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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Le bon weekend

It won't be completely "bon," since I have papers to grade--and a few more appointments (and consequent early morning alarms) than I'd ideally like--but it's still a weekend, and I'll take it.

Not much to report today: class, meeting, office hour, class, class, all went fine. I got everything from 229 marked and back to the students today (and collected some more, but not much). We seem to be settling into 10 students for now. I know I won't end the semester with that many, but at the moment, the dynamics seem to be working fine. The 102s were similar to yesterday's: the students worked the entire period, actively engaged in helping each other prepare first versions to submit to me. Cool.

Next week, when we start working on the in-class revision process, I want to have some sample intros (maybe conclusions, too) from their papers to show. The idea is, after going over what an intro/thesis should look like, to present the examples anonymously and have them evaluate what works and what doesn't. I'm not sure how many examples to have (not too many or that takes up the whole period, but more than two, I think)--but the main thing is for them to first evaluate those anonymous examples, then to evaluate their own intro/thesis paragraphs and work to fix them. In any event, it was interesting to go through the papers just reading introductory paragraphs, looking for examples, good and bad, and in the process, to start to get a sense of who gets it and who patently does not. A few surprises there, but not many.

I realized, too, there are a few more "thou shalt nots" that I didn't include in my little lecture. (Thou shalt not state thy intentions [as in, "In this essay I will..."]. Thou shalt not make references to the class or the assignment. Thou shalt not use a quotation from some other random source that seems pertinent to the point you want to make. [They can learn to do that later: it can be quite valuable to make connections of that sort, but right now, they're having a hard enough time coming up with a point of view of their own based on what they've read for the class.]) Well, I'll go over all that next week.

One interesting student moment in the 102 section I just taught. A young woman (who has already gotten in attendance trouble--but that's another issue) was in class today, on time, with her paper, ready to go. Until today, I've thought of her as a shy, retiring, somewhat timid little thing: she's physically petite, has a sweet little moon face, and hasn't had a whole lot to say. But today, ye gods, I needed a whip and a chair. She was in a corner with four young men (maybe that was the issue), but I kept hearing them getting wildly off topic--and it was all at her instigation. (I don't know her ethnicity--if I had to guess, I'd say Pakistani--and she was sitting near a young man who I believe is also from South Asia, so a lot of the off-topic conversation was them bonding over that shared experience and background. But still.) She was getting more and more boisterous--and didn't completely quit even when I told her to pipe down. I didn't get angry, nor did I use my "I'm truly fucking serious" voice, so apparently she didn't realize that I actually was serious. I have a feeling that the time may come when I actually have to get coldly authoritarian with her in order to keep her in check.

On the other hand, I'm thrilled to bits that they're relaxing enough to start teasing each other and carrying on. As I've said, repeatedly, I'd rather pull them out of the rafters than try to fork-lift them off the floor. This group is decidedly heading in the direction of the chandeliers.

I'd have sworn I had some other wonderfully scintillating anecdote to share, but nope. That's it. Call it a week. Next week you will no doubt hear the usual bitching about paper grading (you can simply press "play" to hear the old familiar refrain)--but a week from right now, I'll be heading into a lovely break from teaching. In many ways I hate the Presidents' Week break, as it interrupts the flow of the semester just when things are starting to get rolling, but I find I'm also generally relieved when it comes. This time, I'll actually be doing some scholarship, writing the paper for a conference publication to accompany the conference I'm going to in Lisbon, Portugal, in June. About Le Guin, fortunately, so I don't have to reinvent the wheel, but still, it will be interesting--and no doubt somewhat of a challenge at first--to reactivate that portion of my brains. Rusty as hell, but nice to get that brain segment polished off, oiled up, and moving again. (Did I hear someone say "oil can"?)

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