One of my colleagues posted today about how hard he's finding it to teach first year students, and contrasting the ways his MA students and intro students have handled their respective assignments, in class discussions, and so forth. He sounds really beaten down.
Then I went to the final peer revision day for my first year writing course. Now, these students are exceptionally motivated, because they all want to get into our nursing program, and it's really tough to get into. We've been working cooperatively with a nursing class, so they've been mostly writing on related topics that they're really interested in.
Anyway, I read and gave feedback on several really excellent drafts. At the end, I gave one last student feedback. They'd written a really strong draft for the project, and were commenting on how much they'd learned doing to last two projects.
And then they talked a bit about how much they'd learned in college, and how, sitting with some friends, talking into the wee hours, they'd really felt like they're in college, like they're having the sorts of deep conversations that college is supposed to be about. (We try to foster those conversations in classes, of course, but sometimes, the best college conversations happen in dorms and stairwells, with nary an instructor in sight.)
It really gave me hope. These particular students have come a long way in their writing; they're all thinking more complexly about things than they were just a few short months ago.
And they'll continue to grow. That does give me some hope. Really, it does. I feel so much better after talking with her than I did before.