I can't do it. I can't.
Yes, I'm being melodramatic. There have been (my favorite word:) histrionics (just a little). But oh, do you ever come to a point where you look at the papers sitting in a shiny tidy pile and think, I can't? I mean, you can't even imagine yourself grading them. It's like back in the early '00s when I was in a bad relationship, living with the guy, and I tried to imagine my future with him (marriage, kids) and I couldn't see myself; I saw some other person who was only kind of like me. That's when I knew we had to break up. It's like that. I need to break up with my papers.
I've read a few, and readers, they are not good. No! What happened? Their mid-term papers were better than this. I don't understand. It's clear that many of these students (in the survey) have no idea what a literature paper looks like. And part of that is my fault--if I have a smaller section next year, I'll build in some more writing instruction--but not all of it. They should be able to write more than six pages without packing in the blatant fluff.
And as I said, their mid-terms were better. In fairness, maybe they looked at their blank computer screens, and thought, like me, I can't.
So we're all caught in this sinister merry-go-round of impossible, reluctant activity breeding more impossible, reluctant activity. I will hand back the papers--eventually--ideally before the final exam--and they will look at the first pages, and contemplate turning to the back to see their grades, and think, I can't.