Ask college students what they love to eat, and, among the answers, you will likely get “Mac & Cheese.”
The reader textbook that I use for English 101, which is the introductory writing course at the community college where I teach, begins with a unit on foods. I suspect the editors know that most students will pay attention to food. During a class discussion on the subject, I asked what favorite foods the students have. And one of the first answers was macaroni and cheese.
Yesterday, when I entered the classroom for my 8 a.m. class, I was greeted by the sight of a small table set up with a large baking dish filled to the brim with newly baked home-made macaroni and cheese. Next to it was a stack of paper plates and plastic forks.
Sitting in the front row in her usual seat sat the beaming cook—a somewhat older student than the typical college freshman. She had decided to make a huge batch of macaroni and cheese, because of the students’ discussion.
Well, let me tell you, folks—macaroni and cheese at 8 a.m. is not what most people want to eat. BUT to be polite, I took a very small helping, and invited the students to help themselves. Only one or two students did.
Other than the humor of an unusual food being introduced into an early morning class, what’s the point of this story? The cook seems to have very little sense of what is going on in class. That’s what. I have all students write an essay the first day of class, for diagnostic purposes. After I read her diagnostic essay, I had a sinking feeling that here was not a potential college student. She did not have the rudiments of college writing, and I told her so. Well, she informed me that she was very persistent; she said she will stick with the class. And, she informed me, even though she had trouble with her introductory reading course, “the dean” assured her she can write. (Lord only knows what that means.)
Now we come to the real nub of the issue. In addition to bringing mac & cheese to class, she also handed in her first paper. The problem is—the paper was due last week, not this week. When I informed her that I would take the paper, but that it was late—she told me she didn’t know it was due last week. Well, I said, the due date is in the syllabus. She then said—I never got one of those. I was so flabbergasted that I didn’t think quickly enough.
Afterwards I thought—wait a minute. Didn’t she wonder when I said to the students, pass your papers forward? Didn’t she hear when I kept reminding students—now your papers are due. . .? Harrumph—no syllabus, indeed!
Well, guess what—tonight, as I sat down to grade her paper, I note that it is not even the correct assignment. In fact, she is so far off topic that I can’t even imagine what she thought she was writing about.
(Can you see my finger wagging back and forth?) Tomorrow, when class convenes, I will tell her—don’t go trying to bribe me with mac & cheese. It isn’t going to work. Only good writing counts for anything in this class.