Oh, that English Teacher

It’s the last week of classes, and I did it. Yes, I lost my mind momentarily and became that English teacher.

On my rubrics, I give away what should be five freebie points simply for having MLA page set-up. The standard:

Your Name

Your Prof’s Name


MLA formatted date  – 6 December 2011

If I were to calculate how often I wind up not giving away these five freebie points, well… Maybe this morning I subconsciously did the calculations,  and it led to my semi-meltdown.I mean, I want to give these points away. I’m not trying to trick anyone.

In efforts to give more points away, I also let my students use easybib to form citations instead of making them learn how to use the appendix in their textbook. Easybib takes citation information entered, formats it (in a usually accurate manner), and spits out an alphabetized, properly indented works cited page on demand. But, there is one rule to successful use of easybib: do NOT use the autocite feature for websites. Seriously, don’t. ever. not even once. When I show students easybib, I generally give them this verbal equivalent:

The only way that I could stress more that this button should NOT be used would be to light something on fire simultaneously in the classroom during my instructions, but ultimately, I decide against that because it would create a distraction rather than proving my point.(Plus, I think our campus safety supervisor is a great guy, and I wouldn’t want to cause any headaches for him.)

So, after seeing many citations that are a result of autocite and having a student mention in her presentation this morning that she has learned this semester not to use autocite, I decided to reiterate the point. And, I don’t know what came over me, but I turned into that English teacher, the one I swore I would not turn into, the one who makes a federal case out of a comma, the one who thinks the world will definitely grind to a halt if a works cited page isn’t in order. How did this happen?

Well, first I reminded students not to use autocite. That was reasonable. Then, I showed them the failure of autocite. Still, reasonable instruction. Then, it happened. I snapped. I became that English teacher. I likened the students to people whose future professions might involve the launching of nuclear weapons, and I told them that if the world depended on them to keep it safe, they would have blown up the world because they would have been running around pushing nuclear buttons that they were told not to push. Really, blow up the world? That seems extreme. And, I wish I would have stopped there.

Then, when students (understandably so) gave me the look like I had come unglued. I reminder them of MLA dates. No, it’s not December 6, 2011 even though we’re in the United States. We’ve got to go all European and say it’s 6 December 2011. Knowing I was on the slippery slope to forever and always becoming that English teacher, I tried to justify this insistence to formality by stressing that learning to follow the directions is an important skill in life. Lest you thought my actions weren’t enough to make me that English teacher, I then informed the students that if they were not in the group who had blown the world up, then they would be in the group still waiting for something to happen. Their failure to follow descriptions would have made them unable to enter the appropriate date into the launch system. No denying it after that — I am that English teacher, the one I swore I’d never become.

Of course, I’m still  a relatively nice person (I think) because I wasn’t raising my voice when I told the students all of this; it was actually rather tongue in cheek, and I desperately do want to give all of the students the five “freebie” points when I’m grading final papers.   But, still, the day that MLA gets applied to nuclear warfare is the day I know that classes need to end. Soon. I don’t want any more apocalyptic meltdowns for this English teacher.

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