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2009-12-21 - 2:02 p.m.

...what do you do with people who cannot write?....

The hallways are pretty quiet up here on the Mountain - most of my colleagues have already gone off to begin their holidays. I probably could do the same, except for my knowledge of the work ahead of me in the new year. I'm already getting nervous over upcoming lectures, readings, homeworks, and a week-long trip to conferences at which I must give two talks. Two talks that I haven't even started to prepare. Ugh.

I've been working all morning on my student's thesis revision. Life is all about learned lessons, isn't it? I've learned that I will not accept another student without seeing a sample of his or her writing first. My goodness.

We are on Draft 15. Part of the problem is that even after four months of working with him, I do not see that he has picked up ANYthing that I've explained to him. His thesis basically represents MY writing.

I knew that writing was a challenge for this student when I accepted him, but I expected at least that he would be capable of learning. It is one thing to be fixing word choice and incomplete sentences, but what really frustrates me is that some points just seem obvious, and I cannot understand why he cannot follow through with them. For example, if someone asks for a you to clarify some point in your text, it is not sufficient to write, "it's already clear. If I add more it might confuse the readers." Hello, the readers have already reported to you that the text is NOT clear... Furthermore, wouldn't you spell-check a document before you hand it in to your supervisor?? How is it that the same repeated errors seep in draft after draft?? I should not have to fix these things repeatedly, and it frustrates me to the point of boiling my blood. It is near-impossible for me to write supportive critiques when the errors I am correcting reflect blatant carelessness.

I beg anyone out there to explain to me how someone can be like this, so that I can find a bone of empathy in my body.

I've already asked if he is dyslexic. He says that, no, he has in fact been tested for dyslexia, but no, that isn't the problem. I wonder if there is such a thing as writing-phobia, equivalent to other people's fear of math. I wonder if this writing-phobia makes him incapable of applying logic. The phobia creates a mental block. Just as some people see an equation and freeze, this person is terrified by putting an idea on the page. Nothing I can say or do will make the writing process logical for him. And if is the case, are there any therapies?

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