How I dealt with my unfair tutor.

I’ve had to deal with a lot of insecurities this past week, mainly surrounding my own writing. For a media student to be told by their tutor continuously throughout the semester that their writing is only of a pass standard, but with no justifications, is a little upsetting. I’m not bragging, but I am at least credit average. Having transferred to B Media (PR & Advertising) just this year, I was able to take three  courses in semester one as a lot of my credit points were transferred from my completed courses in 2011. Having one less subject to worry about meant I had a lot more free time to invest into each of my assessments. Which I did. And you could tell by my marks that I do put a lot of effort into each of my assignments … well at least for two of my courses.

When I’m getting no lower than a mark of 80 (Distinction) in my ARTS1090 and MGMT2718 course assignments, but continuously getting a 55 (Pass) in MDIA1002, then the first thing I will think is that writing news articles has to be very different to writing essays … hence the low marks for MDIA1002. I did believe it was my inability to comprehend the methods of writing a perfect news article at first, so I sought help from my tutor through emails and during her consultation times. I took all her ‘advice’ into consideration and learnt from them. I don’t believe I made the same mistake twice. However, in our final assessment worth 40% of our grade, I was yet again given a final mark of 55 (raw mark 61 with 6 marks deducted for ‘presentation errors’). I must note here that I am a VERY thorough reader. I always catch mistakes when I’m reading books, so it was a given that I would catch mistakes in the comments my tutor left on my assignment. Now I’m not saying that I don’t ever make mistakes of my own because that would just be ridiculous. I’m only human, and sometimes I will overlook something, and I accept the fact that my tutor did rightfully deduct marks for some of these presentation errors. However, there were marks that she deducted wrongfully as well.

Having read over her comments thoroughly and made notes on many points I didn’t agree with, I decided it was only fair to send her an email seeking further clarification. I wanted some extra feedback for the reasons she had given me a mark so low, as her comments were just not justified properly at all. I have included the email I sent my tutor below (**names have been changed**). It took me three hours to write it, but I believe I backed up my arguments thoroughly and had researched my facts properly.

Dear Jane,

Thank you for the feedback for my third writing task. My name is Joy and I was in your M14A class. Having read over your comments, there are a few things I wanted to address as you may have deducted marks for parts that I do not believe has been justified properly.

 1. In my lead, I wrote “year 12 graduates” but you made a note that it should be “Year 12 or HSC”. I have looked over my style book as well as Sue White’s HSC article published in the SMH on 31 May 2011 (http://suewhite.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/SMH_HSC-Expo_May312011_Take-the-stress-out-of-study.pdf). I don’t agree that ‘year’ should be capitalised. As you can see in Sue White’s article, she doesn’t capitalise the word when she writes ‘year 12’. As I have noted in my key features explanation, I hoped to publish my article in the SMH, so I followed closely to the way Sue White had formatted her article from the paper. I don’t believe I should have lost a mark for this as it’s not a presentation error.

2. He started to get dizzy and noted: “I somehow forgot to breathe and got a massive headache which I thought was normal. That’s what happens when you have a stroke.” Jane, you made a comment here that my fourth paragraph was ambiguous, and you didn’t understand what he was referring to. I don’t believe it’s ambiguous. I wrote in my second paragraph that William experienced a mild headache that was later identified as a blood clot. I wrote in my third paragraph that he took a break from studying due to this headache and went to do some exercise, which led to him becoming dizzy and forgetting to breathe. William then explains that these are the symptoms of a stroke (the outcome that I had noted in my lead). I’ve researched the symptoms of his stroke type (http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/brain_spinal_cord_and_nerve_disorders/stroke_cva/ischemic_stroke.html), and the experiences that William went through, and noted in the article are listed under the symptoms shown on that website. I’m unsure as to which part you are referring to as being ambiguous, as I’ve structured the information according to the inverted pyramid method of news reporting, and would like to obtain a clearer understanding on why you believe this is ambiguous.

