I just realized that I have a student who very likely has some kind of learning disorder... something like dyslexia... and who probably has no clue and is undiagnosed. I don't know much about it. But now that I consider the way he writes, it seems blindingly obvious. Words are missing in what seems like no pattern at all that made sense to me. Also I think that dyslexia plus a spell checker is a bad idea. And suddenly I realize that my constant "please proofread more carefully" "take time to proofread" "look up subject/verb agreement in index" comments on all his papers were utterly pointless! I am going to try hard to get him to revise with help, and am advising him to read aloud or get someone to read the paper aloud to him. I figure that sub-vocalizing on the final might help as well.
And a student who missed a week or so of class, right at the time when I went over all the intense "citation and plagiarism" stuff, turned in a paper of bits glued together from several different online articles. I don't think she just used an essay bought from a service. I think she sat down and stuck bits together into a structure that she thought up. Often, I think she thought she was paraphrasing or putting things in her own words, when actually she was taking each sentence, changing its structure slightly or using a couple of synonyms, and thus replicating entire paragraphs. But I seriously don't think she did it "on purpose"... but from ignorance. Maybe I'm being dumb... I want to offer her revision as well, because she did miss those classes.
It's very upsetting... The whole thing is getting to me massively.
Everything seems like my own failure to realize how to reach the individual students - I know I didn't take enough time to do that and to communicate early in the semester. I put all my communication into the detailed comments on the papers! And not enough into individual feedback on more of a meta-level.
The students who did good work, especially the ones who improved over the semester, put some heart back into me. But when I think of the others I just want to cry. I know it's their responsibility to get help if they are messing up, but it is also my responsibility to help them do that and to figure out where the system or my own teaching is not helping.