Scaredy Cat

Tiffany LaPeer
Adjunct instructor of English Language and Literature

Jasmine walked into the room for her conference.  When she sat down, she held her arms close to her body and her body language, indicated that she was nervous and scared.  As Jasmine was getting comfortable in her seat, I tried to find the words to talk to her about her paper.

Her paper for her composition class lacked paragraph structure and organization.  Jasmine’s work was a prime example of high school graduate from Detroit public schools.  The essay was supposed to be a memoir on her life, and someone who influenced her to go into her future career.  She wrote about her brother who had multiple mental disorders.   As I pulled out her paper, she saw some of the comments, and started to stutter.

I looked at the paper and looked back at Jasmine.  Her eyes looked moist, and her bottom lip began to quiver.  I silently began to curse myself because I knew she would cry and I haven’t even started talking to her besides a normal greeting.

“Well Jasmine,” I said, “you have a lot of great ideas here, and a really strong reason for going into social work.  The paper I have in front of me is a little difficult to read.  Can you look at this for a second and tell me where the first paragraph ends?”

Jasmine took her paper and started to flip the pages.  She continued to flip the pages until she got to the end of the paper.  Her emotions went from sad to upset quickly.

“Well, I know this is not one idea throughout your three pages.  I know in this paper you have multiple ideas, and these are great ideas, it’s just we need to move some ideas around and then….”  I started to say, but then Jasmine interrupted me, “So basically re-write the whole essay again!  I failed!”

I finally understood why she was upset, in her mind, if she has to revise a paper, she failed, and her writing was horrible.  She saw rewriting an essay as another way she failed a class, or failed an assignment.  This was a challenging moment for Jasmine and I to understand.  For her, she needed to understand that she wasn’t failing that this is actually part of the writing process.  For me, it showed me how emotionally entailed many student’s view their grades.  While they may hide their emotions, they are going to school for a reason and part of that reason was not to look stupid or dumb to people around them.