I just finished my first big round of grading for the term. You start to see a lot of the same things. Not only the same grammatical or structural issues. But the same stories. There are archetypes in Composition class, as there are in life.
I try not to judge my students too harshly for their personal choices. At times I am exasperated by their failures of critical thinking. But many of them are young and those who are not young are trying to make their lives better and achieve a long-neglected goal.
It can be hard to remember that when you’re knee deep in essays that fail to imagine the world complexly or are obvious half-hearted efforts.*
It should be my job to help them address both their syntax and their way of thinking about the world, but the class isn’t really designed for that. And I’m not sure many of them want their minds expanded anyway. They want degrees. It is my job to help them get degrees–but if and only if they do the work.
Some days that’s pretty demoralizing. But other days, I do my best to get them thinking, if only about the way they put their arguments together. Engage their logic. Socrates taught through questions, not lectures, right?
(I am not even close to Socrates. It’s a good day when I get someone to care about what a thesis is.)
At the end of the day, I try my best to be fair if nothing else. I would never fail someone for their personal beliefs. In fact, the more I disagree with you, the more of an ice-cold professional am. (You better hope in that case, though, that you fulfilled the assignment properly, because leeway has died.) Everyone gets a fair shot. And when I mess up–most often by being late, although it only happens occasionally)–I own it and make allowances.
In general, I try to be understanding. After all, who understands taking the digital route more than me? There’s a balance between being a softy and a tyrant, though. I try to walk that line. I imagine my students feel differently about it on different days.
“She gave me an extension even though I asked at the last minute.” <—softy
“She’s making me rewrite my fucking whole essay.” <—tyrant
I am stingy with A’s, though. And I will not feel sorry about that.
*There are always exceptions. I love exceptions. They are my favorites.