I’ll Zoobilee YOU.

Here is the problem: a few days ago I listened to a podcast of This American Life in which two people who are not reporters (one of whom I thought for sure was Kristen Schaal but is apparently someone else entirely) go to one of those camp-out-in-front-of-the-new-Chick-Fil-A-for-free-chicken events, and they sing a little song they wrote about Chick-Fil-A and it’s funny because it’s stupid, but then the song got stuck in my head for like a whole day, and THEN as I was falling asleep or waking up or in some other transitory state of half-consciousness I realized that the tune of the song is remarkably similar to the beginning of the theme song for Zoobilee Zoo, and now THIS is on constant rotation in my brain:

Truly, this is the stuff of nightmares.  When people bemoaned the progression—some might say degeneration—of children’s television from Sesame Street and Electric Company and Captain Kangaroo (which I watched as a small child) to Pinwheel and Today’s Special and whatever else was on Nickelodeon in its first years (which I watched as a less small child), they obviously had no concept of the psychedelic horrors that awaited child consumers of the late 80s and early 90s.  I remember my youngest sister being absolutely captivated by this show, when I was just old enough to know that something terrifying was unfolding on the screen but too young to know that if I did not run screaming from the room as soon as I heard the first twitter of Zoobiles then one day when I was a grown-ass woman trying to lead a grown-ass life I would find myself paralyzed by relentless mental reruns.

Here is the other problem: grading.  It is universally recognized as the absolute worst part of being a professor, at least in the humanities.  It is so horrible that at the end of every semester, professors everywhere discover entire worlds of skills, interests, and Terribly Important Tasks hitherto unknown to them.  Many clean forgotten corners of houses; some lucky bastards rediscover a passionate interest in their own research.  I prefer the classic “oh look this TV show I’ve never considered watching before has been released in its entirety on DVD LET’S WATCH THE WHOLE THING” mode of procrastination, trumped only, perhaps, by the “oh look here’s the entire run of this TV show I’ve already seen every single episode of LET’S WATCH THE WHOLE THING” method.  This season I made a desperate, shocking leap into the world of video games.  I have clocked, like, 15 hours on Final Fantasy XII in the past three days, which is remarkable for a girl who until three days ago had not held a game controller since Super Mario Brothers 3 was released for the original Nintendo.  (I think that was around the same time Zoobilee Zoo was on twice a day.)  Why is grading so hellish?  It’s not that I dislike reading students’ work, not at all.  I mean, sometimes it sucks, but generally I enjoy seeing how they’re thinking about the material and hearing materials I present processed through other minds.  But the grading—ugh.  Trying to calibrate how many missing apostrophes and misplaced commas should be indicated in red, how snarky or encouraging the marginalia should be, and THEN having to write up “final comments” on a piece of writing that this student has already put well behind her, that is of interest to her only in terms of the grade into which I must translate it, thus comments that are not part of a conversation about the student’s work because that conversation is nonexistent, the work being wholly over, but are instead my own justification of whatever grade I have decided to assign the thing.  A descriptive account of Why You Don’t Get A Better Grade.  Being critical is tiresome enough, but being defensive is exhausting.

I tried to make a final push through a pile of papers today.  I managed to read them all but I still have to “comment” on a couple of them.  I was sidetracked by two hours of futzing with the appearance of my LJ, which led to it looking pretty much exactly the same as it did before.  I’ve been toying with the idea of migrating to a platform that looks less early-aughts, but then I realize that everything on the internet is going to look two-thousand-and-late sometime and LJ is first in line to go from “dated” to “retro.”  I’m so behind the curve I’m ahead of it

10 thoughts on “I’ll Zoobilee YOU.

  1. OMG…..this just gave me flashbacks. Was this around the time ecstasy was big? How did any adults think that this was good for the brain. It’s weird and the parrot guy is giving me nightmares!

    K

  2. Thank God I’m too old to remember Zoobilee Zoo, and I absolutely refuse to click on the YouTube link, because I just know better.

    But along those lines, I’ve had a whole video of the Muppets’ Swedish Chef singing ‘O Holy Night’ running through my head for days now, and I can’t find anything about it by Googling at all, so I must have dreamed it. Which scares the crap out of me.

  3. I’m so glad I’m too old to have experienced Zoobilee Zoo, otherwise it would be in my head too. Unfortunately, I have dipped into Sesame Street occasionally, and the Swedish Chef singing O Holy Night will now haunt my days.

    In another direction – thanks for a very clear picture of the unhappy task of grading papers. Other people’s work is frequently mysterious – now I have a window onto the efforts teaching academics must expend to give feedback.
    Incidentally, from lo these many years ago, I always was eager to read my prof’s comments, emotionally tied as I was to my work. Maybe it’s different these days and students are more willing to challenge grades. Just be glad if it’s not their helicopter parents!

    • Re: helicopter parents—I am so fortunate that I have never had to deal with this species. Knock on wood. I have a friend who is currently dealing with a plagiarism case in which the student’s defense is that it’s not his fault his paper was pulled off the internet because his mom wrote it for him. And the mother is taking it all the way to the top, wherever that is.

  4. grading

    I always thought the grading process for creative writing was super interesting — easier, perhaps, in that it’s fairly accepted that most students get As or Bs in creative writing classes (I think so, at least?), but harder in that generally I don’t think short stories or poetry can be fairly graded, unless the class is a low-level class and the students are being graded on improvement. (Which, in its own right, is difficult to give grades to.) I still think it would make more sense to have a simpler grading system for a lot of these things — Excellent, Acceptable, Unacceptable. That’s certainly true for creative writing (at Swarthmore, all creative writing is pass/fail; when I took a class there I had to get the professor to separately give me a grade so it would count at Haverford as a major class; I think this makes a lot of sense), but I think it’s true for many English classes. Does the student understand the material? Okay, Acceptable. Do they make an argument that’s more than just acceptable? Great, Excellent.

    Also, I’ve been teaching — English as a second language, yeah? — and giving grades (I almost just wrote “marks,” damn Britishisms) to “speaking” and “participation” on a 1-10 scale is so awful. Of course, I don’t need to justify myself by writing marginalia. So in some sense it’s easy.

    Also, I like the idea of every person having his or her own peculiar manner of procrastination. Mine probably would be something relating to making websites. “Oh man, my website really could do with some cleaning up! And I still haven’t uploaded any of my poetry.” Actually, that’s something I want to do. I’m sure I will next time I have work awaiting me.

      • Re: grading

        I guess the question is: why do we grade in the first place?

        Actually, now I ask it, I’m not entirely sure that I know an answer to that. It’s got to be more complicated than “so students know how they’re doing.” Right? I feel like students know that already, generally. Hmmm.

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