When teachers give their students an assignment, they know that the written results will be a mixed bag at best. Grading student papers is a journey of highs and lows… and the lows can be REALLY low.
While teachers can identify students that clearly tried & struggled with an assignment, they can also tell when a kid obviously couldn’t be bothered & tried to pass off a steaming pile of dog poo as a legit homework.
We’re onto you, kiddos!
As a former high school English teacher, I can tell you that some student work so clearly lacked any effort that reading it would evoke a shake of my head and frequent muttering of, “What the F-” as my red pen flew across the page.
But while I may have THOUGHT that about some student homework, I sure as hell wouldn’t have WRITTEN it.
A physics teacher at Rutherford High School in Springfield, FL. has recently come under fire for her decision to write “WTF is this?” as her feedback on a student’s written assignment.
When the student brought home his graded assignment, his mother was disturbed by the teacher’s questionable choice of wording used to express her disapproval. Mother Melinda Smith explained to Panama City’s news station WJHG that her son’s lack of credit on the assignment wasn’t the issue:
It wasn’t anything about not getting the credit, it was more so the language about what the writing to students. that was very inappropriate and not acceptable for a teacher whatsoever.
So while Smith didn’t object to her son losing total credit on the assignment, she felt that the teacher’s choice to write “WTF” (as we all know, a common form of cuss slang) was unprofessional.
Melinda Smith contacted Rutherford school authorities in the hopes that the district would reprimand the teacher, suggesting that “something be placed in her file”.
Rutherford High School Principal Coy Pilson was interviewed on camera by several news outlets regarding the alleged incident, and explained that the district was taking Smith’s concerns seriously. He stated that he is already taking “all of the necessary steps to deal with it”, explaining to reporters that:
Once we were notified, I notified district officials and our HR has been involved, and they’re currently investigating the situation.
Pilson made it clear that he already spoken to the teacher in question about the matter, and that she has opted not to respond publicly.
While it is not yet determined what, if any disciplinary consequences the teacher will face, Pilson claimed that:
The teacher was apologetic, and admits that it was a mistake on her part.
Yup, definitely not a great choice on the teacher’s part. But Principal Pilson also emphasized that although he’s certainly not making light of the matter, teachers are also human. As he told news outlet WJHG, he personally regards the teacher’s actions as a momentarily lapse of better judgement rather than a consistently poor performance:
We make mistakes, but we understand that we are called to a high professional standard. And when we make mistakes, we try to correct those mistakes and move forward.
The issue seems to be: mistake or not, how should it be addressed moving forward?
Personally, I don’t think writing a form of slang cussing on a student paper -even if it’s slang that many teens themselves use daily- is a good example to set for students. Teachers can have a great rapport with students without trying to be on the same level.
Although teachers can still be fun & relatable, they still need to maintain a sense of professionalism. While “WTF” is now an extremely common expression, I don’t think it should be part of the grading process.
BUT- while I disagree with the teacher’s wording choice, I’m not sure what “disciplinary action”, if any, is appropriate. Is this single action a fireable offense? Is it worth a letter in the file? Maybe a “slap on the wrist” in the form of a verbal warning?
As a parent, how would you feel if the same comment was written on your own teenager’s paper, & what do you deem an suitable response?