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Monday, September 12, 2016

First late night of the semester

It's well after 8 as I start this blog post, and I still have three assignments to mark for tomorrow's SF class. I am trusting that either I'll leave the department meeting early (which I tend to do when people start annoying me--as often happens) or that I can mark the last bits while students are in their groups discussing the reading.

I have become resigned: it seems no matter what I do, students cannot or will not understand the point and value of the reading notes I assign. I can say--hell, their classmates can say--that summary is not useful, and yet I get one set of notes after another that is nothing but summary. They can say, in response to my questions, that they need to include details and their own ideas about those details. Three chapters of Frankenstein, and apparently the prevailing wisdom is that one generalization per chapter is a "detail"--and the "idea" is just "I'll write this down."

I'll be interested to see if the 102s do better, now that they've read a bit from their little writing manual (a very small and inexpensive but highly beneficial book called What Every College Student Should Know About Writing About Literature, part of a whole series of What Every College Student Should Know... books, all by the same author I think). In class today, they seemed to understand what is being asked of them--but I won't know whether they really get it until I get their first set of reading notes on Wednesday.

I also created one unpleasant little SNAFU with the very first assignments for my 102 students--largely because the assignments have some overlap, so I confused myself into thinking they were one assignment, but I'd broken them down into two for the grade calculation. They had to read the first three chapters of that little book, which are all about how to approach reading literature, and they had to use those chapters for two things: one, they had to reflect on how that approach is similar to or different than their own experiences reading literature, as part of their self-evaluations; and two, they had to simply review what they learned from those chapters, "just the facts." They're also confusing the handbook review--simply conveying the facts from a handbook assignment--with reading notes, which require actual analysis of literature.

After this many years of teaching, you'd think I'd remember that for many students, maybe most, there is no distinction among kinds of reading or writing. Everything they read or write is "literature." That misconception seems so deeply entrenched that I don't think I'll ever get them out of it.

Sigh, sigh, sigh.

But the classes went OK today. A few students were missing from each class, so part of me is hoping that they've already fallen by the wayside and will disappear. The first class seemed a little more quiet and repressed; the second a little more lively--but neither was lying inert on the floor nor swinging from the rafters. It's early days yet. We'll see how they do when they read the first story.

Now, however, I'm so tired I can hardly see--and I have to get up early again tomorrow (every day this week, in fact) in order to be here to aid and assist with another seminar hours workshop. Then the department meeting. Then class. Then, no matter how tired out I feel, I have to embark on the marking for the 102s, or I won't be able to get it all done before class on Wednesday. It was mercifully quiet in Advisement today, and should be the same on Wednesday, but I still want to be absolutely sure I'm set before I walk in the door.

And at that, I'm about to walk out the door.

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