I got my students’ inaugural essays on Monday and have been trying to slog my way through them all week. I’ve only got 17 kids in the class, and only 12 of them turned work in, so you wouldn’t think it’d be that big a deal, right?
Well, you’d be wrong.
For starters, most students – all, in fact, so far – don’t understand the difference between analysis and review. This really isn’t that much of a surprise because I wasn’t expecting greatness here, but at least an ATTEMPT to scratch the surface would have been appreciated. One or two students made halfhearted attempts at analysis – and my glee at these efforts is, I think, far more than they actually deserve but hey; a candle in the dark may as well be the sun, right? – but most of them stuck with “this is what this guy said, and this is what that guy said, and they basically said the same thing.”
One student in particular stands out in the crowd, and not for any good reason, either. Exactly what am I supposed to do with this?:
Mine open statement and studies on a matter of belief this may or may not be the best paper to cross the desk. I did not vote for this election due to my own politics harming graphic design work last term, no time was taken for me to make a smart vote. The battle of bullshit is were we all make a design “who does this?” where are facts on others demands,” these statements and view may never craved cement for our nations positive step forward….It’s not just about guys in stiff suits and their views in hand with hurtful, unclean lobbies. We as society are so clouded with what goes on from global warming to relationship issues….Obama is clear concerned roomful speaker…deliver message must be consider to us even thaw war is somewhere. WHY?…Were the action of therapy behavior of caring for you fellow man and woman….
It goes on and on in one single paragraph for two and a half pages.
(does anyone remember the Gone Quiet West Wing episode where the Majority Leader “got the question” and CJ’s secretary, Carol, when asked about it, said, “..it was a train wreck. I recognized all the words, but…” THAT’S how I feel about this.)
The conflict alluded to in this post’s title is this: part of me – a HUGE part of me – wants to just toss this aside and say “you know what, kid? If you can’t even manage to write in language that even approaches coherency, then you really don’t belong in my class. How did you GET this far, anyway?!” He didn’t follow the assignment (he failed to investigate another president’s inaugural address and instead – as best I can tell – looked at a speech delivered by Spiro Agnew sometime in the Nixon administration). There’s no structure to his writing, or his thinking, for that matter. This is Carol’s train wreck, and I can’t even begin to tease out what he was trying to say because I’m fairly certain even HE has no idea what that might be.
On the other hand, though, he put out the effort. He was one of the 12 who turned at least something in. I have little doubt that he actually watched Obama’s speech – he managed to slip a quote in about halfway down the first page – which is more than some of his peers did.
I don’t get the impression that this kid is a “problem child.” He participates to the extent that he’s able (though I have noticed that I often don’t understand what point he’s trying to make when he’s speaking, either), and he’s not belligerent or attitudinal at all. He may be someone I can reach.
I went to TCC this morning and spoke with the Dean about this kid, then I started the paperwork going to cover my little ass further down the road. The Dean got a copy of a progress report expressing my concern for this student’s future in my class, as well as a couple of photocopies of the essay that sparked that concern. I’m hoping that the boy will seek out tutoring and extra help because, if he keeps handing in work like this, there’s no way he’ll be able to meet the standards I’ve established for passing this course.