Monthly Archives: May 2014

Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Manevolent Horst

Well, last week was rough draft week.  I must say, my students took the rough draft very seriously this time around, and by that I mean they took the word ‘rough’ seriously and made sure to not even READ their essays before hitting print and slapping their dreck on my desk with so much disdain.   For your amusement, here are some of my favorite spelling/word usage errors from this week’s batch:


That’s right, amung, not among.  It actually took me more effort to keep the misspelled word in this sentence because when I typed ‘amung’ Word automatically changed it to ‘among’ for me.  I actually had to go back and make the extra effort to suck at spelling, which leads me to believe that either a) This student uses some kind of sketch-mode, black market word processor he bought from the car trunk of a guy named Mixtape in the parking lot of a Fas-Chek – or b)This student was especially committed to this particular misspelling – like he thought the word processor was out to get him by changing the word, and he said “Nuh-uh! Not today, motherf*cker.  I know what I’m about.  It’s among.  Damnit, Stop changing it!  Amung! Amung!”

I don’t even know how a person makes it through at least 12 years of school without knowing how to spell such basic words.



Not malevolence.

According to Urban Dictionary, the foremost authority on ‘shit you hear those youths talking about in their rapping songs and their Justin Biebers,’ a manevolent person is “a person who is apt to change from a good person to an evil person (combination of benevolent and malevolent).”

Trust me, I’m all for portmanteaus.  I can chillax with the best of ‘em.  I’m a fan of the “Jabberwocky.”  (I do, however, have an irrational dislike for the word skort.  It’s just – ew.  Skort.  Ugh.  I don’t know why.  I also hate the word ‘slacks’ in reference to pants, although that’s not a portmanteau, so I digress.)  Unfortunately, though, I don’t think this student was trying to be linguistically clever.

This Maleficent drag queen is my best approximation of ‘manevolence.’


Paul Bearer.

This one is understandable, but still amusing.  Apparently there was a professional wrestling manager who went by the stage name Paul Bearer, and he looked like this

So. . .

Strike and Pose/Case and Point.

I get these.  A simple slip of the tongue is enough to drop that d and phonetically misunderstand how to spell these common expressions.

However, since I grew up being bored out of my mind every Thursday night as I watched my dad throw a heavy ball at some pins along with the other members of his bowling league, the word ‘strike’ inevitably makes me think of bowling, so when I think of ‘strike’ and ‘pose’ together, I think of this:


Finally, le pièce de résistance. . .


Can you guess what this student was trying to spell?

Take a minute.

Think about.

Nope, it wasn’t horse or hoarse.  This wasn’t a simple keystroke error replacing an ‘e’ with a ‘t.’

It wasn’t hurts.

Here’s the sentence:

They loaded his coffin up into the back of the horst.

That’s right, the student was trying to spell hearse and bastardized it so magnificently that context was the only way to determine what he actually meant to spell.

My only way to rationalize this is that the student read about Patty Hearst somewhere (remember her?  1970’s Stockholm Syndrome bank robbing lady?) and somehow believed that her last name was the same word used to describe the vehicle in which coffins are transported, but the ‘ea’ was lost in translation and turned into an ‘o’ giving us ‘horst.’

Here’s a horse-drawn hearse for you.  A ‘horst’ if you will.

I also received my fair share of papers that were syntactically competent but disheartening nonetheless.  Here’s what a student had to say about homeless people:

“What can be said is that they have a choice to engage in the capitalist economy just like anyone else in this country. They have the freedom to clean up their act and become a welcomed member of society, or they can sit on the steps and inconvenience people who are trying hard to make their way through life.”

I can’t even get past the sheer myopia.  I have never been homeless, but I somehow felt personally offended by this.  Ugh.

Oh, also, I had a student who TOOK OUT HER TEETH to explain to my why she would be missing our next class.  She came up before class, held up a piece of paper and before I could protest, she yanked those suckers out to reveal brown nubs that I can only assume were eaten away by copious amounts of methamphetamine.

And oh dear lord, whatever you do, DON’T do a Google image search for ‘meth teeth.’  Just. Don’t.

The next time she returned to class after missing another class session, she came up to my podium and, breath reeking of the dankest weed ever, explained that she’d been absent because she had to get her son admitted to a psych ward for a psych evaluation after he stabbed some other kid with a pencil.

I imagine this is her kid:

Finally, I’m still dealing with a student from last semester who re-used old essays from a previous English class.  The first time he did it, I told him that he needed to produce original work for each class.  I warned him not to do it again.  I also gave him the benefit of the doubt and let him rewrite that paper – I mean, the rule isn’t necessarily self-evident, and the university policy on academic dishonesty doesn’t explicitly address it.  It’s his original work – he’s not plagiarizing someone else – so why shouldn’t he think he could use his essay as he saw fit?  I could see how he might have just made an honest mistake.  He assured me that this was the case – that he simply didn’t know he wasn’t allowed to do that and that it wouldn’t happen again.

