Monday, July 27, 2009

Research Paper Hell

This is a place all English teachers know. Well, good English teachers. As many have said to me, "I could never teach English. Look at all those papers you have to grade!" Before the comment is even completed, I think to myself, Actually, that's not the reason you're not an English teacher. But I keep my mouth shut to be polite.

Research Paper Hell is even worse in the summer. The course session is MUCH shorter, thus, the turnaround time is MUCH quicker. I spent all day Thursday grading papers. And when I say all day, that's not hyperbole. That means from 7 a.m. to bout 7:30 p.m. I graded research papers, or papers that were supposed to be research papers. I did have breaks, but essentially, all my energy on Thursday went to grading them. I graded the last two this morning.

This is Hell at anytime of the year because most students in my classes have no idea how to research, compile, organize and actually write said Monster. Which is, of course, understandable. That is why, after all, they are in my class. That's my job - to teach them how to do this, so when they write a research paper for history or science or psychology and every other class under the sun, they know how to do it - which is why English is the most important class one can take. (Poop on you math teachers who don't agree. Math isn't even capitalized if it doesn't start a sentence. How important could it be?!)

So, yes, it's my job, but that doesn't mean I have to like this Hell. I have to accept it, yes, but don't have to like it. Students make the very mistakes I covered a bajillion times: cite correctly, cite!, use punctuation, give examples, don't make claims you can't support, alpha by author on the Works Cited page, actually use the essays you said you did . . .


The frustration comes from students not doing what we tell them to. But the fact of the matter is that's the learning process in action. We humans have to actually do something in order to learn how to do it. We can watch it and hear it, but we never actually get it until we do it ourselves. The fact that this is the third - usually the fourth or fifth - paper they have done for me needs to be taken into account, however. They have had a chance to do this. Hello! Thus, this place called Research Paper Hell.

1 comment:

  1. I'm searching for the trick of not just telling students how to do all of this, but also making them think that they are discovering it on their own. Their ideas are important and valuable--and they need to intuit this. After all, they are going to be our caretakers after we retire!