Dead week almost killed me. Really. Besides the mountains of grading, I got to be the recipient of all that student wrath--and that's always much harder on me than the actual grading.
Dead week's about the time the students start to realize the ramifications (like, "But I'll lose my scholarship!" or "But I'll be kicked off the team!" or "But Mom & Dad will kill me!") of all those poor decisions they've been making all semester (like skipping class, not reading assigned texts, and failing to turn things in). And it's a whole lot easier to be angry at your professor than it is to admit that you're the cause of your own problems.
In Comp classes, the most important paper is usually the last one--the dreaded research paper. There are, of course, those nasty plagiarism issues. They are never fun to deal with. I usually hear "But I didn't know!"s, no matter how much I explain plagiarism in class, and I often see tears. Sometimes there are protests of innocence, even with the proof staring them in the face.
But the issue that gets me the most is students' refusal to read and follow directions. Now, because of past experience, both my syllabus and my Essay Assignment Sheets look surprisingly like legal documents. They include things like:
--Two scholarly sources are required. Failure to cite two scholarly sources will result in a grade of zero and your paper will not be graded.
--A Works Cited page is required. Failure to submit a Works Cited page will result in a grade of zero and your paper will not be graded.
--Photocopies of all sources with the borrowed information highlighted is required. Papers submitted without highlighted photocopies will receive a grade of zero and will not be graded.
--A plagairized paper will receive a grade of zero, with no opportunity to redo the essay.
--Your essay must be at least X# of pages long. If your paper is not a full X# of pages, it will receive a zero and your paper will not be graded.
You get the picture? OK.
So, not only do I spell out the requirements in detail, I also read the assignment out loud, explaining each requirement. I remind them during the process. THEN, on the last day of class before they submit their papers, I give them a checklist for editing and revision. Along with things like "Does your paper have a title? _____", I have questions like "Is your paper a full X pages long? _____ "and "Do you have a Works Cited page? _____" On the list is also "Have you included copies of your sources? _____ Remember, failure to submit copies of your sources will result in a failing grade." Notice the handy spot provided for their yes or no answers.
Elementary, my dear Watson. Or so you'd think.
But, no! I get papers that are half a page too short. I get papers with one source. I get papers turned in without photocopies of sources. And what grade do these papers get? Say it with me class: "Zero!" And to make matters worse, usually these students have written "yes" in every blank of that handy-dandy checklist that I've provided.
Now, here comes the worst part. Do you know whose fault those zeroes are? Are they the fault of those students who didn't read directions? Or who didn't listen in class? Or who assumed I didn't mean what I wrote and said? No! Of course not! It's MY fault. So students get angry and shout "Stupid class!" or slam doors or throw their papers all over the hall. One student told me that I just wasn't merciful.
Another student who hasn't managed to follow a direction all year told me she plans to major in nursing. I'm frightened.