What I Hated the Least Today 138/365: Emails from My Students

What I Hated the Least Today 138/365: Emails from My Students

College corridors
College corridors

Throughout the term, my students appeared thoroughly disinterested in their studies. It was all fun and games—and then there was the final test. This excited in my unexcitable students bouts of paranormal activity. This manifested itself in a previously unseen increase in questions, typically of the dumb kind: Will this be on the test?What will be on the test?Will you give us questions for the test? (Answers: Could be. — The content of this course. — That would negate the idea of the test, don’t you think?)

Besides nagging me in classes, the students discovered the joys of email spamming. One email from a visiting student from Spain was particularly interesting language-wise. It started with a reasonably regular question about how to sign up for the exam in the electronic system. I did my best to answer, on which the student got back to me, clearly thrilled that we had figured it out:

Hello Teacher,

Ohhh! Now I get it, this exam registration is so so different from Spain hahaha : O

So, If I clicked on the 16.5.16 – 10:00 registration,

It means that my exam is tomorrow monday at 10 am, in the building C8 (The library) in the classroom 687, instead of C4 like any other class, right?

: P I just want to be sure and not get lost tomorrow hahaha.

I replied in the affirmative. In Standard English. I wonder if I got my message across. I should have probably written:

Hey there,

ikr, the System sucks!!

but you got it right lol

see ya


A series of less amusing emails followed after I published the first batch of test results. Ever since, I’ve been plagued by complaining students. I’m thinking of setting up an automated response along the lines:

Dear student, I’m sorry to see that you failed your exam. Unfortunately, I cannot arbitrarily change your result so that you pass. Best luck for your retake!

This should be followed by a translation into current speak:

Heya, whatsup, suck it up for fck’s sake and gimme a break. K?

The final K would be read by the student as OK because they wouldn’t get the allusion to the protagonist of Kafka’s The Trial. The whole thing is so Kafkaesque.

What I Hated the Least Today 132/365: High (School) Students

What I Hated the Least Today 132/365: High (School) Students

These tests are putting my nerves to the test
These tests are putting my nerves to the test

I teach at what calls itself a university but is really an extension of the secondary school. I spent the last three days invigilating cheating students writing tests and subsequently marking their attempts. I wasted more time preparing and marking the tests than any of the students spent on studying for them. My teaching was a fruitless effort education-wise but a never-ending source of entertainment.

The students apparently expected to get the test questions in advance and generally assumed that I would lead them through the course while holding each individual’s hand, singing “Soft Kitty” in a soothing voice and looking after them like a kindergarten teacher would. Maybe said university is not even an extension of the high school but of the kindergarten.

Or maybe the students don’t think they’re still at the high school but are simply high. That would explain their unorthodox approach to test writing and to the English language, which they claim to major in. Here’s a selection of random picks from students’ answers on the test.

  • “Mary is not high enough to reach the shelf.” — The expected answer was of course “not tall enough” and the grammar being tested by this was the use of “enough”. I awarded half a point for this answer but would have awarded a whole point, had the student thought a bit about the semantics and had she written “Mary is too high to reach the shelf”. That sounds legit to me.
  • “The computer is not using now.” — The idea was to form the passive “The computer is not being used”. The author of this should follow the computer’s lead and come off drugs. I didn’t award any points because it wasn’t even passive. It was passive-aggressive.
  • “Her soufflé is on the top of the world.” — The student should have used an idiom with “world” in it, but I was secretly hoping that he would go for the somewhat more logical “Her soufflé is out of this world”. Clearly, the soufflé was high, as everyone else involved with the test (but me, who prepared and marked the tests while sober, which must have been a mistake).

What I Hated the Least Today 83/365: Marking

083 (1)

I hate the work of marking students’ tests almost the least. It’s not even a work—it’s just more or less mindless checking or crossing out as appropriate. If I had a trained monkey, I’d assign it on the job. Alas, I only have an untrained cat. On the upside, I will never cease to be amused at what some English learners come up with. Here’s a random assortment of what I’ve come across so far.





What I Hated the Least Today 51/365: Proofreading

051I received a proofreading request from my old (but young) colleague today. His email opened with standard salutation Dear Doctor Mara. That’s about right, but three months later, I still giggle and blush when addressed by my title. Classic imposter syndrome.

