I am not yet done with this semester, but I'm getting close. I might be at the exact crappiest point: I am finishing up the research paper grading and handing them back in the final.
I already had to deal with one class ---- the college writing class, which is "off schedule" this semester and thus has everyone who failed it last semester or took the remedial class right before it ----- today and I eventually decided that a lot of those borderline papers were in fact, not passing quality. A LOT. As in I only passed a couple of the students in that class. It was really shitty to sit there and watch them hyperventilate about writing this in-class essay (though if they can't respond with the standard 5-paragraph in class essay blorp within 2 hours, that is yet another sign that they probably should take the course again, eh) all the while I had on my lap this huge stack of D and F papers and had already told them they would not be allowed to pass the class without passing the research paper. Then I got to hand these back to them and look at them while they turned in the essay. I felt really awful. And yet, I couldn't bear to pass those essays.
Hmmm maybe my problem is the confrontation not the evil grading. Maybe I should switch over to online grading and send back the final papers via turnitin or moodle. Or not return them at all? I already have the intro to literature/writing class turn their big papers in at the final; maybe I should switch it around so that I am handing back those and getting the college writing research papers during the final? Interestingly, I am not at all worried about my intro to lit classes this semester ---- which is the normal semester to take it if you passed college writing. And even more interestingly, my "weird" class last semester, where I could not get them to understand the concept of buying the book or reading or doing the homework, was the second-semester class i.e. we were "off schedule."
Perhaps the solution is to just expect that everyone will fail in these off schedule classes and not worry about it. I did get better about not caring about the students who stopped showing up, and not taking their absences personally. But there is still the problem of the few who try soooo hard and just don't improve enough (or are making up a huge deficit) who then look at me with big anxious puppy eyes trying to read my expression before taking the research paper from my hand! Arrrgh! It sucks!
See? Evil enough to dish it out but not live with the consequences. What I really need is some sort of magic bullet that will make students learn things, and work hard, and care...
This is probably grade inflation, but I only give Fs on research papers if they plagiarized, completely did not document sources at all, or didn't turn it in. The worst of the rest get D-, so there's a hope of passing the class. My justification is that even if it's a shitty paper, they still deserve some credit for doing it. Maybe that's the wrong attitude for me to take. Then again, if you have a population that is really struggling, it may be that they really do need to take the class again. I don't know. I do know that it sucks though. For students who really do try hard, I don't fail them. I give them the lowest ethical grade if that's what they deserve, but I don't fail them.
I'm not saying you should change your standards. I do think, though, that it's better to give them the papers before the class ends in case they do have to take the course over. If you write notes on the papers, it will help them learn what to do differently next time. That will help them have a chance at passing eventually.
Another thing -- I heard of a person who did the research paper first thing in her composition class -- at the beginning of the semester -- so that students could revise it over the following weeks to make it better. I have thought of doing that -- giving them the big assignment upfront, and then tediously, I mean virtuously(!) help them rewrite, shape, hone, and radically revise their work. I may still do that next time. We'll see.
OMG, English 101 in the spring is the WORST. My sympathies. (102 in the fall isn't that bad, at least at my institution, because by that point in the comp sequence you get students who have put off taking the second course for all kinds of random reasons that have nothing to do with academic incompetence, as well as some first-time freshmen who have come in with AP or dual enrollment credit for 101. But off-cycle 101 classes are this giant sucking hole of neediness, and I always feel so bad for the two or three good students in there.)
Fie, it's a community college... any body who has 200 bucks (or fin aid) can walk up and take the course. I'm getting the impression that people wash out of a cc as easily as they wash in, and that my course is a "gatekeeper" in all sorts of important ways.
I had one student's essay argument be that Disney ... makes good films, and a bunch of my diesel/welding certificate students who weren't taking the course seriously turn in a random rant or conversation on paper that didn't show the use of sources.
And I don't comment on the research paper since I give extensive comments on the rough drafts (many of which they never showed up to look at before turning in the same paper as their final).
Our career training track only has to pass the first semester, and only the transferring students (which is a small population at this college) have to take second semester comp, so it is a really different world in that other class.
One thing they *didn't* tell me is that the people who pass their remedial course usually take multiple tries to make it through first semester comp ... so much of their official training and stuff on paper is about support and success and never get people discouraged by getting a "bad" grade that I didn't know it was sorta expected that they then fail 101 multiple times.... I need to get better stats on that so that I can match up my expectations and results better.
Oh, and you can't get a D in freshcomp and you MUST pass the research paper with a C or better, department rules.
I am still unclear on whether C- counts for the research paper though. At my last place, you could not pass the research paper with a C- acc. to department rules. So far I have been trying to limit the C- to papers where the student doesn't have the points to pass no matter what.
Stay strong, Sisyphus. Everyone who teaches a course after yours will thank you for not passing people who can't write! I wish people hadn't passed along some of my terrible students.
Ditto to N&M's comment. Stay strong. I already thank those CC profs who made writing mean something real.
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