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Monday, September 28, 2015

A Professor's work is never done...

I slogged through the mess that was the 101 students' first essays at an essay, and now I've embarked on reading responses for the lit electives. I don't have a lot to say about today, except that, in terms of the 101 class, I've seen lead balloons with significantly more buoyancy. Everyone was tired (including me), but I also think a lot of them were not prepared to talk about the reading--and a number were missing. I think one is permanently AWOL, and I handed out my own early warnings today to four who were there, so several more may bail, though the early warning explicitly says that they have time to turn things around if they take action on it now.

Heavy sigh.

I also have doubts about how I marked their preliminary essays; I'm afraid I may have been too hard on them and will frighten them out of trying further. But I'm hoping that the fact that we work through their writing in small stages may help. They didn't have to have an actual thesis this time around, and we'll spend a reasonable portion of class on Wednesday working on their ideas to formulate theses.

Another concern is the poor student who is baffled and bewildered by everything. His homework included a thesis that patently wasn't, something along the lines of "Education is a necessity of life." My comment on his homework was that the statement is way too huge to allow for debate and impossible to prove--but, he said, bewildered, someone in the Writing Center told him it was a good thesis. That tutor also wrote a note for him to give to me that she didn't understand the handbook review assignments--but Mr. Bewildered actually does: I asked him, and he said, "We're supposed to read the pages and summarize them." Exactly. So, I don't give much of a fuck whether the WC tutor understands the handout (and the fact that she says she doesn't leads me to question at very least her ability to focus if not her intelligence). But I'm mostly livid that she's sending students off with absolute crap as a "thesis." No no no no no.

So, I took pity on the kid and sat with him for about 20 minutes after class, trying to talk him to a thesis--or at least to an understanding of why the one provided by the WC tutor wouldn't fly. Of course, he couldn't think of an idea he wants to actually write about or prove: every time I tried to frame what he'd said to me as a question to answer or an idea to pursue, he'd have a reason why that wasn't really what he was saying.

Well, I did what I could for him today, and we'll spend a lot of time in class on it all come Wednesday. And their next versions of their essays are due a week from today, god help me.

I've started marking the assignments for tomorrow's lit electives so I can hand those back: I'm frantic to stay ahead of the work tsunami--work, I confess, that I manufacture for myself. I'm getting pretty good about just quickly reviewing the responses from the lit students, slapping a mark on them, and letting it go at that. Next up: learning a quicker method for marking the 101 papers. For the next round, I need to think carefully about what I want to focus on, so I can only mark what I want them to pay attention to. That was the other mistake on the stuff I handed back today: way too much comment, way too many corrections, overwhelming. So, it will be important for me to review my own essay assignment and make a plan for myself about the focus of my feedback.

Shifting gears back to the lit electives: I read the chapters I'll cover tomorrow over the weekend--and I'd have been very happy to keep reading: I was having a blast with both books (but, I confess, especially with Oryx and Crake). That will be my dessert between tomorrow and Thursday: reading the next assigned chunk for each class. I don't want to read ahead because I want to be able to keep the conversation focused on just the chapters we're going to cover on that day, and my memory is so unreliable, I'm afraid I'll spill the beans, let cats out of bags, that sort of thing--and I want the students to have the joy of the stories unfolding in their own way. Assuming it is a joy, of course, but I think they'll have fun. I'm very much looking forward to what they have to say about the readings.

And--note to self--I have to remember to warn them about the graphic sexual violence in The Windup Girl before they start reading it. I didn't give any "explicit material" advisories about Oryx and Crake, so when I read, "'Who says a guy can't suck his own,'" I thought, "Woops, forgot that was in there." Well, they'll have to grow up a little, I guess. I also have to warn them about nudity and violence in Blade Runner. Oddly, I don't have to worry about that sort of thing in the M&D class: Agatha Christie is not noted for explicit sex scenes. Even Raymond Chandler isn't particularly racy for young people these days--and he's about as sexually explicit and grotesquely violent as things get.

Oh, I'm blathering. I'll stop. Hasta manana.

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