Thursday, June 01, 2006

School Memories: Sherlock Holmes is on the Case

When I find worksheets with no name on them, I set them aside and refrain from grading them until they're claimed by their rightful owners. Otherwise, it's amazing to see how many lackluster students suddenly "remember" they had chosen to complete that assignment and it had slipped their mind to write their name on the paper with the perfect grade. Perhaps with the lack of practice with assignment followthrough, that's a believable oversight on their behalf?

Seventh graders are notorious at leaving their names off of their papers, especially at the beginning of the year until they've been adequately "trained." My process is honed to an art: each paper missing a name is appropriately marked with the hour of the day it came from before I set it aside (this helps narrow down the field of suspects significantly). I then mention the findings in the appropriate sections during the day, where they are thus returned to me, now with the owner's John Hancock in its rightful place. If the offender is not paying attention to the desperate calls issuing forth from the unredeemed worksheet, then their property is relegated to the depths of a file folder, only to be referenced if the delinquent notices the slip in their grade.

One student of mine lacked the necessary foreknowledge to connect "not doing assignments" with "midquarters sent home," so when the dreaded gradeslip arrived in the parents' hands, she was chastized. Naturally, she claimed she had done the work and her teacher must have misplaced it; I rarely receive this complaint, but when I do, it has never been substantiated. In the unlikely event that I misplace an assignment, I am not going to consistently do so for only one student all quarter. It just doesn't happen like that.

When that tirade was over, her next move was to claim she must have forgotten her name on the papers. This is faulty, in that she was missing assignments in which the whole batch of turned-in papers proudly boasted their ownership, leaving none unclaimed. Again, I must remind you these no-name papers cry out in desperate shrieks, begging for their owners to rescue them from their forsaken place. Said student had not exhibited the usual signs of an owner with no-name papers adrift. Nevertheless, I braced myself for their mad cries as I brought forth these lost souls for her examination.

When left alone with these papers, said student attempted to claim work that I had unwittingly graded before I noticed the lack of a name. The two assignments she was passing off as hers happened to be two perfect assignments. Not yet red flags, but perhaps rose ones began to go up. I couldn't quiet the pleas of these papers, either. The only fate worse for jilted papers than remaining discarded without another thought is to be taken home by harsh masters, overlords only interested in taking advantage of what you have to offer them; they would probably be hurled to the recycle bin seconds after being handed back. I finally noticed what these papers were trying to convey to me: there, blazened in a dark, dare I say attractive, scrawl, I had jotted two separate periods of the day.

Said student, handing these to me, continued to display her guilt as she nonchalantly stated, "I write in two different ways." This statement revealed the fact that these assignments were, indeed, quite different; one was illegible chicken scratches, the other quite elegant in penmanship. I called her bluff, so she then proceeded to demonstrate how she writes "differently" by first writing her name quite large, then she wrote it in a smaller other changes.

I could have walked away with a sigh, no longer acknowledging this facade. Lesser teachers have been known to stumble in the face of absurdity. But said student was no match for our heroine. I examined the two papers, perhaps I even paced and struck a stance. If I would have had my small-rimmed glasses on, I could have looked over the lenses, as this strikes fear in all. One of the assignments had pretty sophisticated words employed. I asked her to write one such word. She bit her lip, she rolled her eyes, she gritted her teeth and tried to calm her raging heart. As she gripped the pencil, the words I longed to hear issued from her lips: "How do you spell that?" This victim was doing a fine job implicating herself. As expected, she butchered the word. Apparently, she must also write in a third way.

Never fear. The elegant penmanship assignment was returned to her rightful owner. Praises were sung by the jubilant masses; our heroine polished her magnifying glass and rested her head after another job well done.

Add stellar deduction powers to my list of skills.

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