I just turned back a set of papers that were fairly typical first year writing class papers. Overall, they were dismal in the way that such papers tend to be, but since students have an opportunity to revise them for a different grade, it's not horrific.
But I hate turning back papers. I find it stressful.
The students flip to the grade, and then they tend to look down, and I know they feel bad, and I don't want them to feel bad. I want them to write really good papers.
I know they've tried hard, but there's a point where trying hard doesn't always lead to stunning success. I can try as hard as I want, practice with massive diligence, and still, I won't succeed in the NBA. Or on the Tour. (And then, of course, there are degrees of "trying hard." I may ride really hard for an hour, but that doesn't compare to spending six or more hours on a bike just about every day of the week. Similarly, what counts as hard work for one student may not for another.) And I'm not grading effort.