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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Learning from my students

Whenever I read student papers I learn new things about some very familiar texts; that's a given. However, what I learn is usually something small: the significance of a single image here or of a particular word choice there--and these insights can be buried in the midst of papers that are otherwise entirely uninspired. When I'm having a particularly bad run of papers, I may encounter a new idea only once every ten papers. I'm not criticizing my students for this, necessarily--part of writing a paper is learning how to write a paper, and even summarizing and paraphrasing can be a step toward that--but grading a lot of bad papers in a row sometimes makes me feel that I'm losing brain cells along the way.

But just now? I read a student essay that made me SMARTER. It was the fourth close-reading I'd read in a row, all on the same Shakespearean sonnet, and it was amazing; it's the best paper I've read all year (the student in question is very sharp, but her elegant first essay was pretty empty at its core); indeed, it's among the best I've read ever.

Thank God for papers like this. Even if they only come once a year, they're worth it.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 6:44 PM |


Blogger Bardiac commented at 7:43 PM~  

Color me jealous! A great student paper is really worth cherishing!

Blogger RageyOne commented at 9:14 PM~  

Those little gems makes teaching worth it!

Blogger Sfrajett commented at 1:24 AM~  

I LOVE those papers! And the grading secret is (for me at least) that when one student gets it, you can push the other students in your comments. When I get a ppaper like that, I admit sometimes I'm like, Oh THAT'S what I wanted them to get. So then in my peper comments, I can be all smart, like, Aren't you really trying to get at THAT, Student Q? And I can be all, like, knowing and pedagogical.

Blogger Gullible commented at 6:07 AM~  

That is very cool. I haven't had one this year (first year on the tenure track), but last year (when still teaching at the school I got my PhD from) I read an amazing essay on "The Rape of the Lock" that embarrassed me--frankly it was much better than I could have done myself. I suppose that's the joy of teaching (interspersed among some of the miserable aspects).

Blogger jo(e) commented at 5:05 PM~  

I love when that happens.

Blogger Scrivener commented at 6:08 PM~  

Yes, they do make it worthwhile. If only they came with even a little more frequency.

Blogger Weezy commented at 7:51 PM~  

I hate to be doom and gloom-- but best paper ever makes me think the P word???

Trust me, I always root for my students. After being burned by a very good writer last semester, I always have to question....

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