Monday, July 02, 2007

Grading Papers, Grading Businesses, and Grade II Suzuki

Today I am engaging in one of the less-tasteful tasks of a professor, which is grading two dozen of the same paper. Typically for daily assignments and for essay portions of exams, I give my students options to choose from, so I'm only grading a handful of matching essays, but this essay is a five-pager and they're all on the same topic.

This is for a medical ethics class, and one of the things I think is most important for students to learn in an ethics class (any ethics class) is to see the other side of the issue. People always have reasons for the things they believe. Sometimes stupid, insane reasons, but reasons. You can't function as a mature adult in society (notice I said mature) if you're incapable of understanding the fact that other people don't think differently from you because they're a) morons or b) doing it to spite you. (This also removes virtually every cable TV pundit from maturity.)

So after canvassing their opinions on abortion to know which side each student was on, I assigned them to write a paper supporting the other side of the abortion issue, presenting at least three arguments in sufficient depth that I could tell they understood the arguments and the underlying logic for them. I also had them write a short "response" to the assignment saying what they thought about doing the assignment. About half my students think I am the meanest person on the face of the planet, and about half were gratifyingly challenged and said they really learned something.

The part I didn't really think about when I assigned the paper, though, is that I now have two dozen papers on abortion to read and grade. Doh!

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Since one of the things I like to do on this blog is compliment local businesses that Do Not Suck, I'm thinking of creating a page where I list those out that I've particularly recommended and link back to that post. I thought of this because Fred once again repaired my shoes (some of my favorite shoes, these adorable brown leather sandals with 2.5" heels that are like walking on air) for free. Do my local readers think that's a good/useful idea?

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I am attempting to learn to play violin. I played for a couple years starting when I was 7ish, but I sucked fairly comprehensively and switched to bass, mostly because they told me I was too short to play bass. If there's one way to ensure Eyebrows does something, it's to tell her she can't. One of my music directors in high school knew this and used to announce in front of the entire jazz band, "Eyebrows will never be able to play this bassline," because he knew I'd be so eager to prove him wrong I'd practice the crap out of that thing, and it absolutely infuriated me because I knew he was doing it on purpose to manipulate me but I still couldn't help my driving need to prove him wrong.

Anyway, when I switched to bass, I was suddenly good. The violin never sang for me, but the bass sang like a bird (like a whale? It's much lower-voiced than a bird) the minute I picked it up. Played bass all the way up through college, before law school took away my organized performing groups and free time. Bass isn't much of a solo instrument so it's not much fun without an ensemble. Bass is also not an easy instrument to store. My Fender (1994 P-Bass in sunburst coloring, for the guitar nerds) always moved with me but my upright bass (blond viol-bodied with a very clean voice and surprising upward projection for a narrow-shouldered bass, for the string nerds) was a sticky wicket. (Yes, it's taller than me. Yes, I've heard every possible joke on that theme.)

I had always sort-of wanted to play violin again after I got more musically-educated (most music nerds end up dilletantes on several instruments -- I can also play French horn, piano, guitar, and a few other things, all fairly badly) but my calluses were so thick I couldn't actually feel the violin strings. They were much too small. (When I was playing the most, I could hold the fingertips of my left hand in a candle flame and not feel it because they were nothing but callus. This is a great party trick.) Well, now I have no calluses left at all -- my fingers bleed if I try to play bass too long -- so I dragged out an old student violin whose pegs are super-lazy about holding their tuning and found my Suzuki books from when I was seven and I'm working my way through book 2. I still suck pretty comprehensively, and it's frustrating because my musicality is the musicality of someone who's been playing for 23 years now and my skills are the skills of a fumble-fingered 7-year-old. But I'm learning!

6 comments:

Anon E. Mouse said...

Oh, so you are teaching a class on MEDICAL ETHICS?

I bet this now makes you part of the "Medical Mafia Conspiracy."

Let the incantations begin...

Jeep2000 said...

Of course I'm all for the local biz compliments. Local businesses can use the good publicity. They don't have the advertising budgets of the big box stores and chains.

katearch1978 said...

Yes! Do the local business page. That is such a great idea. There are so many businesses in town that need the free publicity and consumers that would like some actual customer service.

Jennifer said...

Good luck with the violin. If you need extra help the Sun Foundation in this area has suzuki violin lessons. The Sun Foundation founders, Bill and Joan Erickson, are really wonderful people.

Eyebrows McGee said...

Thanks jennifer, I'll check it out. I may go in for some remedial lessons on technique -- hard to correct your own errors in movement!

And thanks jeep and kate for the thumbs-ups on the local businesses page.

Ms. PH said...

Eyebrows - I took Suzuki violin lessons for 20 years. Give me a call if you need any help!

Ms. PH