Thursday, March 26, 2009

Having fun at work

My current job at Independent Study (my unofficial title is Overdue Lesson Guy) can get kinda tedious at times. My workday begins with picking up a 2-foot tall stack of papers, lugging it across the parking lot and finding the 15 or so pages I need, leaving the rest of the stack for another department I then spend about an hour going through the report with various highlighters looking for bad news that wasn't there yesterday and double-checking its accuracy against what's in RS6000, our main student database. I then spend the next 2-3 hours putting that new bad news into another database and emailing our instructors their particular piece of the bad news., with any remaining time being filled with projects for my supervisor, Lauren. Within those emails, however, I've recently found a bit of fun.

You see, some of our lessons are graded in-house by a group of friendly neighborhood tutors. Since I know them personally, I can afford to be less . . . shall we say formal . . . with them. Instead of the form letter that I send everyone (Professor Whatsyourface, the following lessons haven't been graded for a long time, please let us know if you have them and grade them as soon as possible. That sort of thing, but more precise and formal), I can send something a bit more creative.

I began by sending the form letter in various languages. While my first translation that I sent (to Spanish) was my own work, I turned to good old Babelfish for things like Chinese and Korean. I also sent one in "|337" 0r h4ck3r-5p34k, then one in the form of a Star Trek captain's log. Recently, I began doing lesson-themed parodies. I wanted to share some of this with you all, as I think some of them, at least, are worth a good chuckle.

1. The Mad Lib - feel free to play along!:

Please provide the following:
Plural noun__________
Past tense verb__________
Another past tense verb__________
Person in room__________
Past tense verb__________
Plural noun__________
Past tense verb__________
Past tense verb__________

The following ______ (plural noun) _______ (past tense verb) one or more lessons that have not been ______ (past tense verb) in over ______ (number) weeks. Would you please ______ (verb) this list and let ______ (person in room) know if you either have or have not ______ (past tense verb) these lessons? If you do have these lessons, please _____ (verb) them as soon as you ______ (adverb) can. Also, please feel free to _____ (verb) me if you have any _________ (plural noun) at all. Thank you for all of your hard work; it is ________ (past tense verb) and ______ (adverb) __________(past tense verb)!

2. Thus sayeth the Overdue Lesson Report:

Luke, Chapter 1

3It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all these lessons from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Tutors,
4That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
5THERE was in the days of Lauren, the queen of IS, a certain student who had submitted lessons unto the tutors . . .
7And they had no grade . . . and they were now well stricken in weeks, having been 2 weeks since their submission . . .
11And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12And when the student saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Student: for thy prayer is heard; and thy lesson shall be graded . . .

18And the student said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my lesson well stricken in weeks.

Alma, Chapter 5
14 And now behold, I ask of you, my tutors of IS, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his lesson on your desks? . . .
26 And now behold, I say unto you, my tutors, if ye have felt to grade these lessons, I would ask, can ye grade them now?

3. Declaration of Grading:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to grade the lessons which have connected them with students, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should grade the lessons which they are impelled to do within 2 weeks.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all students are created equal, that they are endowed by Independent Study with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the grading of their Lessons. That to secure these rights, Tutors are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of Lauren, That whenever any Form of Lesson is not received, it is the Right of the Students to resend it, and to institute new Grading, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

4. Overdue Soliloquy

To grade, or not to grade--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous students
Or take red pens against a sea of e-mails
And by so grading end them. To grade, correct--
No more--and by a grade to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
A student’s heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To grade, to sleep--
To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub.

5. Dr. Seuss and Sam-I-am:
Will you grade These lessons, man?

I will not grade them, Sam-I-am.
I do not have those lessons, man!

Would you grade them here or there?

I would not grade them here or there.
I would not grade them anywhere.
I do not grade those lessons, man!
I do not have them, Sam-I-am.

Would you grade them in a house?
Would you grade them with a mouse?

I do not grade them in a house.
I do not grade them with a mouse.
I do not grade them here or there.
I do not have them anywhere!
I do not grade these lessons, man!
I do not have them, Sam-I-am.

Would you grade them in a box?
Would you grade them with a fox?

Not in a box.
Not with a fox.
Not in a house.
Not with a mouse.
I would not grade them here or there.
I would not grade them anywhere.
I would not grade these lessons, man.
I do not have them, Sam-I-am.

Would you? Could you? In a car?
Grade them! Grade them! Here they are.

I would not, could not, in a car.

You must grade them. You will see.
You may grade them in a tree!

I would not, could not in a tree.
Not in a car! You let me be.

I do not grade them in a box.
I do not grade them with a fox.
I do not grade them in a house.
I do not grade them with a mouse.
I do not grade them here or there.
I do not have them anywhere.
I cannot grade these lessons, man.
I cannot grade them, Sam-I-am.

A train! A train!
A train! A train!
Could you, would you, on a train?

