Pineapple Boy (previously referred to as Muscle Boy, but the pineapple thing is already reaching legendary status) is struggling. I think all his braincells are engaged in digesting all his food, and then there’s the build up of muscle in his neck, which may be restricting bloodflow to the important thinking areas of the head. His class were doing an in-class essay a last week, and he had a lot of trouble following instructions, and especially instructions to do with the citing of sources in MLA format.
I give you the following as an illustration:
Pineapple Boy: So do we have to do that thing at the end of our story?
[It’s like a giant flashing warning sign when students refer to essays as stories, you know, like they have no clear understanding of writing as having genres or audiences or anything like that. Words on page=story. This is not going to be a nuanced argument that is produced here. But I digress.]
Me: The conclusion?
PB: No, the biography, or whatever.
Me [stabbing in the dark]: The works cited?
PB: Yeah, that. What is it called?
Me: The works cited. I just told you.
PB: Well, I can’t be expected to remember it. [I think the rule about “no food in the lab” is making him testy.]
Some time passes. I wander around the room answering slightly less moronic questions from the general populace. Later, I look over Pineapple Boy’s shoulder, and see that he has written “Citation” instead of “Works Cited”.
Me: You need to change that to “Works Cited,” like I told you.
PB: Well, geez. It’s not like I do this for a living, you know.
Me [thinks]: This is probably just as well, or you would starve.
Pineapple Boy’s “story” was not a roaring success. Among other things, it claimed that the term “sir” was a racial epithet equivalent to the word “nigga”.
So, he got a bad mark, and he wanted to rewrite, and against my better judgement I agreed. He informed me, during our conversation (which lasted about 10 minutes, and during which time he consumed some kind of health food bar) that he had “never heard of commas until this class”.
On Monday, the rest of Pineapple Boy’s class, who are lazy slackers, except for Entrepreneur Guy, who is very focussed but had to run out of class because someone dinged his illegally parked $60,000 vehicle, did not do their reading. The reason? Well, I had listed the pages they needed to read from the textbook in their Course Schedule, but I hadn’t given the exact name of the “stories”. Apparently, “Chapter 2, pages 67-78” is not specific enough. (I got the same shit from a student in another class who said that the instruction “Unless otherwise stated, all readings are from Textbook X” was not clear enough, and I should list the every single reading by the name of the story, the page, and the phrase, “this reading is found in Textbook X”.) Since none of them had done the reading, I turfed them out of the class with orders to do it, and the reading for next class for next class. They left. 10 minutes later, Pineapple Boy wandered back into the room – he was on a food break – and asked where everyone went. I explained. “I did the reading,” he declared, confidently.
So, Wednesday rolled around, and I decided to give the slacker class a kick in the pants by making them write a short essay about the reading. Because I am not utterly evil, I offered marks for students who did well. They moaned a bit, but eventually got cracking on the task. Five minutes later, Pineapple Boy – who had been on a food break – came back into class, and asked what was up. I explained. He proceeded to pack up his stuff noisily, including repacking his lunchbox, and flounce out of the class.
He emailed me later about how he was “sure you would not care why i left the class but i will tell you anyway”. Apparently, it is unreasonable of me to expect him to retain information or produce written responses to the assigned reading, because this requires him to remember stuff about what he reads. He has a lot of other classes, and after a couple in a day, his “brain is fried”. He also said he had been spending a lot of time on his “grammer. not that you will belive me when you read this email but i dont think that is important in this case.”
He’s very determined to succeed, but he has no idea what strategies will help him, so he flails around wildly. I offer suggestions about how he might work more productively, but he dismisses them as ridiculous and fanciful. He came to see me, all earnest about how he had copied out the reading. Why? I have no idea.
Stay tuned. There is sure to be an update.