Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sample Narrative Essay

Students, please find below an example of the narrative essay, as discussed on the course website, here.  When formatted for submission as a paper (which it is currently not, due to the changes in medium), it is at the low end of acceptable length.

At a particular state university in the American South, there was at one time a policy in the English department that students, after missing ten percent of class, would suffer a letter-grade reduction for each additional absence.  The policy usually meant that students could miss six to eight classes before failing through a combination of missed assignments and outright grade reduction, and it inevitable happened that students would fail themselves out of classes for no more complicated and no better a reason than simply not showing up when they were supposed to.  Most who suffered such a fate acknowledged the justice of it, and either reformed their conduct in subsequent semesters or found another way to spend their time--and found out that failing a class is not nearly so bad as losing a job.

From time to time, however, a student would take exception to the policy, and would protest the treatment.  Usually, the protest began with a complaint to the instructor or professor, who would almost always calmly and resolutely refer the student to the stated policy in the syllabus and display the attendance record; the protest rarely worked well for the student at that level, and so the student would go on.  The next visit would be to the department chair, who would ask the instructor or professor for a copy of the attendance record and the course syllabus and, upon reviewing them, would generally confirm the decision of the faculty member.  From there, the student usually went to the Dean of Students, who might be a bit more sympathetic, but who would also usually confirm the decision of the department chair and the faculty member.

One student, however, a young woman who thought that "since we [in the class] didn't have an assignment or activity listed...thought there was no class on these days, and didn't come," despite the clear indication on the course calendar of when the faculty member, at the time a graduate teaching assistant, would be away: "Instructor will be away; class is cancelled" is quite overt, and its lack strongly suggests that class was still to meet.  And that is what the department chair told the student's mother when she came into the department chair's office after a month of calling the graduate teaching assistant's office several times a day for the entire month between terms.  It is what the department chair maintained when the student's mother complained of her daughter being taught by a "mere" teaching assistant, and it is what the Dean of Students maintained when the mother went to that office to complain.

It is not what the graduate teaching assistant said to the woman when, in the second week of the next term, she approached the teaching assistant outside of the classroom in which he was scheduled to teach.  Nor did he say it in the rare intervals over the next thirty minutes when the woman, lines and dark circles about her small and deep-set eyes, paused for breath among the thirty-minute attempt to badger him about her "little girl who just misunderstood and shouldn't be punished for something that isn't really her fault and don't you understand how much I paid to have her in a classroom with someone who knows what to do."  But he did say to her that he could not discuss the student's grades with her, certainly not without the student present, as it would be a breach of professional ethics and, possibly, the law.  The student herself, being of major age and therefore legally liable for her own actions, not the mother, would have to make the complaint, and to the teaching assistant's knowledge, the student had not.

It is also not what the teaching assistant said after the woman left in a huff.  What he did say, when he reported the incident to the department chair, is that the student's mother had cornered him outside of his classroom and tried for half an hour to get him to change the student's grade.  The department chair passed that word along to the Dean of Students, to whom the woman had gone to complain about "that damned graduate student" who had soured her on college entirely, such that she "wouldn't be paying for her daughter to sit in a class taught by someone like that ever again," despite the fact that most of the classes her freshman daughter would have to take--and pass--were taught, semester after semester, by teaching assistants such as the one who had done nothing more than follow the policy clearly written in his course syllabus.  The Dean of Students passed that information on to the campus police, who, chartered by the state, were duly empowered peace officers, authorized to carry out arrests and, at need, to do more.

They told the woman that her return to the campus would be viewed as an act of criminal trespassing.

Her daughter's attendance the following term was perfect.

The graduate teaching assistant went on to teach at other schools with at least one story to tell.

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