This coming week is the last full week of class in the semester. I will be giving back one set of execrable papers and picking up drafts for another, which I hope will be better, but have little reason, in truth, for that hope. It is still an independent research paper, and the students have shown themselves mostly to be incapable of this--mostly because the topic involves textual analysis rather than sociological issues. It seems that sticking with such issues will be a better idea, unless one does a study of a particular theme or kind of text , or works by one author/filmmaker. So a class in Kubrick might work, with research papers about one of his films, but that will probably not occupy more than one or two research papers, rather than the 3 or so I'd like their topic to examine.
The thing that bothers me most about these papers is the feeling that I have not been able to do my job as well as I would have liked to this time. It is both what is happening with my parents and the topic of the class that has kept me from teaching them to write argument and research topics as well as I would have liked. It isn't for lack of trying; something just had to give, I suppose. And being overly ambitious about taking on a new topic now was clearly a mistake. SO I guess I have learned something, and can go on to the next thing... preparing summer's syllabus and assignments.