Finishing out this week is a welcome ending to a very chaotic series of events, both personal and professional. The best news of the week is getting an offer to be a full-time instructor over the summer in my beloved New Orleans. So now the frenzy begins – moving, checking out the summer rentals, working on when to officially leave road trip-style. It’s enough to make anyone feel completely overwhelmed!
But as you know, life never just hands you one thing to fret/get frustrated over. I had to grade huge piles of MLA research papers from my TWO Composition classes, totalling about 25-30 papers ranging from 5-10 pages in length. You do the math. But it wasn’t the fact that I had to grade these papers that made me feel discouraged, it was the overall content and organization of a certain set of papers that made me want to cry.
Let me explain. As an educator, I try to be as transparent as possible with my expectations for class participation, class discussions, homework, and essays. That is why I hand out very detailed syllabi with the breakdown of course material that will be covered every week of the semester. I painstakendly sculpted course material to advance gradually so students could steadily improve in their writing and critical content. Because a MLA research paper is chronically much more intense and difficult for students, I took great care in assigning simpler papers at the beginning of the semester, gradually intensifying the material to prepare students for this major assignment. I make myself completely available to students during office hours and via email. I spent many class meetings outlining the paper’s guidelines and offered MANY resources that students can refer to to help them in their endeavor. In short, I did EVERYTHING I was supposed to do.
Despite all of this active precautions and preparation, I have had to read papers that lack the basic guidelines I have outlined since the beginning of the semester in January. Essay headings are deformed, typos and spelling errors run amuck, in-text citations and peer-viewed drafts are missing in action, and repetition makes the reading stale.
I have been talking to my colleagues in the office and they are experiencing the same frustration with their own students. Somehow some students have forgotten the work ethic and professionalism they had learned from their college classes this semester. Is senioritis contagious? Can it be contracted through the campus air conditioning, drinking fountains or cafeteria food? I am afraid for everyone!
I think the reason why we educators take this so hard is because we care WAY TOO MUCH. I mean, this isn’t a profession known for its lucrative paychecks. You get into this profession because you genuinely LOVE what you do – you love mentoring and helping students ascend to their best selves “by any means necessary.” And that is why you stay up late crafting interesting course material, writing syllabi, and finding supplementary materials that we get you and your students excited about learning.
So to see the bright side of the situation, I refer to my students who really “GET IT” – the students who see what you see in the importance of this class and its material. They are the people I work for and give selflessly to. They are the light at the end of this very dark tunnel. Thank you for seeing ME the way I see YOU – empathetic critical learners, writers, and citizens of the global community.