One of the more frustrating things about being a teacher is having students that, no matter how much you hold their hand, how many concessions you make and how many times you email their parents, they will not do the work. While my frustration level has gone down slightly this year due to the addition on AP classes, my English 3 students still exhibit this phenomenon regularly. Our regular students chose a controversial current event to research, and then will write a 1500 word paper informing about the nature of the situation, explaining different points of view, and then taking and defending a position of their own regarding the event. With topics as varied as the Iranian nuclear program to the Sandy Hook shooting to the Casey Anthony trial and the NFL lockout, everyone found something of interest to them. It seemed an easy, even someone pleasurable project.
Students have had seven days in the computer lab to research; they were to find eight sources (I listed seven news sites on my website they could use), find a minimum of 30 facts (they could copy and paste the information into Google Docs, then paraphrase it from there), and create an outline for their paper using their facts. I created examples for the website, and it took me 30 minutes to do what I gave them seven class days to accomplish. I sent them daily emails with what they needed. All the instructions were online. I checked in daily to see what they were working on. And yet, when I graded note cards and outlines yesterday for one class, 16 students out of 21 had not completed all their work, and 11 were failing the class because of it. We are three bleeping weeks into the semester, they could COPY AND PASTE for credit, and they are failing. Suddenly, they are all, “Well now I’m not eligible for baseball,” as if this was a sudden occurrence and not three weeks in the making. Sigh.
I had a funny conversation with one of my new-to-AP students today, we’ll call him Tyler, who’s really latched on to my class. He researched 1984, and is writing a paper proving the futility of rebelling against a totalitarian regime and the importance of not creating one in the first place. He utilized our high school library electronic databases as well as narrowing his Google Searches to .edu sites. One of his friends in the class, also a new-to-AP student, also read 1984, and was one of my students who emailed me the night their note cards were due asking for an extension because, “I am having problems finding sources.” I suggested in class that he ask Tyler, because I knew he had found some good sources. Tyler told me privately after class that he HAD tried to help his friend, showing him what he had searched for and even emailing him links, and he just didn’t understand why his friend couldn’t be bothered to READ what he sent him, especially when Tyler felt like he had done all the work in the first place and all his friend had to do was copy and paste the information before paraphrasing. “I don’t get it, Mrs. H…” Tyler said to me. “I even sent him the sources…why would be still be so far behind?” I wanted to hug him and explain that he just uncovered one of the primary frustrations of being a teacher. As one wise English teacher once told me, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it read.”