Mid-December: Students bring in drafts of papers; randomly assigned fellow students read, instructed to give kind, helpful, and specific criticism. A. receives N. as his "critical friend;" she is insightful--he is lucky.
Five minutes ago: Teacher reads A's paper and despairs. The intro is awful, but A is just getting started. Here is a transcript, but just a sampling of a much longer and more awful paragraph in a much longer and more dreadful paper--mind you, his paper is supposed to be about Orwell's Animal Farm:
"Deer aren't respected; they just mind their own business and are shot, cooked, and eaten. Why was the play called "The Lion King" and not "The Monkey King"? I personally think an ape should be king of the jungle. And why is Fat Albert so fat? I mean that has nothing to do with my point and point is in the next sentence. My point is that class issues isn't always how we interpret it."
As much as his paper makes me want to fall on my sword, it is an indicator of my next steps. Upon return, our class will read some of the successful papers and identify what makes them good. This student will be required to write a new, PROPER intro, and if I have to personally ok every sentence as he writes it, so be it. I am not allowed to throw up my hands (although they can't stop me from throwing up) and dismiss him; I am going to educate the pop culture out of him. I am gonna work him until he writes a paper he can proudly show his grandma, who happens to be a friend of mine from my early teaching days.
I have my work cut out for me.