Wouldn’t you think

  • A thesis statement appears in the first or second paragraph.
  • The thesis statement is not phrased as a rhetorical question.
  • Thesis statement is highlighted or boldfaced. [Sometimes you can’t tell what they think their thesis is!]
  • Author makes a clear claim and qualifies it as needed (and in doing so makes it evident that he or she knows what is meant by claim and qualification).
  • The essay is divided into coherent paragraphs (coherent means each paragraph hangs together logically). That is, each paragraph contains
  1. a topic sentence (a topic sentence says what the paragraph is about);
  2. at least two to five sentences explaining the point to be made in that paragraph;
  3. specific details, such as facts or examples.


Well. No. It does not. Sometimes you really do need to say “this paper wanders all over the damn place.”

Y’know what I hope? I hope it’s really true that by the time you get eight books up on Amazon, your little emanations start to make a living wage. We will be in a position to test that thesis by the end of 2015.

By “living wage,” I don’t ask much: just enough to replace the piddling amount adjunct teaching pays.

For that to happen, each book would have to gross $1800 per year, significantly less than one section pays. That would only be $150 a month.

I’ll betcha I can average that amount. The adjunct book may never return that much. But a diet book is bound to sell — at net of  $8/book, that’s only 19 copies a month. I think the novel is pretty lively stuff, and if I get a series going, it’s likely each volume would sell 19 or 20 copies a month.

And I intend to write a book about the boob misadventures: any sort of self-help book/memoir having to do with breast cancer(oid) is going to sell, if for no other reason than the general hysteria surrounding the subject. That one comes on top of the eight books already planned, so if I can squeeze it into 2015, in a year I’ll have nine books on Amazon and waypoints.

If Amazon will crank 14 grand a year, reliably, from a steady stream of self-publications, I will never teach another composition course as long as I live.


3 thoughts on “And Another Semester Fades Away…”

  1. Squeezing “benefit of the doubt elixir from my flinty heart”.

    I totally love that and I’m totally stealing it.

  2. DD2 has witnessed the plagerism you describe 1st hand at her school and was appalled that some her fellow classmates think it’s acceptable. She’s a pretty good writer and takes great pains to not take credit for someone else’s work…She adamantly puts this in the same “box” with stealing….If nothing else the kid has morals.
    IMHO I think a first hand account of you “not having cancer” in your breast will make serious money. I can tell ya when you or a loved one is first diagnosed with cancer…you are scared “crapless”. Your book would offer insight and hope and getting paid for the service….”icing on the cake”…

    • yeah well… I’d need to do some serious work to put together a book that will actually sell. Find others who want to tell their stories. Get the facts straight. Get an expert to read the thing and check facts.

      And probably find a real publisher. It’s a little hard for an old bat like me to believe that self-published squibs on Amazon are ever going to earn much. I still get royalties from The Essential Feature (not much…but it’s been 30 years!), and Math Magic went a long way toward making it possible for me to pay off the mortgage. Nineteen sales netting eight bucks apiece do not a mortgage payment make.

      Decent writers rarely plagiarize. They don’t have to. You see this habit in people who are native English speakers and can’t write their way out of a paper bag and also in people who are native speakers of other languages and feel insecure about their ability to write an acceptable college-level (or business-level) document. I feel more sympathy with the latter, but not when they obviously know they’re not supposed to be doing it because they take the trouble to hide their sources.

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