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Late Spring To-Do List
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Okay, so I'm back on the blog to report on a new pedagogical problem.
Backstory: All 75 of my students have papers due on Monday (I know! and it's completely my own fault, too), so I've been putting out fires all day long: questions about theses, requests to review introductory paragraphs, pleas for extensions--you name it.
One kid sent me the rough draft of his paper, a close reading of a poem by an author I happen to work on, and since it seemed to be going in a dangerous direction, I wrote him back quickly to say that, well, actually, the poem isn't really ABOUT the issue he claimed it was about. It wasn't a case of a totally boneheaded misreading--just an anachronistic and ill-informed understanding of the psychology of the period combined with not quite enough attention to the signals from the poem itself. I complimented him on getting certain things right, but told him he had to take a new look at the poem and think about X and Y and Z as he re-read it.
I was a little worried, since this is a sweet and well-intentioned kid (a first-semester transfer from a resource-strapped community college) who's working hard to pull a C for the class after bombing some major early assignments. And I did right to be worried, because he wrote me back this email:
Sigh. I wrote back and told him that, yes, he's entitled to his interpretation, but that not all interpretations are correct. I then spent quite a bit of time explaining how the phenomenon he noted could be the result of all kinds of different things, but that it probably wasn't the result of THIS thing.
I doubt he was convinced, I doubt he'll write a decent paper, and I doubt that he has the ability to see outside of his own frame of reference.
Because, really--how can you teach that in any overt or effective way?
[UPDATED TO ADD:
I actually got an email back from the kid saying that what I said made a lot of sense, and that he was going to rethink the poem. I'm not sure if he was just being politic--but I'm hopeful that I convinced him that he didn't fully understand the issues involved. We'll see.]
link | posted by La Lecturess at 9:15 PM |
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