So I seem to have become the Basic Comp person in my department, at least for the immediate future. I'm in two minds about this. In the spring semester it is not too burdensome, since the classes are tiny; it is actually more pleasant than teaching regular comp in the spring, when you get all the students who started off in Basic and all the ones who flunked last semester. So spring semester, OK. And I got lucky last semester, because one of my students (which is to say, 25% of the class) was really pretty awesome and a pleasure to have in class, and he was the sort of person who could actually benefit from Basic Comp, since he had simply been out of school for twenty years and needed a refresher. Returning students, fine. International students, probably fine, although I haven't had a chance to put this to the test, since they all seem to get placed in regular English 101.
But if English is your native language and you've just spent twelve years in school in the United States, and you still can't read, can't write, can't think, and don't have any real desire to acquire these skills, is one semester going to make a difference? Really?
I am trying not to think this way. I started off this semester resolved to treat my Basic students the way I wish my gym teachers had treated me (because I am SO not an athlete, and I was never able to pick up on the rules of games when the other kids seemed to absorb them by osmosis, so I do know what it's like to be forced to take a class where I felt hopelessly inept. And I can imagine how badly screwed I'd be in a society where all the good jobs were reserved for people with athletic ability.)
But, y'know, if I had to take a gym class, and I knew my ability to get a university degree was riding on whether I passed this class, and the teacher said, "Read this article on the Internet and print it off" several times, and the syllabus said the same thing, I think I would show up for class with a copy of the freakin' article. Which was more than FIFTEEN OUT OF EIGHTEEN students managed to do today.
I also think I would try not to FALL ASLEEP IN CLASS. (Here is where I wish I had the nerve to channel my long-tenured, Brooklyn-born, take-no-shit-from-anybody freshman Shakespeare prof, who once kicked a student out of class rather spectacularly for doing just that.) I mean, dude. That's just basic self-preservation, right there.
Twelve more weeks...