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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The heavy lifting

The 101 students today got a taste of the real heavy lifting that comes with revision. I gave them back their papers--which I barely got marked in time before class--and I had them sit there to work on a revision plan. They started to see their papers in a whole new way, often seeing things that they'd not noticed but that now seem glaringly obvious. The idea of the revision plan is to break the revision process down in to manageable chunks, as otherwise it's overwhelming--and I told them several times that the first step could very well be something to do with the body of the paper rather than the introduction: that often the introduction will suddenly become clear and almost write itself, once the ideas in the body are clear. Several students needed to reconsider their research as they'd relied almost entirely on personal response, not on ideas that they could substantiate with facts. Big sweeping generalizations? Get rid of them: give me your ideas instead.

I did mark much less than usual. I used a purple pen to point out a few examples of sentence-level stuff, but the main comments were in blue ink--and were primarily overall, global comments along the lines of "There seem to be ideas that contradict here: look back at your thesis, and look at your research to determine what your stand really is--and whether you can back it up." I have no concrete proof, but my gut sense is that the fact that most of their writing was left unmarked, that my comments were in the margins and nowhere else, made it a lot easier for them to focus on the big, structural concerns and not get lost in minutiae.

And I had a serious talk with the Guinea Pig, who was very suppressed by the fear of failure. As I was handing back everyone's papers, I gave him the essay assignment sheet with a bracket indicating the submission requirements and told him to read it over carefully. Then I took him out in the hall to talk to him. My decision is to take 20 points right off the top of his paper--two days late--plus another ten for the late upload to Turnitin.com, and then give a mark from there. He'll get a painfully low score, but it's better than a zero, and now he can proceed with the paper. He will have a much harder task in front of him, as he'll have to accomplish in two days what his classmates will have more than a week to work on, but I'm giving him a hell of a gift. And I did say that the main lesson I wanted him to take away from the experience is that he needs to pay rigorously careful attention to assignment sheets, read them with keen attention and understand exactly what is required. I said, "Don't think you know; know you know." He did try the "I was sick" routine: "Do you have a computer at home?" "Yes." "Do you have internet access at home?" "Yes." "Then why didn't you e-mail me to make an arrangement about submitting the paper?" "I didn't know what to do." "It's in the syllabus and on the assignment sheet...."

Sigh.

I don't know if he'll be able to pull off a passing grade--and several of the other students are doing serious damage to their grades because they're not doing the online discussion board posts. I'll lay down the law about that one more time on Wednesday, along with warning them not to neglect the upload to Turnitin of their final versions of the first essay--but that's the last warning. If they haven't gotten the message by now, they're simply not going to, until that final grade hits and they see just how much of a difference those missed assignments make.

After class, I spent some time just getting my desk slightly organized: things were getting lost in the shuffle--the Best and Brightest student from 101 told me that she hadn't gotten two assignments back; I knew she'd done them, as I'd recorded marks, but I had no clue where they were--and I needed to get a little triage going. Then I read the two sections of Oryx and Crake that we'll go over in class tomorrow. Still to do, read the final bits of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and mark the assignments for the two lit electives. And I know two students want to see me tomorrow, one just before club hour, another during club hour, so that will put a dent in the amount of time I have in which to do the prep for classes. I had thought about taking the Christie mystery home with me, but I honestly think I'll do better to let it go until tomorrow--I can't imagine it will take all that long to read--and instead try to get myself relaxed as early as possible tonight. I'm reading a wonderful mystery--The Child Garden, by Catriona McPherson--and I can't wait to dive into it again.

So, off I go to do precisely that.

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