Today is our Senior’s last day of school. The mood is light hearted but bittersweet, nostalgic.
And they walked into my room third period for their last day. And I had to crush them. It pained me to do it. Like when a parent disciplines a child and says, “This hurts me more than it hurts you,” I had to reveal the results of students’ cumulative assignment: a 10 page, argumentative research paper.
It was a difficult assignment, to be sure. They had to choose and narrow a controversial issue, discuss all sides, craft an argument, refute the opposition, and cite all of it using MLA format. It’s a typical college assignment. Appropriate since this is a dual enrollment course – they are receiving 3 college credits upon successful completion.
The assignment is supposed to be a cumulative reflection of all that they have learned this semester. That’s what it is supposed to be. But, it’s not. Not really. I know what these kids have learned, or at least I thought I knew. But, the papers reflect huge gaps in the ability to cite sources, proofread, and most importantly, use research to craft an effective argument.
The problem is this: I want them all to earn an A for this paper. And the truth is this: They all have the ability to do so. But the reality is this: They didn’t do it.
I nearly started crying while I had to tell them how disappointed I have been grading their research papers. I had to stop twice and compose myself while I broke the news. There are F’s. F’s! No matter how much I love these kids – some of them like they are my own – that is what their work has earned.
No citations to make their research credible. Little to no proofreading done. Major errors in simple things like spelling, agreement, and punctuation. These are errors that no Senior in high school should be making, much less College Freshmen.
I want to give them better grades because I like them. I know how much effort many of these kids put into this work, but they didn’t “finish.” Giving them grades they didn’t earn would be doing them no favors in the long run. Next year they ARE going to have professors who, for the most part, won’t care. But, assigning them some of these grades hurts me because I know it’s going to hurt them.
I’m sitting here at my desk fighting off tears as they finish their final exams because I have no more time left with them. There’s nothing more I can do but send them out and hope they do better next year.
And I can start planning, in hopes that I will do better next year as well.