First year ever! No Titanic! O. M. G.

The average is about 7 or 8. The record was the 1997-98 school year with, count’em, 27.

There was a renaissance in 2010, with about 20.

I’m talking about research papers.

And finally, for the first time since I started at this school in 1993, I won’t have to plow through another “all about the Titanic” nightmare.

O. M. G.

I’m just going to savor that thought for awhile… until some clown “can’t find ANYTHING” on his/her topic, and I cave and say,

“Just do the Titanic.”

Yes, it’s that time of year once again, the dreaded (by me) research paper. You might ask how I managed to sink the Titanic as a research topic, even as James Cameron and other rich guys celebrate the 100th anniversary of the giant metaphor.

I didn’t use it as an example topic. I went through dozens of topics, both good and bad, as we played “Is This a Good Topic or Not?” for a week and a half, and I assiduously made sure I never even mentioned the Titanic as a topic, good or bad.

My whole thing on research is that I HATE the “all about” papers, the encyclopedia papers. I know I’ve ranted about this before… many times… but as far as I am concerned, if they can look up the answer(s) to their question(s) in less than a minute on Google, I ain’t going to call that research. It’s no different than pulling the old encyclopedia off the shelf, back in the day, and doing one of these:

(encyclopedia says) “The covered wagon helped many settlers move west.”

(“my own words”) “Many settlers moved west with the help of the covered wagon.”

One and done, as we used to say.

They can’t cope when I tell them that will get them a zero for plagiarism.

And once again this year, we have a classic misspelling in one of the topic sheets they turn in to me beforehand. Last year’s was a classic, but I think this year’s is even funnier because she actually thought that’s what the word was.

I was reading her proposal while they did the warm up, and I can’t get past the first sentence or two.

“Kat, what do you mean? Like Robin? Ron Weasely? Chewbacca? But only the medium-sized ones? Not the larger or smaller ones?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, you say you want to research sidekick mediums.”

While you’re chewing on that one, here’s a classic from the research unit back in 2009…

Today was our last day in the library. Today I collected one page of their paper. I don’t have the time or the inclination to have them write rough drafts, correct them all, and then do it again with the final drafts. No dice, Cheese Slice. So I tell them to take whatever section of their paper they have the most notes on, and turn those notes into one page of their paper, with formatting, citations, the whole nine yards. I check that, return it, and then they have a week to write the whole paper.

“For example, if your paper is on why the Titanic sank, and you have the most notes on the design and construction section of your paper, write that up as though you were writing your paper–which you are. Then we will both know if you’ve taken enough notes to write the whole paper.

“This should take about a quarter of your notes. Figure that you already have your intro, and your conclusion won’t need notes; that’s where you explain what you found, and whether your thesis was correct or not, and why. So you need notes enough to write about four pages. I’m collecting one page. So if that takes all the notes you have to write that one page, you’re in a world of hurt, and also need more notes. But if after writing that page, you still have plenty of notes to turn into writing, you’re looking good. When I collect the page, I will want to see the notes you used to write it. That way we can make sure none of us are doing the old ‘put it in your own words’ thing at the last minute.”

Oh, the excuses. Amazing how many printers and computers stop working the day something like this is due. Also quite remarkable how some of those who had no notes when I checked yesterday suddenly had a page of writing to show me today.

“Where are the notes you used to write this?”

After a lot of shuffling and mystical hand waving over the binder: “I took a lot of notes at home, but I must have left them there.”


Oh, the BS. “The Titanic was not supposed to sink.” “In a single year, there was an increase of 6.765 million metric tonnes (sic) of CFCs and other greenhouse gasses such as CO and NO and the like that were emitted into our air that we breathe.” “I personally think that the government is hiding something at Area 51 because they keep saying they aren’t.” And my personal fave: “Here’s an experiment I did on my little sister to prove that watching tv violence makes kids violent…”

Oh, the lack of any of what is today called content.

“We’ve been in the library for seven days, and THIS is what you have to show for it?”

“I’m going to do a lot at home.”

(me) “It’s a good thing for a lot of you that this is a three-day weekend coming up. You’re going to need it.”

(a chorus) “What? It’s a three-day weekend?”

Oh, the works cited lists:

  • that site about asthma
  • the encyclopedia from the librarian
  • interview with my sister who has ashtma
  • lots of web sites

Oh, the parent “help.” “…the vines of the rain forest wrap the trees in a sinister embrace, as the persistent water drip from the canopy above…”

“Ummm, Darren, I don’t think this sounds like you.”

“What do you mean? I was trying to impress you with my fancy style.”

“What’s a sinister embrace?”

“Like a monster or something, right? Like, you know.”


The I get to one of our regulars, Milk.

“I did my page, Mr. C. I even did the citation thingies. Man steroids are bad, I don’t wanna grow, ummm, you know what I mean, like a girl. Anyway, I did my page, and will it help my grade? ‘Cause like I said before, I need to bring my grade up in this class. But things are pretty busy right now, so I don’t have a lot of time for homework and stuff. So how do I raise my grade in this class…(wait for it) *without doing ALL the work? Like what should I do to help my grade the most, if I can’t quite do all of it? Like I know I kinda gotta do this paper and stuff, but…

14 more days.