I have about given up on everything in my classes. I can't stop them from talking or turning in shit late, or being in class on time. I cajole and threaten, I take points off, nothing works. They don't care. They flunk and they sign up again next semester. They stop coming and they become someone else's problems.
It makes me crazy.
But I do have one rule. I don't know how it came about, but of all the stuff in my syllabus there's one thing I hold on to. Homework, assignments, and essays must be stapled.
It's bold faced. I'm not even joking. I mention it in class. I talk about it before each thing comes in. I make a joke out of it, so they don't think I've gone completely out of my gourd. I bring staplers to class sometimes. I give them away sometimes. I buy the cheapo minis at our campus store and pass them out. I pick up old ones that the library is going to toss, clean them, oil them, fill them, and pass them out.
I don't even care if my students call me the Stapler Nazi. I figure it's good to be known as something other than just some faceless teaching drone.
So, staplers, you get it? I'm adamant about stapling the work that comes in. And I won't bore you, but seriously, papers get mixed up, they slide around in a big briefcase. Stuff gets lost, mixed in. It slows down my grading. It takes longer to get work back. There's the endless bullshit of, "well maybe you lost it."
My students turn in something almost every day, even if it's just +/- stuff for homework. Staple it, I say. I won't even take it if it's not stapled. That's the RULE. I've given up almost everywhere else. I've let the heathens in through every opening otherwise, but not on this. The world's gone mad, the economy is in shambles, overpopulation, drought, mad cow, Lyme disease, whatever. But you turn in something to me, and it has to be stapled.
So, Jeremy, sweet Jeremy, who's been in my class for 6 weeks now, hands me 20 sheets of rough drafts, notes, graphs, worksheets, etc. as I'm leaving class. I'm late. He's missed most of class because he was getting his stuff together. He catches me at the classroom door and follows along with his excuses while I go down the stairs.
He pulls out the unruly sheaf of papers at the front door. He proffers them. I can see they're fluttering in the breeze, no staple, no nothing. 20 loose sheets of paper that account for about 15% of his grade for the term.
"Stapled?" I say, gulping.
"Uh, couldn't find one," he says, and then he plops them in my hand.
He starts down the stairs, and I stare at the stack of papers. A boy coming up bumps me, and just then a breeze swoops across. Jeremy's papers go everywhere. Fluttering. It's October leaves. They fly and spin and shoot across my field of vision.
Then I see Jeremy at the bottom of the stairs. His mouth is open. He's starting to laugh. "I turned them IN," he says. "You took them. It's your problem NOW..." And he starts into a jog, away from me, across the quad, while his papers still fly free.