It was a bit of a depressing day yesterday at least as far as my student and teaching life is concerned. I will say on a note that is off topic, I was and still sort of am still pumped about having a new and great speaker as president. Back to the semi-depressing day. It seems as if my students are not as enthusiastic about being in college. First semester freshman are bright eyed and have good attendance and care about what they hand in. Although I was warned by veteran TA’s that this would happen I have always been the type of person who thinks that things like this don’t happen to me. Well they do.
I collected the rough drafts of their first papers this week and holy crap. I know I’m teaching freshman but and this is a huge but, this isn’t their first college writing class. I’m teaching a 102 class where the 101 class was a pre-requisit. WTF! I had papers that were horribly formatted after I spent two weeks just on MLA formatting and of course that wasn’t the only issue, but the formatting issues alone put my heart in the blender.
At first I was angry at the other TA’s. I kept thinking that they must have neglected to reinforce MLA formatting and having a thesis and using quotes from the text as support. It’s not the student’s fault. But the more I think about it I realize it can’t be. Although, as my professor pointed out to me yesterday evening, “You can’t guarantee what was taught” by the other instructors you can assume with confidence that it was probably talked about.
So why all the elementary mistakes?
I wonder if it has to do with the fact that it is labeled as a “rough draft.” I think to many students that has the connotation of “it’s okay to be crappy because I can redeem myself later.” I see many students either not doing anything with the rough draft and handing in practically the same document for a final draft and then some students basically rewriting their rough drafts and turning in a whole new paper. I don’t understand why these (the latter) students give themselves so much extra work. Instead of writing a decent rough draft they are essentially writing two papers.
I don’t think there is a solution to this. I’m sure that teachers of writing have been dealing with this issue since the writing classes have been around but it is depressing to see such basic errors. When I see MLA formatting errors in papers it makes me think that the student doesn’t care enough to fix their margins, put the heading in the correct place, double space, et cetera. I just wonder if, as a teacher, I’ll ever be able to teach the lesson that says, what you turn in is a representation of yourself. I think what saddens me most is that I have explained this to my students and still the not caring continues. The lazy representations are still present.
I would say the most challenging lesson the teacher must learn is that no matter how hard you try you can’t make them care.
NOTE: Now that spring semester is in full swing I’m noticing writing blog posts has become more challenging but I’m going to try to post as often as possible.