Doggone Homework


In my school days, I recall making a dishonest, last-ditch effort to explain an English-class delinquency by claiming, “The dog ate my homework.” Perhaps some teachers are gullible enough to believe this bit of gastronomic nonsense. But none of them taught at St Pius X School in Rochester, NY.  That dogs don’t crave student prose, that we didn’t at that time have a dog, and that I hadn’t written a paper for my nonexistent dog to eat—these facts may have robbed my appeal of the confident outrage necessary to make it believable.  Perhaps somewhere, sometime, some hungry dog has eaten a student’s homework.

But I doubt it.

What I don’t doubt, however, is that students may sometimes finish an essay and inadvertently delete it or forget to save it. I don’t doubt this because, yesterday, while working on some SAS Curriculum Pathways materials about saving files, I neglected to … save the file. Few activities are less rewarding than attempting to rewrite something one has just written.  In addition to the waste of time, one always tries (imperfectly) to remember what one has written rather than simply attempting to write clearly. The replacement invariably seems like a tepid version of the original.

Writing Reviser constantly saves student work.

Writing Reviser constantly saves student work.

I’m aware that this story sounds too bad to be true, too imperfectly perfect as an element in this lesson on file management. But unlike the shaggy-dog tale I told as a lad, this blunder (alas) is all too shamefully true. Several coworkers even unhelpfully reminded me that, had I been working in our Writing Navigator rather than my word processing program, I could have spared myself the rewrite because the Navigator would automatically have saved a copy of my file. This fact, though certainly useful to anyone reading this essay, was small consolation to me.

English language arts teachers may benefit from my blunder by sharing this story with their students. Teachers may also find the loss of an essay on not losing essays—or the mismanagement of a file on managing files—as a marvelous example of the literary term “irony.”

Learn more about the Writing Navigator series:

Writing Planner
Writing Drafter
Writing Reviser
Writing Publisher



About Author

Tim McBride

Supervisor, Educational Multimedia Writing

Tim McBride has degrees from Rochester Institute of Technology and NC State University, where he taught English for several years. His first book of poetry, The Manageable Cold, was published recently by TriQuarterly Press at Northwestern University. He works as a writer and an editor on Curriculum Pathways. He lives in Cary, NC, with an American pit bull terrier named Charlie McCarthy and a Catahoula hog dog named Junk.

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