It’s that time of the semester again when all this work is due… from both my students and me. For them, it’s the culmination of four months of writing, responding, editing, and writing again. For me, it’s another chance to see how far they’ve come from the start, and to see how far they haven’t come. The only difference is what they did with the time in between.
It’s like when you first get a new job and you learn the ropes. Here’s how you do this. Then your supervisor checks up on you and keeps working with you until you’ve got it down. One day, though, four months in, she tells you it’s not working out. You haven’t learned. And you’re sacked.
There are too many who didn’t learn along the way. They were just so excited to get the job that they didn’t focus once they’d gotten it. This is the course of the writing process. “I know English.” “I wrote some passable sentences.” “I should pass even if I don’t adjust and change how I write.” But it doesn’t work that way.
I respond, over and over, during the time in between the start of the semester and now, letting them know what they need to do to improve, and giving them the tools to accomplish this. But all too often they think they don’t need the help. “I’m doing okay so I’ll ignore your help.” “I’m sort of passing so I have no incentive to improve.” “I failed this paper and there’s no joke for me, so what’s the point?”
And here we are, at the (sadly) bitter end, and I have to tell them they’re sacked. They just haven’t done enough to show improvement. I feel bad about it, too, but I can show them step by step through the course of the semester how I tried to work with them and they rebuffed me, how I gave them chances and notes for improvement and they remained stagnant.
Now they listen to me, but now is too late. We are at the end. Why can’t they listen when it matters most? Perhaps I’ll see them again next semester. Perhaps they’ll remember this feeling and they’ll do their best not to get sacked again.