I have two students in my comp class who are trying. You can see them really putting in effort and really looking stressed like I will eat them if they give a wrong answer in class. And they are not getting it. "What is one plus three? Where is it here on this chart on the board?" I ask, and one of them will, with much trepidation, finally answer, "purple!" and when I go ummmm, no, they start punching each other. Then I tell them they need to stop the violence.
There's nothing like watching someone try and not get it and finally start giving random answers in frustration. It can be very trying, and you feel so bad cause you're on the kid's side. Sure, I should be on the side of the kids who are rolling their eyes and putting their heads down on the desk, or the one who just emailed that he couldn't turn in the paper or be here today because he was in jail, but, you know, they don't look like they are trying. It's harder to stay on their side when they don't look like they themselves are on their own side.
But! I just read a paper that made progress! Not only was there sign of revision, but revision that made the paper better! (the opposite being another highly frustrating encounter I've been having this semester as well.) This student has gone back through and added a couple sentences of analysis to some of their paragraphs! And that's the hardest thing to get them to grasp!
Now, there are still major problems with this paper, don't get me wrong. And this student added some paragraphs at the end of the paper that now look like the first-draft paragraphs from the beginning of the paper. But now I can point out that I like the ones that have been revised, and not the ones that are still drafts, and that's just going to be something to keep in mind when adding more material. But we have some paragraph structure! And explanation of why the quotes are so important! Whoo!
(Is this a reason why high school teachers are not teaching at a good level ---- they get so beaten down by bad papers that they get a new mental standard in their head that is actually too low? I worry about me and that. On the other hand: progress! Let's reward that!)
Of course, I should grade at least one more essay today to get to my quota (and still have a crapload for tomorrow besides). But, I think I'll knock off and bask in my sense of accomplishment instead.