 3. William ended up trying to nap on the floor but was unable to get to sleep. You noted here that my structure was confusing, and didn’t know if this occurred after William stopped breathing. However, this paragraph follows the quote and explanation of the ‘Valsalva manoeuvre’ that blocked William’s arteries from carrying fresh blood containing oxygen to his brain. I also started the sentence with ‘ended up’, which according to the dictionary means “to become eventually” or “to arrive at”, which I believe should have clearly shown that it did occur after William stopped breathing. I’m unsure as to which part of this structure is confusing for you, as the body of this news report provides elaboration, contextualisation and the causes and effects of the event which encompasses the general structure of the news story as explained in Dr. Peter White’s lectures on 13 and 22 of March 2012.

 4. “The doctors said it was a severe stroke and I lost 80 per cent of my brain cells. Anyone at like 60 would’ve died.” Your comment clearly shows that you don’t believe I fact checked this quote, but I honestly did. During the interview, William told me that he had lost 30 per cent of his brain cells rather than 80. Further contact with him during the writing of the article saw him checking many facts for me with his doctor, including the percentage of brain cell loss he had experienced, as well as quoting the ‘Valsalva manoeuvre’ as being one of the causes for his stroke. I have also done research on the regeneration of brain cells prior to completing this article, and it’s been noted by researchers that neurons can in fact be regenerated in the cerebral cortex of the brain, which is responsible for higher level decision making and learning (http://biology.about.com/od/Brain/p/Regeneration-Of-Brain-Cells.htm). As quoted by William, due to his young age and his fitness (I had mentioned at the beginning that he was a basketball player and exercised during his study breaks) he was very lucky to survive, although suffering brain cell loss as well as paralysis to the left side of his body. Older stroke victims would have died.

 5.   “I was rushed to St George Hospital but they said it was too late to do anything, then after that, they took me to [the] Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.”  Jane, you said that “it was too late to do anything” didn’t make sense. This was a direct quote from William, and as I had written earlier, he was lying on the floor by himself for five hours. To avoid too much permanent damage, stroke victims need to be treated at the hospital within one or two hours of the stroke. William was not treated for more than five hours, as no one was home and he was immobilised (as noted previously). Due to this, William is quoted to say that the doctors at St George Hospital was unable to do anything, hence why he continues to explain why they transferred him to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital where he received two head surgeries. (http://www.webmd.com/stroke/guide/stroke-treatment-overview) As you can see from that website, it explains that the sooner you get treatment for a stroke, the less damage will occur. I refer back to my previous point, where William is quoted to have lost 80 per cent of his brain cells. Because he was not treated within the first few hours, more damage has occurred, so doctors at St George Hospital was unable to ‘do anything’. There was a reason the quote was not just “It was too late to do anything”. You must look at the entire quote rather than one small part of it to obtain the full idea.

 6. Leading on from my previous two points, I had written that William has been accepted into civil engineering with architecture at UNSW, but he has deferred (as noted in my headline). You have commented that you do not understand how he could possibly undertake these studies when he’s lost 80 per cent of his brain cells. As noted previously, William explains that he managed to survive his stroke due to his young age and fitness. He lost 80 per cent of his brain cells due to receiving treatment after five hours, leading to the continued paralysis of his left side. This was the main angle of my article, that being William taking a gap year to recover, as highlighted in my headline. As neurons are able to regenerate (noted earlier) and William being so young, he has been lucky to survive and is currently undertaking physical and occupational therapy which is written in the third last paragraph. William is recovering rapidly (also noted). Jane, your comment, “How can he do this if he lost 80 per cent of his brain cells” is a little confusing. What do you mean by “how can he do this”? I have written that he has been accepted into the course but deferred, he is not currently attending university. And I have also noted that he has been accepted with an ATAR based on his school report marks. Would you be able to explain to me which part you do not understand him being able to do?

