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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

slightly less cranky

Last night I was asleep before 10 p.m. I slept until 7:30 this morning--and, wonder of wonders, I feel much less cranky today. Still a little edgy, but when I awoke this morning, I didn't feel the overwhelming sense of "noooo, don't make me!" that I've been battling the last however many days.

Only one student was AWOL from 102 today; she's been struggling with this second paper, despite being a good reader and writer--and she was late picking up the second version to work on this final round--so I was concerned not to see her there. To my delight, however, she was waiting for me when I got back to the office after classes. We talked about her paper--and she has truly good ideas, very strong; she simply needed to clarify them for herself and then be encouraged to develop them in as much detail as possible. One of her problems has been that the paper is significantly under length--not even three full pages--so unpacking her ideas fully will be key to not only a stronger paper but a longer one.

I run into this problem frequently: students are so afraid of "rambling" or "repeating" that they leave their ideas only partially explored, certainly inadequately supported--which I suspected was part of the problem in this particular case. I asked the student if she'd ever seen a debate of any kind. Yes, she had. OK, so how did the debaters make their points? Did they present one or two pieces of evidence and leave it at that? No, she said--already seeing where I was heading--they repeat their points over and over, using more evidence. Yep. Ground the argument in the specific details of the poems; analyze the details in order to demonstrate exactly how they support your overall contention. That's it.

She's been very quiet in class, one of a trio of young women who sit in the back corner and hardly speak (one of them more than the others, but even she pipes up only rarely). Her reticence in class is all the more reason why I was happy--honored, even--that she would take the initiative to meet with me outside of class. Good for her. I'm proud of her for taking that responsibility.

As we embark on the novel, a few of the students are struggling to get a handle on how to do their logs--and a couple left out either the plot summary of the chapters that contain the main narrative or the log portion, when both are now required. A number are also unclear what to put in their logs, so I've been re-explaining. Several are doing a good, solid job. And two are doing excellent work, precisely the right approach. True, one keeps locking on to a minor point and thus reading everything through a mistaken lens, but her methodology is wonderful to see. The other may miss something by a hair, but generally, he's got it nailed. I always love it when some of them get it, truly get it, without struggle.

However, one student is annoying me no end. He keeps writing excuses on his homework, saying that he'd wanted to do a better job but hadn't handled his time well--and finally, I replied that maybe when he gets tired of getting crap grades he'll start managing his time better. I was getting testy with him anyway because of his apparent sense that if he admits to being lazy and incompetent, it excuses the rotten work--but then I saw that he had plagiarized his glossary: he had simply copied the model I'd provided. At first he tried to act as if that isn't plagiarism: "You mean copying definitions is plagiarism?" No, darling, presenting someone else's work as if it is your own is plagiarism. He apologized (no need to apologize to me: I'm not hurt by it), and he said of course he'd re-do it. I said, actually, no, you won't. His glossary grades are now a zero for the rest of the semester. He can do a glossary for his own benefit (I'll lay any odds you like that he won't) but not for a grade. And I actually was too generous with his last log: it should have been a flat F, but I gave it a D-. Next time he presents work of that quality, however, F it will be.

The discussion in class was pretty good, all things considered (like that most of them had been working on their papers, not reading the book). I'll be interested to see how the next discussion goes: we're up to chapter 5, which is rich indeed.

I was pretty well out of it for the Mystery class, however. I kept them sitting there in silence for a few minutes while I finished marking the last of their homework from previous classes--and then I had to confess that I didn't remember exactly what happened in the chapters we'd read for the day. I probably need to reread the whole book before Thursday (which I could do, if I don't read anything else), but I'll be happy if I just skim it and review the last two chapters more carefully. I also need to remember to break down the next book into chunks for them: next time I teach the class (and I hope there is a next time), I'll assign specific chapters for each date instead of giving them the "read as much as you can" thing. They need the goals, and it does help keep us all on the same literal and metaphoric page.

Still, a number wanted to talk with me after class about their revisions, which is a great sign. One had something more personal to talk with me about; she said she'd come to my office hour on Thursday. I had ended class a bit early, so I had time to talk to the students after; I think I'll probably keep that practice going, as they seem to respond well to it. And their revisions are due next Tuesday, so they no doubt need a little more time with me. But it looks like a number of them actually are going to revise, which is unusual, in my experience. Good for them.

For now, however, I want to re-do the check sheet for the final versions of papers for the 102, to include a section on sentence-level stuff (which I left out last time--and it truly is important). I won't get a chance to copy it before the mail room closes for the night, but at least I can run it off first thing in the morning, so I can start working through the papers while I'm in Advisement tomorrow. I'll do a little organizing of whatever's on my desk, and then I'm out of here. I don't know how I can be this tired after so much sleep, but I feel like I could go to sleep right now and sleep until next year. Now there's a lovely thought.

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