Monday, May 21, 2012

Research Ridiculousness

As an English teacher, I am charged with a seemingly impossible task: teach teenagers, who, on a normal day, cannot string together coherent thoughts, to construct formal, informative, interesting research papers on a topic about which they could not care less. If I turn out to be an abominable human being, my eternity will consist of perpetually reading painful research papers that make my eyes bleed...literally (not just the figurative bleeding that they currently do when I read research papers).

Okay, so maybe I am being a bit harsh? Honestly, not all of the essays are terrible. Some gems sneak into the stack. However, those gems are very rare...very.

And then I think of something. Why the hell does the "system" force me to force my students to write research papers about topics that bore them? And why must it leech so much time? Would it not make more sense to teach the skills relevant to research in a fashion that takes less time and involves more worthy (in the students' eyes) subject matter? My regular-level sophomore boys do not give a flying ninny pants about Literature (yes, with the capital L). They just don't. So, why would they want to first learn how to write a research paper and then write one about this "Literature?" They wouldn't. However, developing research skills is critical to becoming a more effective consumer of information.

If we could just focus on the skills, not the final product involved, then grading would be [theoretically] less painful for me, and research would be [theoretically] less painful for students. Oh, the novel ideas we lowly teachers consider in our ever-fanciful brains.

Anyway, today's poem is dedicated to all you teachers who must grade research papers and all of you students who must write them. Enjoy.

In comparison...

Plucking every hair from my head and
Knitting a prize-winning scarf
Would come with utter ease

Chasing a rabid bear and
Tackling him to the ground
Would not shake my knobby knees

Carrying a wildebeest on my shoulders and
Dancing a ten-hour polka
Would be a total hit 

Poking out my ocular organ and
FlambĂ©ing it in some acid
Would not hurt a bit

Punching myself in the throat and
Singing the nation's anthem
Would offer quite a thrill

Running away to Deliverance and
Befriending the locals
Would not be against my will

Oh, county magnates, can you not see?
All of these tasks might just be
Less painful,
in comparison,
than research is to me. 

Dramatic? True. But I needed some imagery to clearly convey the range of (negative) emotions that overwhelm me as I try to grade some of the most painful papers. If you've never graded or written a research paper, consider yourself lucky. It is also quite possible that you live under a rock.

I am going to go waste my brain cells on junk TV now.


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