As a teacher of college writing, I see more than your average number of typos, diction errors, crazy punctuation combinations, and free-floating quotations. In fact, it is my job to try to teach the young and (often) unwilling students how to be successful writers at the college level, and I take my job seriously. It takes oodles more time to teach writing than to teach literature--not only because there is about 1000% more grading--but because I am really trying to invest in their lives by teaching a skill that they might never again be forced to sit down and learn. Literature may or may not play a large role in their lives. I hope it does, and I encourage them to read and read widely, but I can't force them to enjoy the task. However, their ability (or inability, in some cases) to write well will affect their lives, regardless of their future plans for themselves. I am convinced of this. That is why, when I was handed an essay arguing against using animals in scientific research last week, I was optimistic and looking forward to reading the essay. Until I got to this sentence:
"The U. S. government should be much more protective of primates, especially chickens."
Do I laugh? Do I cry? Do I quit and head for the proverbial hills? No, I wrote the ever-appropriate comment in the margin: Nope. Check your source on this one [with "chickens" underlined].
So, I set up a meeting with the young lady to discuss the essay, because the remaining pages were virtually indecipherable. Hopefully I'll be able to help her today during my lunch break. All I have to say is that teaching writing is not for the weak. Or for those without a sense of humor.
For example, one of my football players turned in an argument essay about how it's easier for an athlete to receive new concussions once they've already had one in the past (apparently he's already sustained four concussions in two years), but he wrote, "By the time I got to the hospital, it still took awhile for me to regain my conscience."
All laughing aside, it may take years for me to regain my conscience after reading all these papers and chuckling (sometimes for hours on end). I love my students. I encourage them. I care about them. I pray for them. I teach them well. All I can do is nurture their brains the best I can while they're in my classroom, because once they find their way into the big big scary world out there with a questionable grading curve, they will need to have consciences, rudimentary knowledge about primates, and, of course, basic writing skills.