I know I've been a bad blogger of late. It's not that there hasn't been anything to write about (there has) but all of my writing mojo has gone toward other things, and so I've been doing more blog reading than blog writing as a result. (I point to this as evidence that blog writing is, at least in my case, deeply linked to any other kind of writing that I do, even if I am an academic who blogs vs. being an academic blogger or whatever way we're marking that distinction these days. Maybe I'm not writing a literary critical or theoretical blog, but the blog surely keeps me in a writing groove in a way that no other kind of less formal writing has, and so when I have to direct my attention to the formal stuff, the blog suffers.)
Anyway, though, this isn't a post about my stupid blog - I want it to be a post, rather, about my sense of what this semester is going to be like. I'm two weeks in already, I've graded one set of papers in my writing class, I've graded one set of quizzes from my lower-level lit course, and I've seen some online discussion responses from my upper-level lit students. In other words, I think I'm at a point where I can project how things are going to go and where I want to go from here with these classes.
First things first: at least at this point, I think I'm pretty lucky with the writing class. Sure, some of them are terrible writers, but at least so far, the class discussions have tended to be quite dynamic, and they seem to be really engaged with what I'm doing with them, or at least willing to put up with what I'm making them do. I've tried to make more of an effort to put each thing I'm asking of them into context with my broader goals for the course, and I think that doing that jedi mind trick stuff seems to be having a positive effect. Now, there is one girl with a sour expression who has NEVER been on time, and I think she may become a problem if she doesn't get it together. I've called her out on the tardiness thing - I start on time, so you've got to be there on time, etc. - and what she said last class was "at least it was only five minutes this time." That kind of response totally does not bode well. I've also got a couple of the kind in there who like to tell you even though you don't know them yet about all of their woes and troubles - but I think I've headed them off at the pass. And then I had another who commented on my age in the "you're not old enough to be a professor" way. I suppose I'll miss that when I start looking old enough to be a professor, but at this point it still really pisses me off. I'm not exactly the Doogie Howser of the professorial track, you know. But, in spite of the above, I'm actually feeling pretty ok about the writing class. I think that I will manage through the end of the semester, at any rate.
The class I'm most excited about is the upper-level class. The initial drop/add period is done, and it looks like I've only lost 2 of those originally enrolled, which is pretty awesome, given the amount of reading and work I expect in my classes. So far they seem to be a really good and engaged group, although they do seem to want me to spoon-feed background to them and to tell them what a text "means" more than I'd like. I'm hoping that this is alleviated once they start giving their presentations. I'm also going to have to start arranging them in a circle for discussion, and luckily I've got a room that will accommodate this. Another reason that I want to do the circle thing is that in contrast to last semester, when I had the Class of Women, this class is pretty evenly divided between male and female students, and the male students tend to be quite dynamic. One problem that I know I have is that I respond to dynamic, and so unless I'm careful, I will let those three or four students dominate the discussion and it will become a really bogus class. (I think the issue is that I myself was a dynamic participator and so I don't really understand the non-dynamic kind of student. Nevertheless, because I understand the dynamic participators, I also know that they can be a bunch of blowhards who don't really have substantive stuff to contribute, and so I know that as a teacher, however much I might like to listen to them (and myself) talk, I've got to open the discussion up to the quieter ones in the bunch and to make sure that the women don't get shut out of the conversation.) At any rate though, I'm wicked excited about this class, and I really do have high hopes for it.
Finally, in a weird twist, the class I'm most concerned about and potentially least excited about is the one that is usually my favorite course to teach. It's big - which is part of the issue but it's no bigger than usual, really, just I don't know as many students from previous classes so it feels bigger - and there were some late adds - another part of the issue - and well, they all seem really tired. I mean, I open the semester with some pretty shocking stuff, and normally students have a lot to say (which is the point of opening with that kind of thing). These ones just looked at me like their sensibilities were offended and like I was a lunatic. I toned things down last class, and they all looked at me like they were zombies or on drugs or something. They did better when I had them do group work and then we reconvened, so we'll be doing more of that, but that's not a solution to this problem. I've got to do something to get the whole class more engaged. I think one thing that may be catching me up is that I don't have as many "frequent flyers" in the class as I usually do, and with the number of students in there I'm having a hard time learning names. (I always feel like it's easier to control a class dynamic once I know who the students are.) I don't know. They all just seem really passive. Like they are less interested in talking about the content of what we've read than they are in doing discrete tasks like scanning lines of poetry. (We start with poetry, and yes, I still teach how to scan a line.) Also, for the first time ever, I've had to tell that class to take notes. Usually in my classes, students take notes furiously. Without my telling them to. I don't know. I suppose I'm feeling a bit unsure of what will happen with this group. And it sucks because usually this course is one that I don't need to think too much about.
Then there is the Quasi-Admin gig I'm doing, and that hasn't really gotten off the ground for the semester, though I suppose it will in the coming weeks.
So anyway, that's all of what I've been doing/thinking about instead of writing on the blog. Ok, now to get myself in gear and go teach.
1 year ago