Ian Alienates Students with Harsh Grades

As I have mentioned before, my Korean expatriate experience is littered with both positive experiences and learning opportunities.  However, it is the frustrating days and mistakes that contribute most to my personal growth.

For example, I learned that I am not an especially kind grader.  It all started during festival week.  After delaying for much longer than I should have, I finally submitted my students’ speaking test scores.  The next day, I met with several students outside of the classroom.

“Is this right?”

Her score was a 75.  

“Yeah, that’s correct.”

“What about my writing score?”

“My grade is only the speaking test.  I don’t grade our writing assignments.”


Several students seemed disappointed by this fact.  The truth is, three months was not enough time to individually grade 450 students on their writing and participation.  Therefore, the speaking test was it.  It was 10% of their grade.

I was disappointed by the fact that they took such a small percentage of their overall English grade so seriously.  I should have known better working in a country as educationally competitive as Korea.  The points are everything and one low grade can sever most students’ chances at their dream schools.

One student looked disappointed about her score of 90.  She had the second-highest grade in the class. Fortunately, many students left it alone once I showed them their scoring rubrics.  Most who scored low lost points because they forgot their papers.  I handed out rubrics and interview questions to study one week in advance.  Many lost their papers and therefore lost points.

Anxiety-Brain reared his ugly head.

“Your students hate you, bro.  You gave them all low grades and now they think you’re a bad teacher.”

“Well let’s not take that statement for granted.  Let’s do some research.”

So I pulled up my Excel file of my students’ speaking test scores.  It turns out that Anxiety-Brain was speaking truth to power. All of my classes had very low average test scores,  The highest class average was a 79.

What went wrong?  Why was I so harsh?  Revisiting the rubric, I think I could have made some changes.  For one, the rubric designating a perfect score in the categories of “grammar”, “pronunciation”, and “fluency” contained the words “like that of a native speaker.  In retrospect, that seems like highly unfair criteria.  None of my students are native English speakers. I shouldn’t expect them to perform at that level.

Next time, I plan to grade on a curve so I can save the students from my unexpectedly punitive nature.

Super Photo Corner – Suncheon Shenanigans

I enjoyed a day trip a few weeks ago with Flatcap, The King, and The Immortal.  We went to Suncheon, the third-largest city in the province.  We hiked a hill, saw some lovely riverside murals, got lost, and enjoyed some back-alley barbecue with an old orientation friend.  It was well worth four hours of total bus time.


The Suncheon Bay International Garder was massive.  We barely saw half the park in the hour-and-change we spent.  It would merit a springtime return trip.


Reminds me of the Korean version of an American or British World War poster.


One mural consisted of terracotta face tiles prepared by students.  Not a bad way to preserve homemade Christmas presents.


I tried to put 300 won into the machine, but the coin slot was just painted on a rock.  I was so sad and tired.


Flatcap looks so peaceful with a pair of angel wings.


“Ha!  Billy has to ride his bike.”

“His parents can’t afford paper airplanes.”

“What a loser!”


That kid has some prodigious hops.  He looks no older than five.


I think it’s awesome that Suncheon University has a baseball team.  However, why does their hat look like the Pittsburgh Pirates’ breast cancer awareness hat?  And why does the hat have a “P” for that matter?


You can lure E.T. anywhere with Reese’s Pieces.  T-Rexes fall prey to giant lollipops.


The laughing totem poles are back!  I missed these guys.  They never fail to liven up the party.


Cactuses remind me of home – kind of.  They remind me of my Grandmother’s home in Palm Desert – an eight-hour drive.


You hear that vegans?  Flowers feel pain too.


This lush indoor garden hearkened me back to my Singaporean sojourn.


Hearts are everywhere in Korea, but I don’t often see one loaded with flowers.


Damn it, man.  It’s called a dictionary.  However, your ability to draw dabbing polar bears is second-to-none.


And with one fruitful step, Flatcap passed under the Gate of Youth, forever fossilizing his young-adult features and English charm.IMG_1196

This is savage and cruel.  How can anyone keep something called the “Fantastic Rainbow” in such a Spartan cage devoid of cuteness or room to roll around?  Fantastic Rainbows deserve to be free.


Friendly elephants wave “hello” with their trunks.


When I said we spent “an hour-and-change” at the flower garden, I only spent one hour of that actually looking at flowers.


As we strode into the English garden, Flatcap’s face reflected a longing for a home he once knew – a home that faded from his memory like the smile from his face.


The English garden was really nice.  I forgot to take a picture of the American garden because it was mostly just a slab of concrete.  Korea threw shade at several countries in the garden.  America, Spain, and Japan got shafted a bit.


Change.  Create.  Challenge.  That sounds like a tech start-up’s slogan.


China certainly did not get shortchanged with their garden.  It was quite lovely.


For some reason, Holland got tons of love in the form of a large windmill.


As well as a metric floral ton of tulips.


This is only good advice when the air quality is good.  When it is not, looking at the sky with uncovered eyes leads to itchiness and cries for a Claratin.


The King just said, “stand over there and look as Italian as you can.”  My ignorance knows no bounds.

3 thoughts on “Ian Alienates Students with Harsh Grades

    1. I wore the mask for the same reason many people drink for the first time – “all my friends were doing it.”


      Love you.


Leave a Reply to sherrie moore Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s