Wednesday, November 28, 2007

But I Did My Work

Ahead of me lies a meeting with a student and an academic advisor and a whole pile of guilt that is not rightly mine.

When the fall semester began, I found a student in my class whose writing skills were more problematic than any I have encountered in my five years of teaching. It was jarring, disheartening, and upsetting to come across a person in their thirties who could not construct a simple sentence, but this student really wanted to learn. So I did what I've never done before and I said to myself, Okay, this student is your project this semester. You're going to teach this student to write.

Honestly, I've never made that sort of goal with an individual student before. Sure, I've thought things like, I hope he cleans up his sentences or I want her to understand how to identify a run-on, but I've never decided on as a student as a project. I've never become quite so invested in such an intentional and planned way.

I worked with this student, took extra time out of every class to sit with the student, and encouraged the student to meet with me during office hours and to go to the writing center. The student came to my office hours once and never went to the writing center, despite insisting that they really, really wanted to learn and really wanted to become a better writer. I gave this student lots of chances on revision and I used up loads of patience waiting for this student to tell me where the verb was in a sentence.

But now, as we near the end of the semester, the student is failing and cannot pass despite my efforts. I let the student know and the student is very angry. The student will fight it and so now, I will be meeting with the student and an advisor today to discuss the student's options.

I'm disappointed because I really wanted the student to succeed and I feel like it's my fault - not because I failed the student, but because of the implication that the student should get yet another chance when what the student really needs is another semester to get the basic principles of writing down.

And I'm annoyed because the fact of the matter is this: I did my work. The student did not. But I'm guessing between the two of us, I'm wearing more of the guilt.


Foxygen said...

It sounds like the student approached writing like many people approach dieting - they know it will take work, and when it comes down to it, they just don't want to put in the work. And they feel like they deserve more just by showing up. Don't cave. You did your part.

Nik said...

Arg! So maddening. But you're doing the good work and we appreciate it even if your students don't.

Anonymous said...

You are right I'm sure, you are wearing more guilt. In fact you are most likely feeling this way because you are disappointed 1. because you put in extra time, attention and emotion with the student and 2. the student did NOTHING. I wish I could get more just by showing up, shit, I'd be rich in all sorts of ways if showing up is all it took. BLynn