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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Remedial comp, redux

Faithful readers of these pages will recall the problems I was having with my comp class, and how I was pretty much hating the course, the students, and everything else about it.

Things have gotten much better since last I wrote. The class period is still long, the interpersonal chemistry still isn't great, but I've been managing to fill the time with enough activities, the readings have started building on one another to the point that there's something worth talking about, and I've finally just started importing wholesale the rhetoric-based techniques I used in my comp class last year (which, as far as I can tell, aren't a standard part of how writing gets taught here at Big Urban). We discussed the three appeals on Monday, along with issues of audience, and my students were WAY more on top of that shit than they've been on the larger, vaguer, more topical questions that supposedly freshman here are really psyched to discuss. As GWBoyfriend says, "These kids do well with tools."

And then there was today. Today I had nearly five hours of individual conferences to look over and discuss my students' rough drafts--and it was fantastic. Seriously. I mean, it was a long-ass day, and I really should have thought ahead before scheduling eight of those conferences back-to-back (hello, bathroom break), but this is the first time I've exchanged more than a couple of sentences with any of my students one-on-one. . . and they were so sweet and shy and funny and eager, and for the most part very different from how they are in class.

One student, who always looks pissed off or exasperated in class (and never more so than when she's raising her hand to answer a question), came in all anxious and apologetic, telling me how bad her paper was and how she didn't know how to write--and she refused to sit in my office as I read it--but her paper was actually fantastic, and very raw: she concluded it by saying that she was angry about how she was raised, didn't really know how to be who she was supposed to be, and didn't like who she was. It was a draft, but it deserved a B+ right there.

Other students wrote about similarly personal issues, albeit rarely in such direct terms and never quite as well. I learned a lot about them, and I was impressed. Yeah, a few of them are terrible writers, but all of their papers had their moments, and most demonstrated extremely sharp self-analysis and self-reflection; I was surprised by what they were willing to write and let me read, and I came away feeling really good about their potential as thinkers and learners.

And, finally--I'm hopeful that this might represent a turning point for our classroom dynamic as well. Maybe having met with me one-on-one will make them feel that they and I now have a relationship that they trust and that they have a stake in, and maybe that will translate into more classroom participation.

One can dream, anyway.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:38 PM |


Blogger Prof. Me commented at 12:11 AM~  

Wow -- that's a long day!

And I totally agree with you on the last thing you wrote, about building a relationship. For me, my most successful teaching experiences were when I had built up such a good relationship with my students that they didn't want to disappoint me. It takes a lot of work to cultivate that type of relationship, but it's so worth it in the end. Good work!

Blogger What Now? commented at 9:10 PM~  

Hurrah! That's excellent news; I'm glad there's been a turning point in the class.

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