Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Just My Imagination

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Just My Imagination

Article excerpt

I am reviewing the remedial portfolio of one of my colleague's students. I have only her name (Rose) and her work (incomplete, disordered, unresponsive).

I've seen worse remedial portfolios in English: floundering ones, where the confusion or incomprehension is loud and clear. I feel bad for the students whose learning disabilities have shut down their sense of writing to length. Or the foreign-language learners who babble in ungrammatical bewilderment.

But Rose is a Rose is a Rose. The reason she is not rising is that, with all her abilities, with all her native fluency, she just doesn't give a hoot.

Before I can resign myself to her fate, I catch myself becoming attached to her. As I am calculating her abominable reading exam score, I say aloud, to my surprise, "I hate you!" I don't know her, but in my frustration I imagine her...and burst out again: "I hate you!"

What I see in my mind's eye is a young woman complaining but not listening, glancing at the directions but not following them. I see her insisting to anyone who'll listen, "I don't belong there, I ain't dumb", thereby insulting both me and her classmates.

I imagine her imagining me. She thinks that the classroom teacher and I have it in for her, that we've conspired to fail her. I imagine Rose's teacher reminding her that she hasn't written enough, that she hasn't paid attention to the revision comments from her classmates and hasn't followed the directions from the start. In her second draft she has left out a no and two nots, thereby reversing her (crummy) argument. …

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