I know yesterday I said I was keeping my expectations low, but today's 102 was only marginally less painful to endure than painful dentistry. One of the only students to respond to anything kept asking why parts of the book were "necessary." Like, oh, character development, or anything that has to do with the actual thought-provoking portions of the text. She is a self-confessed "hater" of English as a field of study--and clearly she has the kind of mind that wants everything to be linear, simple, and fast. However annoyed and almost confrontational her tone, her questions were, however, beneficial in terms of giving us something to talk about at least. And one student who had been entirely silent prior to Tuesday's class was participating again: she's the shy one who is not a native speaker of the language and who wears braces. But Ms Shy is relatively bright and certainly works very very hard, so I'm delighted that she is starting to join in. I did have to point out that there was quite a noticeable lack of sound from one whole side of the room (ahem), but even so, those students never spoke up. I think there are eight students left in the class--assuming two who were not there today are still going to stick with it. I'm pretty sure they will, but one never knows at this point. But I did give the students who were there the "this is for you, not for me" speech--and I said that in the future, if they show up and have nothing to ask and nothing to say, I'll simply say, "OK, see you next class" and send them on their way. I have no intention of perpetually having to drag things out of them: if they're not getting the book, it's their job to ask questions until they understand. It's also their job to understand more than just the who is doing what to whom for how many Oreos part of the novel: thoughts are being provoked, which the students in my other 102 completely get, and these students apparently completely don't.
It's just a hard way to end a week, is what I'm saying.
I must say, however, that Nature in Lit went pretty well today. We got pretty far away from the actual language of the text, but the ideas we were talking about were coming out of the thought-provoking set-up of the story, so I was OK with it. But I'm also trying to get them to focus in on specific language, not continually leap away from the words of the text into their own stuff. It's hard to keep them pinned to the writings because they're genuinely curious about a lot of the environmental and social implications; many of them are woefully ignorant about anything having to do with the negative impact of our affluence on the world. It was funny to watch several of them suddenly get the analogy: "Oh! The spaceship is like our planet! The same issues apply to us as apply to them in terms of population control, use of resources...." One of them couldn't even understand the concept of recycling: "You mean they hand down the same toothbrush from generation to generation?"
But they are getting pretty jazzed about the ideas, and that's really the point, especially as their final papers focus on how the readings suggest an alternative or more appropriate way to look at the natural world. I think they're already well on their way to being ready for that topic.
So, in terms of classes, today was a wash: one good, one crappy. In terms of getting work done, today was also a wash: observation written, not all papers graded and returned. C'est la vie.
But now it's time for me to eat something before I go to dance class. I may be stumbling and dim, but by god, I'm going to dance anyway.