Why so serious?

Another busy weekend of reading undergraduate work.

One thing that immediately struck me about this course is that my students take on such grim topics for their writing assignments. Terrorism. War. Cyberattacks. Illness. Global warming.

Someone told them at some point that essays have to be deadly serious, I think. It’s not even really present in the instructions to the degree I see it in their writing.

It may be, too, of course that they write about their preoccupations. I definitely encourage them to write about their interests, but most of what I get is not fun for either of us.

I guess it doesn’t have to be fun, but it’s a writing class. The central goals of the course are to increase verbal expression, familiarize them with different essay structures, and help them consider rhetorical strategy. The content should be well discussed and objectively presented, but it does not need fit any particular discipline or even really be very academic.

This term was the first time I was explicit about the range of what they could write. (Literally anything as long as it fills the assignment requirements.) And I’ve gotten a few more interesting debates about pop culture. Those were fun. I imagine they were more entertaining to write, too. And it’s not the kind of class that has a ton of room for fun. The material’s pretty dry. We aren’t in the classroom so it’s tough to liven things up in any meaningful way. So I try to give them space to enjoy the writing, even a little.

And yet. Most of the time I need breaks from grading not because I’m tired of correcting punctuation and passive voice, but because I’m so damned depressed I need to think about something happy for a minute.

Ah well. A few more weeks.

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