Lay your aching head on the pillow
I am just about thisclose to giving up on lie and lay forever in the classroom.
By now—I turned in semester grades today—I have taught editing to more than 500 Loyola undergraduates, and I can tell you that lie/lay is a lost cause.
This semester I explained painstakingly that the distinction has largely vanished from spoken American English but that it survives in formal written English. The distinction is explained in their textbook. I explained it in class. I tested them on it and explained it again and wrote out the permutations on the board and included it in exercises and explained it once more.
I warned them to expect it on the final examination. They were allowed to use the textbook and other references during the examination. And a handful of them still got it wrong. The traditional distinctions simply do not register with them. They do not hear them.
If there are any superintendents of schools out there reading this blog, I’d like to give you some advice: Require your English teachers to be certified in ESL. Formal written English may not be a foreign language, but it is a foreign dialect of English to my undergraduates, who appear never to have had adequate instruction in it during the dozen or more years of schooling before they had the misfortune to fall into my hands.
Those English-as-a-second-language people know their job, and they have the materials for presenting the subject. Mainstream them.
Now I think I have to lie down.