Well it did, on his last essay, so I gave him a 0 for the essay and he failed the class (NOTE:  this is the second time he has failed English 101, since the essays he re-used were from the English class he took and failed in the Fall semester).

I consulted my department chair, and she advised me to report him to the dean.

Now the kid is e-mailing me with his daddy cc’d asking me why he failed, claiming he doesn’t understand.  It’s seriously stressing me out because I just don’t want to deal with it right now.  I just don’t.

What if this kid appeals his grade?  What if I have to endure some messy hearing in which my every action is scrutinized?  In situations like this, I always second guess myself:  “Maybe I didn’t explain it well enough.  Maybe he really didn’t understand and this is all my fault.  Maybe I’m a terrible teacher.  Maybe I’m just not cut out for this job.”

Mostly I know this is not true, although situations like this do make me dream wistfully of other jobs – I could be a carnie.  I mean, I was very direct with him the first time this happened, and I even reiterated my point to him during finals week when he came by my office to talk about his rewrite; I warned him that if he re-used old essays in his future classes, some professors might not even give him a second chance and would simply fail him automatically.  If he didn’t understand my stance on this practice, then he’s hopelessly dim and perhaps that’s why he can’t seem to pass this class.

But still, I hated having to fail him, and I almost didn’t do it because of the potential for a messy fallout.  Yes, I actually considered passing him as I stared at the originality report telling me that, despite my multiple warnings to him, he actually resubmitted another essay from the same former English class.  Again.

I actually considered passing him because, honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with it (I know that sounds awful, and I obviously talked myself out of it).  It would have been so much easier to just give him a C and move on.

It also doesn’t help that he’s a likeable kid.  He always participated in class, always smiled, was always courteous and friendly.  I hate to say that it would have been easier to fail him if I didn’t like him, but it’s true.  Despite the fact that it would have been easier, despite the fact that I like this kid, I did what I felt was right and I failed him. . .and now I feel depressed.

It doesn’t add up.

Why am I letting this kid’s poor decision-making skills, his laziness, fill me with such dread for the potential repercussions of my rightful actions?

Has anyone else ever had to deal with this?  What’s your stance on re-using essays from former classes?  Any words of wisdom out there?  Right now I just want to avoid my inbox like the plague and become a temporary Luddite.


Future Leaders of the World


On the first day of each semester, I ask my students to go around the room and tell me their names and some other piece of information of my choosing.  This serves 2 purposes:  1)  If any of them have batshit names that in no way reflect the actual spelling on my attendance sheet, this is a great way to find that out (I’m looking at you Azalea, pronounced Ah-zhu-lay).  2)  With just a few words, I gain some insight into the empty, bored faces staring back at me as if I’m less interesting than a hangnail.  I get it.  I was that bored student once, I’m sure.  I don’t expect them to look at me as if I’m Miley Cyrus or a much too convincing male to female transgender who makes them question everything they thought they knew about their sexuality.  


(Because seriously, these gorgeous young ladies were once dudes).

Or a unicorn.  Or a Miley Cyrus drag queen impersonator, which is obviously a thing.


(because you’re not REALLY famous until a drag queen impersonates you, right?) 

Anyway, I know that I have to work to get them to talk to me, and I accept that.  If I’m not feeling creative, I might just ask for their major or what they like to do in their spare time, which will still typically yield some. . . illuminating. . . responses:

1. Well, I’m a Juggalo, so I like dressing up like an asshat and drinking copious amounts of Faygo while listening to ludicrous music.  No, not Ludacris, the rapper.  I’m using the word ludicrous as an adjective here.


Well, I enjoy long walks on the beach, reading Nicholas Sparks novels and sacrificing talk show hosts to the great god Xenu.


2. Well, AS A MOTHER, I have no identity outside of my children, so let me tell you a little bit about little Makayla’s pinworms and how Brody is in the gifted program!

(Disclaimer:  Most nontraditional students are not like this.  In fact, my nontraditional students are typically my favorites because, for the most part, they are respectful, do their work and actually want to be in class.  However, there’s one like this in every bunch.  You know the type. . .)


3. I like getting really pissed off about everything, so let me first demonstrate that by going into a five minute tirade about how the government doesn’t force my asshole-good-for-nothing-baby-daddy to pay enough child support because they’re all just a bunch of selfish penises who need to be castrated. What’s that?  Oh, yea, my major – I’m a counseling/psych major.

You know the type.  It looks like this:



or this:


4. I’m president of our campus anarchy club.

To which I respond, 



This semester, since I’m teaching a composition class centered upon making arguments about policy issues, I decided to open the class by asking each student to tell me about some policy, human rights violation, or social ill that they would change if they could.   Several of them mentioned raising minimum wage.  A few more mentioned limits on welfare benefits.  Others explained that they would institute rehab instead of jail time for nonviolent drug violations.  Some wanted more protection for the homeless population.  

However, here are my three favorites.

One came from a kid named Clyde Tater (That’s not his real name, which I can’t disclose – however, it is pretty close to the spirit of his real name).  He looks and sounds exactly as I would expect someone named Clyde Tater to look and sound.  (P.S. A Google image search for ‘Clyde Tater’ yielded this. . .


this. . .


and, inexplicably, this. . .


