Monday, April 18, 2011


I have had ENOUGH of my freshman comp class, with the exception of five students. Two of those five are perfectly ordinary freshmen who just didn't get around to taking English 101 until the spring for some reason; the other three are my three strongest Basic Comp veterans. Everybody else in the class has either flunked English 101 at least once before, or passed Basic with a C because I'm a soft touch. Believe me, I am now regretting being a soft touch.

One of my former Basic students still cannot be bothered to capitalize her own NAME (and no, she is not pulling an e.e. cummings or bell hooks; it's just straight-up carelessness). Another one just decided, in a spectacular act of academic dishonesty, to fabricate an entire annotated bibliography. (Because this student does not seem to read much, and thus has no idea what information actual books are likely to contain, she was fairly easy to catch. No, I don't believe that our campus's current parking policies, including the specific color codes for faculty/staff, student, and visitor spaces, are described in a book entitled Chaos: Parking that was supposedly published by Penguin in 1987. But I have to give her props for imagination.)

I swear, I think teaching English 101 in the spring should come with hazard pay. I have just commented on a pile of ten drafts, exactly two of which were doing more or less what the assignment asked the students to do. The others were all somewhere off in la-la land, despite the fact that the class had been given extremely straightforward instructions and a model. I have been using this assignment for eight years. 90% of the freshmen in my fall classes get it right as soon as they've seen an example. Spring freshmen end up being hopelessly, hopelessly confused.

I cut the research paper from my syllabus this semester, in favor of a "respond to a single source, including properly-documented quotations, paraphrase and summary" assignment (followed by a revision day in the computer lab to make sure they all got it right). I just couldn't face the research paper. I feel guilty, like I'm giving these students a watered-down version of the course, and I know it's not fair to the five who could learn how to write a perfectly decent research paper, but so be it. Sometimes, I think, you have to save your sanity.

1 comment:

Bardiac said...

Sanity is important! And there are ways to teach students to do and cite research that don't involve writing a big paper.