 7. “10 years” You made a comment that my use of numerals was wrong, and posted a comment saying that the usual style for print journalism is to write out the numerals one to nine, and to use figures for 10 to 9999. I have done so when writing ’10 years’ but have lost a mark for this, but it’s not a presentation error.

 8. In my key features explanation, you left a comment asking whether I’m implying that I’ve published this article before. No, I have not. As I noted, my article is a character sketch of an ‘off-calendar’ event that’s been developed with a different news angle. Dr. Peter White’s lecture on the 22 March 2012 writes that off-calendar ideas are self-generated ideas developed from other medias such as the local newspaper, but taken in new directions. I have explained that William’s story has been published in the St George Leader but with a focus on his HSC artworks, while my article takes a completely different angle.

I’m sorry for the lengthy email, but there are were a lot of things I wanted to address, having read over your comments. I strongly believe that I shouldn’t have lost those two presentation error marks for writing ‘year’ without a capital and ’10’ in figures. I would also like some clearer clarification of the comments that you made on specific areas of the article that I don’t believe has been justified clearly. Could you also please give me further feedback on the points I have listed here? I would really appreciate it. Hope to hear from you soon.

Best,

Joy.

Her reply was nothing short of a slap to the face.

Hi Joy

I agree that you should not have lost one presentation mark for “year 12” but both Lisa and I stand by the rest of my comments and the deducted marks. Your options are to:

1) accept the addition of one mark to your final grade for this assignment; or

2) request a re-mark as per the procedures outlined at (website removed). Please note that you may receive a lower mark, if you choose this option.

If you wish to apply for a re-mark, please let me know ASAP (so that I can advise Lisa to withhold your final mark) and then direct your re-mark request directly to Pete.

Best

Jane

I am happy to request that Lisa (**She included this part at the very end of the email for no apparent reason. Lisa was the course convenor. Name changed of course. What am I to even make from this last sentence?**)

So basically I was to either accept the one extra mark when I was 100% sure that I was entitled to two OR to get a re-mark. Forgive me, but what do I really have to lose from choosing the second option? My mark can not possibly get any lower. But I don’t make rash decisions either. Prior to replying my tutor’s email, I did a few things:

    1. I got a friend studying journalism to look over my article and the email I sent my tutor. He told me that my article was well written, and it was of a high credit standard (70s). However, I took into mind that he’s only a student, and not a qualified marker.
    2. I had a discussion with my mum on how I should proceed with this. I also discussed it with my boyfriend, who believes that the marks I’ve been receiving throughout the semester have never been justified properly. (I’ve been upset over the marks my tutor’s been giving me before, but I’ve sucked it up and tried to improve.)
    3. I txted a friend from high school who’s also been doing the same course, and asked him about his marks and comments. He told me specifically that he didn’t even follow the instructions for the assessment properly (per comment from his tutor) yet he received a mark of 61. By not following the instructions, I mean he wrote an events article rather than a character profile, which was the purpose of the assessment. How is it entirely possible that someone who hasn’t even done the right assignment could obtain the same final mark as my raw mark?

So in the end, I replied to my tutor asking why I was only receiving an additional mark for her mistake, rather than two. Her reply made me realise that she probably never read through my email, or at the very best, only skimmed it. She said she ‘agreed’ I should receive two additional marks, which made me question why she would have deducted them in the first place. I wouldn’t go as far as to say she was discriminating against me, but my contributions in class were never received well by her throughout the semester. If I hadn’t put so much effort into my assignments, then I would just accept the marks she’s given me.

But you know how the saying goes, “Follow your gut instincts.” I know what my writing abilities are, and I knew at the completion of the assignment that it was at least of credit standard. I believe I’ve provided my tutor with many opportunities to help me understand her reasonings for giving me such a low mark, but she never provided justifications at all. I’ve been firm yet polite in my emails, and don’t believe my annoyance showed through, however, I don’t see anything keeping me from requesting a re-mark when I’ve taken all the necessary options available to me. My gut instincts tell me I’ve been jipped, but only time will tell.

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