The text submitted for proofreading horrified me. Not by the amount of errors, but by a lack of them. On page four, I still couldn’t find anything amiss at all. It was frustrating because I know that no text exists that wouldn’t require proofreading. I started to suspect that I turned blind.

Fifteen pages later, though, everything was alright. The text proved to provide a satisfactory harvest of inconsistent capitalisation, missing italics, misplaced commas and messed up alphabetisation. With relief, I returned the proofread text at 2:17 am because my colleague, unlike my former students, never suspects that I’m drunk emailing when I send a message in the middle of the night.

On this pleasant note, I’m paying tribute to fellow night-shift workers (including illicit moonlighters, which is my case) and particularly to my colleague Richard (name changed). I would marry him solely for his knowledge of Chicago Style (though lesser than mine), if he weren’t gay.

Literary Lion: Drink Me

Literary Lion: Drink Me

In response to Laura Feasey’s Literary Lion challenge: Drink Me.

Long time nae see.
He stroked the bottle.
Ye cannae face life when yer dry.
Sammy took a gulp.
Ah’ll miss ye when I’m deid.


What I Hated the Least Today 46/365: Knowledge


I’ve realised that I possess a frightening amount of non-marketable, non-transferable and non-useable specialist knowledge. A small fraction of it is a professional knowhow which hypothetically might be useful but practically is not.

Sure, I could edit your bibliography with absolute precision in Chicago Style with my eyes closed, standing on the chair and reciting Baudelaire’s “The Carcass” in a Czech translation while drunk (that explains the recitation), but what’s the point? There is roughly 1 per cent of relevant world population who could tell and appreciate the quality of my Chicago, out of which 99 per cent are the creators of Chicago Style. The remaining 1 per cent is me and a few other sad individuals who effectively excluded themselves from the pleasure of reading anything without editing it. You wouldn’t believe what an editorial mess even academic publications by reputable publishers are.

The largest part of my useless knowledge comprises bizarre titbits (not bits of tits, though that’s my mnemotechnic aid for remembering this odd word, also spelled tidbit in American English), which I must have unwittingly collected from the depths of darknet. My brain has a unique super skill in detecting and engraving with the sharpness of steel anything obscure and obscene and anything that is of no use to anyone ever. For example, the other day when I was procrastinating on FML, I realised with horror that I was fluent in English Internet slang. I don’t mean the usual LOLs and WTFs, I mean acronyms so arcane with meanings so outrageous that I shall not quote them on a public blog. I added to the word bank an acronym of my own: ISBW = I should be working. Because, you know, ISBW.


What I Hated the Least Today 42/365: Win 95


I’m an aspiring geek. Not so by virtue of skill as rather by sheer power of determination. I happened to get for free some geeky books, which I finally ventured to open today. I was aware that the books were old but I didn’t realise they were antiquities really. I will probably use them to prop up a wobbly table. They have done their service of amusing me infinitely.

As I was leafing through one of them, I noticed a paragraph explaining how to cater for the needs of Win 95 and, more advanced, Win 98 users. This made me laugh so much that I inadvertently dropped the book on the floor and frightened the cat. I didn’t read on to see if the author recommends using floppy disks for backup.

The book was practically unreadable anyway. It was in Czech, and while I’m technically a native speaker, I don’t use the language beyond ordering pizza or talking to my mother. This explains why you have the dubious pleasure of reading this blog in a world language instead of Slavic gibberish.

Of Cars and Men [Poem]

Of Cars and Men [Poem]

Pedestrians are people with destinations

In their minds

And baggage in their hands

Too heavy to carry around


But cars—

Put your weight away in the trunk

And let you guide

As though you’re in control


What I Hated the Least Today 31/365: Certificate


I’m now certified to perform acts of reckless cruelty on children and adults—by teaching them English. My certificate for teaching essentials by British Council arrived electronically today. For my certificate, I was forced to submit to acts of extreme cruelty myself by participating in a moderated online course. It was moderately horrendous, as most things in life—why, yes, of course I’m a negativist.

Whether I approve or not, I now perfectly understand why many of my teachers were frustrated individuals who were relieving themselves by torturing children in class. No need to be alarmed though, I’m not seeking a full-time lifelong career in education. I’ve just become addicted to collecting diplomas of little practical purpose besides their potential to be used as a wallpaper when redecorating.