Strictly Speaking …Grade harshly. Grade strictly… as my mentor once told me. She was a professor of linguistics when I was a TA for first-year Japanese going for my MA. And I did as I was told. However, she also told me, never forget what it was like to be an undergraduate, never forget what it was like to learn a foreing language that was completely different than my native tongue. I took Japanese in college–I learned Japanese as an adult, much like most of my students–but I did remember French, taking the class, not the language itself.

My French was horrible, as much a reflection of my dedication to study as it was of my intellect, both in very short supply. Indeed, all I can remember is Comment allez-vous? Je vais bien. Et vous? Hahaha. Wait, there’s one more: Je m’apelle Onigiriman… This and ten francs might get me a cup of coffee in Paris. Once on a quiz, I had to respond to the following:

“Write the seven days of the week in French.”

Hmmm. “Days” was masculine, right? Okay, so “Le”… no “Les” cuz its plural. Seven is “sept”, and day was “jour” as in “bon jour”, so I can write “Les sept jours”. I don’t ever remember learning the word for week, so I just wrote, “Les sept jours du week,” only to learn later that I was supposed to list the actual seven days of the week: Lundi, Marcredi, Mardi, etc. Like I said, I was pretty bad.

So when a student makes a mistake, I try to give them the benfit of the doubt. “Okay, you made a mistake, learn from it and don’t make it again.” This is one of the reasons why I often put the same kanji on different quizzes. I keep tabs on my kids and I can usually tell who learns from their mistakes and who is simply studying the night before to pass a quiz. I do so want them to do well in Japanese. Indeed, it is the ones who make mistakes that I want to see improvement. An ‘A’ student will get an A, even if you leave them alone. My job, as I see it, is to make the C student into a B student, and a B student into an A student. And I attribute this mostly to the fact that I myself was a pretty lame student back in the day…

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