Working with students is an education.
I have been receiving essays on the English Renaissance sonnet and lyric over the past two days from my tutorial groups and I have seldom ever experienced such disorganisation and misunderstanding. I have clearly over-estimated our country's school system and it ability to teach students anything about poetry, and about the ability to learn new things. I discovered on Friday that several of my students had never done poetry at school. More than this, after almost an entire year at University (three-quarters of which involved two tutorial sessions a week on various poems) a student had no idea what I meant when I had talked in class about abab rhyme scheme. She said none of her friends had been able to explain what it meant either. Her previous tutors had told her not to worry about it if she didn't understand it. Anyone who has ever studied Renaissance poetry (even if it was just a Shakespeare sonnet in high school) will know that the rhyme scheme is an important component.
Once I had explained the concept to her (it took less than three minutes) she caught on immediately and was able to apply the principle to another poem. She is not stupid, she had just never been taught about it, and was obviously too terrified of something which seemed so abstract to work it out.
Since all the essays have been handed in, I have had one essay comparing two sonnets from the Harlem Renaissance (from the wrong century and the wrong continent) and another that is not an English essay, but a history essay: handed in a day late to the wrong place.
I have had two essays, however, where students have taken their own initiative to do relevant extra reading and have drawn parallels that surprised and pleased me.
There is much (or at least some) that is not yet lost.