- My mother/brother/sister/aunt/uncle/neighbor/best friend has a degree in X and thinks my paper is great. Fantastic! I'm glad to know that people in your life are supportive. Please note, though, that someone who taught sixth grade English with a BSE degree has not spent 20+ years teaching college level writing. They probably took this very course (whether it is literature or composition) and had their own struggles with it. While I respect these people I don't know, you should realize that family and friends have no motivation to tell you your writing needs work. They are emotional support, not academic support.
- I made an A in my last class in this field easily. Again, congratulations. Keep in mind that each class is different and has different criteria. As you take courses in a sequence (like Composition II after Composition I) expect that you will focus on new forms of writing and that things get more difficult, not easier. Likewise, moving from Composition to Literature courses doesn't mean you'll get the same high (or low) grades you got in the earlier classes. Your work in someone else's classroom really has nothing to do with your performance in mine.
- I took this paper to my high school English teacher and she said it is an A paper. Perhaps it is an A paper for the course that person teaches. However, this is not a high school class. Like your family and friends, your high school English teacher (or even the instructor you had last term) has no motivation for NOT saying the paper is great. In addition to the issue of no motivation to basically grade your paper for you in a way that is honest (and may evoke an angry reaction from you--remember, you came to them ranting about how unfair I am. They want to be the good guy here), but unless they are a fellow student in the course or have reviewed everything in my course, they have no way of knowing what I've spent hours going over in the discussion boards, what handouts I've given you, or what I've pointed out in your previous work that needs to be addressed.
- I worked really hard. OK, I'm glad to hear that you've invested time and energy into my class. Know that I appreciate that. However, just as Olympic judges don't score figure skaters based on the hours they put in at the rink, I can't assess anything other than the "performance" in front of me--the actual paper.
- This is supposed to be an entry level course, but she taught it like a grad course/doctor [sic] course. This one shows up a lot on evaluations. Please note that I don't teach whatever I want in survey courses. All of the courses I teach are system-built or based. That means that in Composition I and II that i use the exact same books, rubrics, and assignment sheets as the person in the virtual classroom next door and in most cases the same ones as the person at your local campus who teaches the course. The SLOs (Student Learning Outcomes) are not mine--they are created by the college. They are appropriate for the course level. Having never been in a graduate class before, how do you feel comfortable making this assessment? Trust me, the concepts here are not "doctor" level or even doctoral level or master's level concepts.
- You don't like me, that's why I got a bad grade. I don't know you. When I grade papers, I typically don't pay attention to whose paper I'm grading. I use Blackboard's inline grading tool and sometimes go through the "needs grading" portal which presents the assignments in the order they were turned in, rather than alphabetical order. Trust me, careful evaluation of the paper in front of me is all I'm doing. If I tried to come up with personal things about you to "hold against you" that would require hours of research into who you are as a person. I don't have that kind of time. Note that I, and many of my colleagues, take a lot of pride in the feedback we give and that we direct you to resources in our feedback that will help explain our criticism of your work. Pointing out where the paper falls short of the grading criteria is not a personal attack.
I offer these not to be mean or rude, but to help you consider how to approach your instructor. We are highly trained professionals with years of experience. We teach because we want to help you become better thinkers, not because the job is glamorous.
Here's the take-away here. Instead of the comments above, think about how to demonstrate a willingness to learn. Comments that show us that impulse include:
- Ask questions related to our feedback. For example: I have a question about the comment you made about my thesis. Can you show me an example thesis that would fit?
- Make connections to the reading material to demonstrate you're on top of things and are attempting to apply concepts. For example: After reading the assignment sheet, I then went back and read the chapter again. I have a pretty clear idea of what context is from page X; how do I add that to my paper?
- Share "before and after" examples. I workshop a lot in my discussion boards. Showing your original thesis and your new one, along with explaining what you changed and why, is a great way to show you are working the process. This is showing me you are "working hard" rather than you simply announcing that you are working hard.
- Don't sell peers short. More often than not, when peers attempt to answer the questions in my peer review sheets directly, their feedback dove-tails with mine. In a related note, be a good peer reviewer for others: As a peer reviewer, don't give yes/no answers and don't skirt the questions.
- If you want feedback from an outside source (outside of our class), go to the Writing Center. The Online Writing Center is staffed with trained professionals who work for us--many of them have taught these courses for us so they are far better qualified to review your essay than a friendly acquaintance. And, you can share the feedback you got from them, as well.