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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Broke even

Last night's gamble paid off--barely. I finished marking the last of the 102 first versions in class at the beginning of the period, and although I didn't get anything more than that marked and off my plate, still, that was (in terms of papers) the prime objective, so, well, whew.

The 102 class was tolerable, but mostly because I spent a lot of the period working with students on their papers. A few of them did get into a little bit of lively discussion for a brief moment, but I have to admit that I am very relieved that I won't have to try to drag any more responses to readings out of them. From now on, we're just going to hammer away at their final papers. One student--Ms I Hate English--seemed to look a bit askance at that notion (quelle surprise), but she can either take advantage of what I have to offer or not. And another student who has in the past protested about the submission requirements was in that position again: she got her paper uploaded to Turnitin late--and didn't have the hard copy for me until class today. I told her I wouldn't take it to mark and reminded her that the assignment sheet is very clear about the submission requirements. There was a little flouncing on her part when I refused to budge on that, though I did encourage her to get to the Writing Center or to do what she can to try to think through potential changes on her own and fix as much as she can find between now and Tuesday. I doubt she will, somehow, but the main suggestion in my remarks to her (which I doubt she picked up on) was that she made a choice in terms of her time management that led her to the situation she found herself in.

I have a suspicion I'll be making that point a lot on the final day of classes with all my students. If you miss a deadline, don't get pissed off at me for the deadline: take responsibility for the choices you made that necessitated your missing it.

Today's meeting of Academic Standing was quite interesting, and indeed, I'm considering the possibility of writing up a brief report for the English department of the issues that have come up over the past year--among them codifying the policy for granting extensions to Incomplete grades; re-evaluating the UW (unofficial withdrawal) grade, especially to determine whether we think it should remain punitive (right now, it figures in the student's GPA as an F); proposing alterations to the coding for various levels of academic standing so they're easier to understand (I think we actually got that one passed, amazingly enough). I did not volunteer for some thing (I even missed what exactly it was) that would require being on campus pretty much all day on July 29--but I find I'm actually looking forward to continuing to work on the concerns around the UW grade, as I personally see portions of the current policy as problematic. I'm also interested in the debate about extensions to Incompletes. Well, most of it, really.

See? If I just didn't care....

But, speaking of caring: I was very happy with how Nature in Lit ran today. We started with general conversation about papers, what students were still confused about, what they were starting to understand. Two students asked me to address specific portions of their papers and agreed to let me share what I had to say with the class: I think it was useful. The conversation actually did end up being at least partly about learning as a process, specifically about the fact that real learning also requires a fair amount of error, even failure, before one can grasp something new. After we talked out the issues with the class as a whole, I put the students into two groups of three and asked them to talk with each other about their concerns and/or solutions, and those students who wanted to talk to me individually stepped out of their groups for a few minutes. The lovely thing is that they know each other well enough now that they were completely comfortable doing that--and what I overheard truly was on task, at least for the most part. Of course, typically, the student who is having the most difficulty did not seem to feel the need to talk to me individually, and some of the stronger writers did, but overall, I think it was a success.

The other happy moment in that class arose when a student verbalized something I'd just started thinking about anyway: I started to say that I was thinking about their final mini-paper and she said, joking, "It isn't due?" In fact, that was exactly what I was thinking, as I'd just been talking to a student who'd said she had no clue what to write about for her final mini-paper. I said something to the effect that she should simply use the mini to talk about another aspect of what she wants to do in her final paper--and then I thought, "Why? Why not just work on the paper itself?" So, to the immense relief and delight of the students, I canceled the final mini-paper and will instead simply count each paper as 7% of their final grade.

Of course, this also has me thinking about the next time I teach a literature elective, and whether I should do something closer to what Paul does (a draft, which gets comments, and then the paper itself)--or even a version of my own process in the comp classes, albeit not as complex. Thinking about it now, I think Paul's process makes more sense. I don't want to require revisions in literature classes, but most students are not yet ready to simply write papers: they still need a lot of guidance. I need to pick Paul's brains about how he does it.

But--imagine!--I don't actually have to think about it, or have anything in place, until fall 2015 at the earliest. I'm not teaching a lit this coming fall (my elective is Fiction Writing) and then, sabbatical, thank all the gods there may be.

And for this semester, I have two more weeks of classes, but the teaching mode has shifted drastically. We still have some readings for Nature in Lit, but for the rest, I'm just working with students individually on papers. Then the mad crunch of final grade calculations and tying up committee work--which will pretty well fill the week after classes end. I can't think beyond that; I'm just trying to flop across that finish line.

As for tonight, I will send a few work e-mails and then traipse off, leaving everything in its current chaotic state. I will be on campus all day tomorrow, first at the Assessment symposium, then waiting to conference with the adjunct I observed last Friday, so the week ain't over yet--and yes, there may be a rare Friday post this week. If not, I'll be back with you all on Monday.

And, Serious Student, because you said you read the blog, a special hello to you and a wish for a good weekend.

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