Thursday, November 08, 2012


Yesterday I walked out of class, research paper in hand, disappointed by the mark I got on my assignment.  And I know marks are just arbitrary numbers that don't indicate how much you actually know, but when you have a career in academia marks matter.  I won my undergraduate scholarship by a mere 0.4%.  That was the difference between first place ($20,000) and second place ($0).  

I got a 87.5% on my paper, btw.

And in reality I'm sure this is a good mark for a graduate course but I worked really hard on my paper.  I mean really really hard.  I spent days reading extra material that I could incorporate into the paper.  I'm talking an extra 20 articles (30-50 pages in length).  I sacrifice sleep and work and time with my husband so that I can solely focus on school.  I dream about my research and wake up thinking about it.  And the reality is, I love writing!

I had my mind set on a 90%.  And I knew I wouldn't be happy with anything less.

So this 2.5% has made me think that maybe I'm not cut out for this.  Maybe it's time to start having babies...that would be easier (ha - joking!)

Okay pity party over!!

Since I always write stories and personal accounts on this "woe is me" blog.  I thought I'd share more of the academic side (I use the word 'more' because we are to use our own voice in these entries).  This is an excerpt from a weekly reading response in the Language and Learning class I'm currently taking:

Siegel, J. (2007). Creoles and minority dialects in education: An update. Language and Education 21(1), 66-86.


Siegel (2007) points to the positive benefits of creoles and minority dialects in education, emphasizing the use of these dialects as instrumental in overcoming disadvantages faced by speakers of these varieties.  While linguistics may agree upon the advantages of using creoles and minority dialects in the classroom, a major point of concern as outlined by Siegel (2007) is a lack of public awareness (and teacher awareness) on these matters.  Therefore, since the general public is not informed of the positive uses creoles and minority dialects have in educational settings, for instance, disrupting the status quo seems rather unfeasible at this point.  Taking this idea one step further, having a knowledgeable public does not necessarily guarantee change either; as I have learned in this class, dominant ideologies continue to pervade the mainstream discourse and reproduce inequalities.  People get nervous when change calls into question their positions of power and authority.  Questions like ‘what do I have to lose in this process?’ become scary and perhaps unpleasant questions to answer.  Nevertheless, I believe these uncomfortable questions need to be addressed!  From my perspective, there seems to be a large disconnect between what linguists are proposing and what is actually happening in practice.  What is missing for me is a sense of urgency.  While I support the call for “disseminating information in non-technical terms, running workshops, attending educational conferences and meetings, and publishing articles in journals read by teachers,” I do not think researchers should stop there.  It is worthy to note that Siegel (2007) believes if change is to take place it has to come from below rather than above.  I support this stance.  Thus, writing articles calling for more sociolinguistic teacher training is not enough.  Although I believe what Siegel (2007) says is important, I think another possible way to disrupt the standard language ideology is to empower the oppressed.  By focusing on only the teachers, Siegel (2007) overlooks what I consider the important role the speakers of these language varieties play in the equation.  The urgency that is missing for me can be created if linguistic researchers engage in participatory action research, going beyond simply describing, analyzing and theorizing social practices to working in partnership with these speakers of language varieties to reconstruct, transform, and offer practical solutions to their concerns.  Said again, I am suggesting that linguistic researchers turn their focus to the disadvantaged language variety speakers and work to empower them so they learn to push the envelope by challenging socially constructed notions of ‘standard language’.  That being said, let it be known that my intention in this critique is not to mitigate the efforts made by linguistics who have already made great strides in changing the “entrenched attitudes of teachers and the general public” (p. 77), but rather to provide another course of action with the intention of moving toward the same end goal:  dismantling monolithic ideas of language by embracing and legitimizing English language variations in schools.



Jacky said...

I'm itching to edit your response. :-/ lol. Sorry...that's just me and I see a lot of comma issues, for one.

