C-MINUS

Copyright © 2005 by Jay Braiman

 

 

My God, he’s such a jerk. He’s horrible. I can’t believe he said that. He never has anything nice to say, it’s always negative. Nothing’s ever good enough for him.

Who does he think he is? I got 90’s in English all through high school, and he gives me a C-minus? He’s so mean. This is so unfair. He just hates me, that’s all.

And it’s not my fault. He assigned this paper months ago; how was I supposed to remember it was due on the 14th? It’s not like he reminded us or anything. He just said, “Drop off your papers at the end of class;” no warning, no reminders, nothing. He could have said something on the 12th, you know? I didn’t know about it. It wasn’t my fault. I had to rush to do it in just one week, or he said he wouldn’t have accepted it at all. That was so wrong. What’s the difference if it’s a week late or two weeks late? It doesn’t matter when you do it, as long as it gets done. 

I didn’t see anything wrong with my paper. I worked on it for a whole week and I thought it was really good. So did Amber. Amber read it and she said it was really good. She said she really liked it. Mike thought it was good too, and Caitlin. Even mom said it was good. Everyone who read it said it was good. Why didn’t he give me an A, or at least a B? He really doesn’t know how to grade; either that or he just hates me.

He said “five to seven pages,” and I wrote five pages. I did what I was supposed to do. I wrote five pages about the Book of Urizen, like he said. He wouldn’t explain anything else; he said the assignment was explained on the handout he gave out in September. Well, I don’t still have that. Who still has the papers they give out in September? All he said was “Five to seven pages on the Book of Urizen, so that’s what I did. What more does he want from me?

This professor doesn’t even know what he’s doing. He’s so boring, I hate going to his class. He just talks and talks and never says anything nice to anyone. When people make comments or answer questions, he always says they’re wrong or asks another question. He never says, “You’re right, good answer, nice job, very good.” He has to be right all the time. It’s like he has to prove that he’s smarter than everyone else. And he never just explains it when you get it wrong, he makes you feel stupid by telling you why it’s wrong, and asking another question. That’s so wrong. Why can’t he just explain it himself? Why can’t he just give you the answer?

And who cares about English Romantic Poetry? Why should I have to read that crap? I can’t understand it, it’s so stupid and boring. I’ll never use it, so what’s the point? He acts as if it’s so important, and nobody cares. Nobody likes it. Nobody wants to read it. It’s such a stupid class.

And what’s with the tweed jacket? And that tie he had on today? I think he wears the same five ties in the same order, over and over again. Amber noticed that too.

He should be fired. They should fire him and get a professor who’s not so mean and boring, who doesn’t make us read stupid English Romantic Poetry.

I’m calling mom.

“Hi, mom?...Yeah, hi...I wanted to talk to you about this professor I have...Yeah, the English professor, Dr. What’s-his-face. I told you about him...He gave me a C-minus on my paper...I know, right? Me, a C-minus!...I know I get 90’s in English...That’s what I was thinking, he doesn’t know how to grade...He said it was...wait a minute, I have it right here...OK, wait, I’ll read you what he wrote...It says: ‘A weak interpretation of Blake’s work. Your analysis offers only a few vague generalities about the tension between reason and imagination, and the paper does not really support a single thesis. You provide numerous quotes from the text but most are presented out of context, and are either explained superficially, sometimes by repeating the same words, or left entirely unexplained. You needed to explore this tension in greater detail, illustrate specific connections between Blake’s work and Milton’s, and provide a more coherent thesis to tie these ideas together.’...I know, it’s so mean…He never has anything good to say…I don’t know what he’s talking about either… Something called the Book of Urizen...William Blake...It’s just stupid English poetry, I hate it...I know, but he made us read it...No, he didn’t explain what a thesis was...September...No, he didn’t remind us at all. He just collected them on the last day...I know, they should fire him…I don’t know, whoever owns the college...Maybe the head English professor or something...You can call them now, they’re probably there...OK...I’m going to go hang out with Amber…Thanks mom, you’re the best. Love you. Bye.”

 

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I knew there was something wrong with this paper. I didn’t like it before I turned it in, but I didn’t know what else to do with it. I really need to do a better job than this.

High school was so much easier. I don’t remember having to work this hard to get good grades; all the teachers gave high grades just for showing up, practically. That kind of bothered me sometimes; some of the other kids never did their work. But I still did mine, even though I really didn’t have to, because I knew college would be harder. But this sucks; this is a C-minus. I’ve never gotten a C-minus before.

I really tried hard on this one too. I was at the library every day for a week before it was due. David read it and said he thought it was too vague; Lisa didn’t like my thesis, thought it needed greater precision. I asked dad to read it and he said he couldn’t see the connection between Blake and Milton. Amber liked it, though.

That William Blake is tough; it’s so hard to read poetry and interpret it on a college level. You really have to think beyond just the words and what they mean. And the words are hard to understand to begin with. You just have to be patient and really think. That’s the hardest part; that’s what I really need to learn.

The professor taught us something that really helps. He said, “If you’re not sure what it does mean, think about what it could mean, and go from there.” That really helped a lot. Although you really have to read it before you go to class, otherwise you can’t follow the discussion; you’ll have no idea what he’s talking about. He talks on such a high level you really have to be prepared and pay attention to keep up. He really knows his stuff, he’s got an answer for everything, and I love how he never lets you off the hook until you get the point. If you give the wrong answer, he explains why it’s wrong, which helps you figure it out on your own. And if you do get it right, he challenges you with a follow-up question. Keeps you on your toes; you really learn a lot. It’s great.

I can’t believe I did so badly on this paper. I thought I really understood the concept of reality vs. imagination in Blake’s poetry. It’s a fascinating concept, really, and Blake’s stuff is mind-blowing. I’m glad I read Paradise Lost back in September when we first started. But for some reason I must have misread the assignment; either that or I just didn’t know how to write a college paper. I wrote it kind of like a high school book report; I kind of understood the Book of Urizen, but I really didn’t have anything meaningful to say about it. Maybe that’s why I did so badly. I’ll have to re-read the professor’s comments later, so I can see what I did wrong and do better on the next one. I think he gave me some good ideas; I think I get it now.

My cell’s ringing.

“Hello?...Hey, dad…I’m OK; I just got out of English 127…Yea, I got it back today…C-minus…I know, I blew it…I don’t know, dad, college is harder, what can I say?...Well, yea; I think I have an idea what I did wrong, though…Wait, I’ll take it out…Hang on…Here’s what he wrote: ‘A weak interpretation of Blake’s work. Your analysis offers only a few vague generalities about the tension between reason and imagination, and the paper does not really support a single thesis. You provide numerous quotes from the text but most are presented out of context, and are either explained superficially, sometimes by repeating the same words, or left entirely unexplained. You needed to explore this tension in greater detail, illustrate specific connections between Blake’s work and Milton’s, and provide a more coherent thesis to tie these ideas together.’…Yea, it makes a lot of sense; that’s pretty much what I did…I kind of figured that, and I knew I had too many quotes, but I wasn’t sure until he explained it…Oh, it’ll definitely help on the next one…Five to seven, but I ended up with about ten…I know, I know, it’s the substance that counts…Well, I’ll definitely do better on the next one, now that I know how to…I think it’s two things: the thesis, and the analysis; you know, having something to say instead of just spitting back information…Right, definitely…About three weeks...Coleridge…Yea, I’m going over to the library now…I’ll talk to you later…I will. Bye.”

 

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