So here's the thing. I admit that I compressed this assignment a bit more than I meant to; in the future, I'd give them another week to work on the things. But most of our class time for the last two weeks has been dedicated to working on their topics or papers, in one way or another, and I've designed a series of graduated assignments to prepare them:
- Brainstorm possible topics.
- In class, come up with "issue questions" based on your topics (in groups).
- Bring your final issue question to class.
- Class in the library: learn about resources and begin researching.
- Turn in an annotated bibliography.
- Turn in an intro paragraph + outline (due tomorrow) for workshopping.
- Final paper due in the middle of next week.
It's their funeral, of course, but I'm just scared that I'm to blame for not giving them more time to do preliminary research. Which is why I'm checking my email all the time and responding as quickly as possible to their desperate questions. I'm also a little worried about some of the topic switches--"Instead of writing about feminist approaches to Hamlet, can I do gene therapy? I think that I could get a good outline on that done by tomorrow"*--because it leads me to suspect that they're just trotting out old papers, or at the very least old research.
[*This isn't a real example, of course. The thing is, I've given them a fairly long leash in selecting topics; this is something that I do when I'm hesitant about an assignment, I've noticed. I also want them to write about things that interest them. But anyway some of the topic switches really have been this dramatic.]
Argh. Whatever. I suspect that many of the papers will be a mess because I'm not reading their drafts. (Seriously--I gave detailed individual comments on the first two major papers and then minimal individual comments + generalized comments on the third, and the grades plummeted. This worries me. In my desire to nurture, have I given them too much help?) Some of the papers are going to be terrific--a good handful will probably turn out really well, as I have some stellar, hard-working students in all of my sections--but I'm kind of dreading reading the others. I know that some of my students don't work all that hard, but I know that some of them really do, and it breaks my heart when they still can't hit a very high level of achievement.
--------I just reread this post, and there's really clear theme here: I'm blaming myself for my students' failures/difficulties/anxiety/stress/etc. Codependent much? How much more obviously insecure could I be? And I don't think that I do this in my literature classes. Interesting.