Anyway, it looks tough and kudos for you to sticking with it.

You can ask for extra eyes to edit your papers, that might really help. I worked on a page or two on my mom's thesis when I was in 8th grade. Then I later got paid to edit somebody's graduate thesis--it's not exactly cheap, but it can be worth it (especially since it seems as if you have the content down, perhaps a better polishing would have pushed it up 3%?) Also, a lot of factors play into the price (i.e. graduate student, someone with no graduate work, someone with a master's degree, how many errors litter your paper, how many pages, how long it takes them to edit your paper, etc). Anyway, just an option!

Foreigner Joy said...

Who graded it? Maybe think of that. You know you worked hard and that's what matters. That you have it in you. The graded result is really left in the power of someone else. Perhaps you can use this paper and show it to the writing center people and ask where you went wrong, if you did at all.

Otherwise I would move on to the next hurdle and see where if anywhere you could improve. But having the drive to get that one done means you can do the next.

ashattack said...

Thanks for posting your reading response. I enjoyed reading it!

As for your disappointment with your mark, you're not alone. I'm doing my MA through a British University, and they warn you up front that a 75 is probably the highest mark you'll ever get for really excellent work. Still, I was heartbroken when I started receiving marks that were well below what I was used to achieving in my undergrad, even though they were still pretty good marks by the university's standards. Don't be discouraged. It's not baby time yet. An 87.5 is a pretty kickass score in a graduate course, and no doubt you'll continue to do even better as you become more comfortable with graduate level research and writing. I certainly have faith in you. Fighting!

PS: Keep posting parts of your school work. You're helping me become remotivated to read for my dissertation. Thanks!

Why am I here??? said...

Hey Jacky...Yes, I need an editor. Ideas I have....grammar I don't :( what do u charge? Hehe

Aaron McKenzie said...

I obviously haven't read your article, but...

In my experience, the best articles tend to have quite a short "reference" section. That is, there seems to be an inverse relationship between the number of cited sources and the amount of original thought. The danger is in becoming too derivative.

Of course, you always want a command of the literature for your writing, but is it possible that you went beyond the point of diminishing returns in your reading? Always a tough line to walk, eh?

Anyway, a score in the high 80s ain't shabby and, if nothing else, you'll have some idea of what you need to change going forward.

Good luck!

Jacky said...

If you're serious/curious, e-mail me. :)

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

I totally get you. I was never happy with less than a 90% in my grad classes. I wanted to finish the program with a 90 + average. Luckily, I managed it, but it was a close call with the last couple classes I had and the VERY unclear teachers that I had for those classes.

*Krista* said...

oh hun! I feel your pain! I went through the EXACT same experience when I started grad school. And it does make you question yourself and whether you have what it takes to do it. What I can tell you from experience, is that most students in graduate classes are in the 80's. So a high 80 is actually one of the best marks in the class. I learned the hard way that I could put hours and hours and hours into a paper only to receive the same or worse mark than a paper I put minimal time into. Now of course, that doesn't mean slack off on all your papers, but what it does mean, is marks are arbitrary. Even more so in graduate school, because they like to keep everyone between 75-90. If you get a 90+ on something in graduate school, they are esssentially telling you that you are perfect and there's nothing you could have added/subtracted from your paper to make it better. Moreover you have to remember that those students who are in graduate school are the ones who most likely did very well in their undergraduate. So that's why most of the marks are in the 80's - because you are all supposed to be top scholars at this point. (Okay I probably shouldn't stereotype and say all - maybe not all, but most!) lol! Anyway, hang in there, it will get easier to accept as you get more and more papers back. Eventually your mind set will change from wanting 90's to just wanting to learn as much as possible and get the most out of your masters. And remember, if you ever need an editor, I'm always around! :) I'll have lots of free time on my hands soon, since I'll be at home with baby. Besides, I need some good academic reading to keep my mind sharp while on maternity leave! LOL!