My students just turned in their first paper of the semester, and they are so clueless. How I wish I could laugh heartily at the mistakes and outlandish statements in student compositions, the way Anne of Green Gables does. Instead, I get mad. Real mad. First at the students, and then at myself.
To prepare the students to write this paper, they wrote no less than nine informal papers. After they turned in each response, I e-mailed them personally with comments explaining how to do better on the final paper. They were given two reading quizzes on their textbook. In addition to making the assignment instructions available on-line, I gave the students two other step-by-step instruction sheets to writing and revising—specific to this paper. I gave them a full class period to work on revision. We analyzed not just any examples in class, but examples from the students’ own writing. We graded a sample paper together in class.
I know this italics overload, but I have had it up to here. I delayed the due date of the first paper because I wanted them to be really ready! I knew they were in trouble as the due date approached, and I warned them in shriller and shriller voices that they needed to follow the assignment instructions very carefully.
The class average is a 65. One student received a grade of 20%. Two students that I met with to discuss early drafts both received a D. One student who went to the Undergraduate Writing Center twice received an F.
A friend of mine, The Future Doctor Moulder, told me that confusion is productive for the students, and they aren’t supposed to get it right away. (Those are her italics this time.) I don’t know. Before I taught, I always thought I was a naturally talented instructor. I never dreamed my darkest hours as a graduate student would involve doubting my ability to teach.