Right now my students are reading an excerpt from Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking.”

In case you’re unfamiliar with it I’ll summarize:

During an ordinary night in their ordinary New York apartment, Joan Didion’s husband, John Dunne, suffers a heart attack and dies. In order to make sense of his death, she chronicles her experience through the grieving process. Didion is a much better writer than I, and her prose are thoughtful, direct, and honest if anything else. However, the book is also incredibly sad.

She’s talking about death people, this isn’t light hearted fare.

My students are enjoying the piece (when they’re not weeping uncontrollably) and our discussions have been going well. One of our talks brought us to the five stages of grief. If you’ve never heard of the five stages of grief, or simply have no idea what they are, I will summarize them for you:

Denial: refusal to accept a loved one’s death

Anger: the person is either angry at his or herself or others

Bargaining: hope that you can delay the inevitable

Depression: sadness…lots and lots of sadness.

Acceptance: you come to terms with the issue

What is most interesting about the five stages of grief is that they’re not limited to people that have experienced the death of a loved one. One can grieve over a variety of tragic and unexpected occurences. (You see exactly where I’m going with this don’t you?) If one experiences a loss or some kind of major crisis, one can experience one or all of the five stages of grief. Take my students’ papers for example. Each one is its own tragic and unexpected occurence.

This is not to say that my students are bad students. I have been blessed with classes of smart and intelligent individuals. The thing with teaching college is that you often forget that you’re teaching college students. You forget that when you were in college you didn’t know everything and were apt to make mistakes. Therefore, you walk into the college classroom expecting to meet a group of self-confident, capable young adults.

And it’s adorable that you think that.

Hope does spring eternal.

When awaits you when you enter the college classroom are adult-lite individuals. They are grown up enough that they know how to go to class on time, feed themselves, and turn in their papers. They are NOT grown-up enough that they will go to on time everyday, feed themselves something besides Taco Bell, and turn in their papers without mistakes.

That’s why they’re adult-lite.

They’re Diet Pepsi.

All the flavor of regular Pepsi but with half the calories.

As a result of their lite status, I often get papers with the most rididulous, easily fixed errors. That’s why I go through the five stages of grief every time I grade their papers.

Here you have, dear reader, The Five Stages of Grading:

Denial: “No. No, that didn’t just happen. That’s not right. That must be some other word. No one spells gnomes N-O-W-M-S. Absolutely not. This is not happening.”

Anger: “STOP USING SEMI-COLONS!!!! YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW TO USE THEM! I forbid it! I forbid you to use a semicolon! And why aren’t you citing the text?! We read two essays! You must include textual evidence in order to support your argument!”

Bargaining: “If you stop using run on sentences I will give you an A. How does an A sound? Just use some punctuation. Not a semicolon. Do not use a semicolon. If you use a period at least once in this paper I will pass you for the semester. Please. When God made light He also made the full stop. Please start using periods.

Depression: “Why bother? It’s no use. Gnomes can be nowms. We can use semicolons all the live long day. Who cares? All we are is dust in the wind. Everything is hopeless. The text is pointless.”

Acceptance: “It’s going to be ok. I can handle this. I can grade every single one of these papers. Tomorrow we’ll go over how to use a dictionary. We’ll discuss the propoer use of semi-colons. I’m ok with this. Life is peachy.”

I should probably let you know that I don’t get to the acceptance stage until after I’ve eaten my weight in cookies and had a glass of wine.

That’s happens.

Please don’t judge me.