I had a student come in the other day and ask specifically for grammar help. He even made it a point to say, “I am really happy with the organization of my paper. I just want to work on grammar issues.” He seemed to know the center’s MO before we began, and wanted nothing to do with it.
“Okay,” I thought, “that’s fine.” Grammar isn’t my favorite thing to do in the center, for reasons I’m sure many of you are aware of. I find it not only tedious, but also not in the student’s best interest. Focusing on a paper through the “grammar lens” leaves many things that I find more important up in the air.
So anyway, there we are looking at only grammar in his paper. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this particular student had a problem with comma splices and run-on sentences. Actually, it was pretty bad. Every-other sentence would be a paragraph long. I explained to the student just what a comma splice was, and how easy it is usually to correct. This was after reading just two of the paper’s ten pages.
He was reading the paper aloud, and I started to notice that he was becoming more aware of his comma splices. He would stop just a second after reading one and correct it appropriately. I thought to myself, “wow, have I done my job here!” At this point, I sat back for the ride, offering encouragement and advice where necessary.
BUT THEN MY GLORIOUS UNIVERSE WAS TORN ASUNDER! I realized I was offering the student non-verbal cues every time we reached a troublesome sentence; he would read something objectionable, I would barely flick my pencil in response. He somehow came to notice this and corrected the problem. At this point, I felt terrible. Although I had explained to the student in great, pained detail what a comma splice was, it probably never registered with him. The whole process had been subverted by my nervous, uncanny reflexes.
Oh did I just feel like crud for a little while after this consultation. Has anyone had a consultation similar to this? Maybe another instance when you thought you did one thing, in reality doing something completely different? How did you cheer up afterwards?