NOTE:  This is not what Clyde Tater looks like, I can assure you.  His severed pig’s head was MUCH larger.)

He’s slumped down in his desk wearing a Carhart jacket, camouflage ball cap and work boots.  When he realizes it’s his turn to speak, the sound of throat clearing erupts from somewhere inside his untamed beard and he says in a mellifluous country drawl (and I’m crying inside with joy because he sounds like home, and I already love him), “I’d change the lowering of speed limits.  They lowered it to 60 out where I live and I usually go about 90.  I can’t afford no more points on my license.”  

I can so vividly picture his vehicle:


It runs on freedom.

Or, who knows, maybe I’m just stereotyping this kid.  People surprise me all the time.  Maybe Clyde really drives something like this.


It’s possible.  Unlikely, but possible 

Anyway, people driving too slow and the government making them do it – that is the nefarious social ill that Clyde would like to solve. He truly is a visionary.

Another guy with a pretty standard name like James Neal or Josh Barnes or Jared Brown or something equally nondescript chimes in next.  He has close-cropped brown hair, some groomed facial hair and he is wearing the most generic jeans and t-shirt combo.  Seriously, his clothes could belong to anybody, anybody at all, and this is why I sometimes have a harder time remembering my male students’ names. Unlike in the animal world where men preen their colorful plumage to attract dun-colored females,Image


(Hey, gurl!  You like what you see?  Bitches love feathers.)

in the human world girls have weaves and hair dye and day-glo dresses and skirts and sequins and any possible arrangement of clothing colors and patterns imaginable.  Men mostly wear jeans and t-shirts.  


Not all men, mind you (again, see Clyde Tater above) but many of them.  This invariably makes it more difficult to remember their names.  None of them particularly stands out to me in quite the same way as the girl with blue hair or the one whose see-through lace top is so skin-tight that I can’t help but remember in ironic horror that her name is Chastity. 

Why can’t the guys in my classes wear something more like this?


or this


or whatever is going on here. . .


I would definitely remember the names of these gents.

Anyway Jake Clark or John Smith or whatever this kid’s name is, chimes in, “What is up with men’s shoe sizing?” (and for a moment I’m expecting a stand-up routine, and I get a little excited, but alas).  “I mean, I ordered a pair of size 13 rain boots off the internet the other day, and when I got them they were tiny!  I mean, what’s up with that?  I was pissed!  I think men’s shoe sizes need to be standardized so I know what I’m getting when I order online!”  I don’t know if I’m more amused or saddened by the fact that this kid doesn’t realize he ordered children’s shoes – that he doesn’t realize that children’s shoes also come in size 13 and this is most likely what he ordered without reading the item description thoroughly enough to realize it.  I imagine these are the boots he received:


No, not human trafficking or sweatshop labor or climate change policies – this kid wants to standardize all shoe sizing for men, making the world a better place one pair of galoshes at a time, not by placing them on the feet of a person in need, but by making sure they are large enough to fit him.

Finally, remember the girl I mentioned above going into a five minute tirade about her baby daddy and child support?  Yes, she was real, and that was the issue she’d like to change about society – that the government should make her baby daddy pay her more child support. Her name is something like Amber or Krystal and she has thick black highlights in her platinum blonde hair. 

If a pack of cigarettes could speak, it would sound exactly like this girl.

She’s the type of woman who enters the room with a fanfare – harried and out of breath, she feels the need to explain what held her up on her way to class (Lost my keys, but I found them at the last minute right in my purse where I left them!  My life is SO cu-razy!)

From her long and breathless spiel, I can already tell that she’s going to irritate me on multiple occasions this semester.  As I work through explaining my class policies, she interrupts several times without raising her hand to ask pointless questions.  Now, I’m not necessarily a hand-raising Nazi.  This is college, after all, and these are adults.  But she is talking CONSTANTLY, holding up the class, asking questions like – “Now this textbook is listed as a ‘recommended text’ not a ‘required text’ so that means it’s recommended, not required, right?” 



When I get to the section of my syllabus about classroom respect, I make sure to make special eye contact with her as I mention that students should raise their hands with comments or questions when anybody else is speaking – myself and other students included. 

I can already see her classmates inching away from her on peer revision day, praying to the god Xenu that I don’t stick them in a group with her. 

Overall, though, it seems like it will be a pretty fun class, and I’m happy to wrap up my classes at the four-year school where I teach.

Finals week is over for them and I’m ready to bid that class a solid adieu!  Why?  Here’s a sampling of the types of students in that class:

One girl submitted her rough draft as her final draft without changing any of the content and with my original, meticulous Microsoft Word comments still in the margins.  One boy submitted an essay from a previous English class that he took and failed last semester.  Did I mention that he already did this once this semester and that I caught him, gave him a 0 on that essay and warned him not to do it again?  Because that happened.


Hurray for Generation Y and credentialism!