Not on a train! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! Sam! Let me be!

I would not, could not, in a box.
I could not, would not, with a fox.
I will not grade them with a mouse.
I will not grade them in a house.
I will not grade them here or there.
I do not have them anywhere.
I cannot grade these lessons, man.
I do not have them, Sam-I-am.

Say! In the dark? Here in the dark!
Would you, could you, in the dark?

I would not, could not, in the dark.

Would you, could you, in the rain?

I would not, could not, in the rain.
Not in the dark. Not on a train.
Not in a car. Not in a tree.
I cannot grade them, Sam, you see.
Not in a house. Not in a box.
Not with a mouse. Not with a fox.
I will not grade them here or there.
I do not have them anywhere!

You will not grade these lessons, man?

I will not grade them, Sam-I-am.
Could you, would you, with a goat?

I would not, could not, with a goat!

Would you, could you, on a boat?

I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.
I will not grade them in the rain.
I will not grade them on a train.
Not in the dark! Not in a tree!
Not in a car! You let me be!
I do not grade them in a box.
I do not grade them with a fox.
I will not grade them in a house.
I do not grade them with a mouse.
I do not grade them here or there.
I do not have them ANYWHERE!
I do not grade these lessons, man!
I do not grade them, Sam-I-am.

You do not grade them. So you say.
Try them! Try them! And you may.
Try them and you may, I say.

Sam! If you will let me be,
I will grade them. You will see.

Say! I'll grade these lessons, man!
I will! I'll grade them, Sam-I-am!
And I would grade them in a boat.
And I would grade them with a goat
And I will grade them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so overdue, you see!

So I will grade them in a box.
And I will grade them with a fox.
And I will grade them in a house.
And I will grade them with a mouse.
And I will grade them here and there.
Say! I will grade them ANYWHERE!

I now do grade these lessons, man!
Thank you! Thank you, Sam-I-am!

6. Charles Dickens abridged and revised (warning - even worse puns ahead):

Marley’s lesson was ungraded: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of its reception was placed in RS6000 by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. The Tutor signed it: and The Tutor's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley’s lesson was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley’s lesson was as dead as a door-nail. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.

As the Tutor threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in the room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten with a chamber in the highest story of the building. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this bell begin to swing. It swung so softly in the outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house.

This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it seemed an hour. The bells ceased as they had begun, together. They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine merchant's cellar. The Tutor then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.

The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.

"It's humbug still!" said the Tutor. "I won't believe it."

His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, "I know him; Marley's Lesson’s Ghost!" and fell again.

Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, which wrapper he had not observed before: he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses.

"How now!" said the Tutor, caustic and cold as ever. "What do you want with me?"

"Much!" -- Marley's Lesson’s voice, no doubt about it.

"You haven’t graded me," observed the Lesson.

"I haven’t." said the Tutor.

"What evidence would you have of my need to be graded, beyond that of your senses?"

"I don't know," said the Tutor.

"Why do you doubt your senses?"

"Because," said the Tutor, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"

At this the lesson raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that the Tutor held on tight to his chair, to save himself from falling in a swoon. The Tutor fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.

"Mercy!" he said. "Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?"

"It is required of every man," the Lesson returned, "that the assignment written by him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that lesson goes ungraded in life, it is condemned to be so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world -- oh, woe is me! -- and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!"

Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy pages.

"Oh! Stapled, bound, and double-spaced," cried the phantom, "not to know, that ages of incessant labour, by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian lesson working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its grading. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!"

"But you were always a good man of the business school!" faltered the Tutor, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Lesson, wringing its pages again. "Students were my business. Grades were my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my grade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

"I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Tutor."

"You were always a good friend to me," said the Tutor. "Thank `ee!"

"You will be haunted," resumed the Ghost, "by Three Lessons."

The Tutor's countenance fell almost as low as the Lesson's had done.

"Is that the chance and hope you mentioned?" he demanded, in a faltering voice.

"It is."

"I -- I think I'd rather not," said the Tutor.

"Without their visits," said the Ghost, "you cannot hope to keep your job at Independent Study. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls one."

"Couldn't I take `em all at once, and have it over, Jacob?" hinted The Tutor.

"Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of twelve has ceased to vibrate. Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!"


Abridgement: The Lessons visit and convince the Tutor of the error of his ways. He swears to grade all lessons that he receives in the past, the present and the future.


The Tutor was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to the Overdue Lesson Guy, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a grader, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

It was always said of him, that he knew how to grade lessons well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as the Overdue Lesson Guy observed, Please Grade Them, Every One!

1 comment:

Grandma Jule said...

This is BRILLIANT!!!

It's your sense of humor that's going to keep you sane. Hang on to it with both hands!

Only you could take a boring, repetitive, mundane task and twist it into something fun and enjoyable. Are you *sure* your alter-ego is "Sapphire Sting" and not "Mary Poppins?" (jk) &;-)

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