I love to teach. I really do. But sometimes.....
This semester I'm teaching two courses. One, a literature course, is chock-full of cool novels and, for the most part, the students keep up with the reading. The other, an expository writing course, always picks up toward the end of the term; the beginning, however, is wickedly painful.
Why? Because there is no why. At least not one these 19 young people care about as of today, February 21, 2008. Until we can actually produce some writing to muck around in, we're essentially spinning our wheels during class time. I'm stuck up there, blathering on about argument, and grammar, and revision, and so on. I bore myself stupid. I must bore them moronic.
Over the years, I've come up with a shtick about sentence clarity (yeah, I know, you're thinking I need to put it into action. Buck up. I've earned a little ranting time.). It encourages active verbs! It frowns on long chains of prepositions! It suggests sniffing out "to be" verbs and squashing them like bugs...you get the picture.
So I make an assignment. I even break it into two stages. I offer two opportunities for peer editing, with multiple readers. For the most part, they do okay. But the ones who don't? They come in two flavors.
Some just need coaching, and though their early work is sub-par they often become favorites. As the term unfolds, they will find their way and their words and I will fade into the woodwork and watch them write.
The others? ARRGGHHHH! They don't want to be there, and they don't mind me knowing it. They don't value the process and they don't value the product. They will write well if it matters - in their majors or on a grad school application - but won't break a sweat if it doesn't. I want to banish them.
I'm mulling the ethics of posting some anonymous snippets. If anyone would like to weigh in, please do.