Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I've had it.

I am beyond annoyance.

You have probably heard about the roller coaster that has been this term's composition class until you're exhausted by it, and Lord knows I am. I have been working my tail end off for the last few weeks trying to turn things around and have--in addition to acting like a hussy in class--held loads of extra office hours, staged an intervention with Ms. Entitlement which went smashingly (by the end of it, she was openly admitting that she had no real excuse for not speaking up in class, that her attitude toward the class and her fellow students was dismissive and disrespectful, and that there were actually a lot of things she didn't understand), passed out candy like it's going out of style to give them sugar highs and bribe them into talking, made loads of photocopies meant to help reinforce ideas on my own dime, racked my brains (and yours) to find increasingly inventive discussion and peer review techniques, and poured my heart and soul into offering as much detailed feedback on drafts and papers as I could possibly muster.

I tell you, this is one of the hardest classes I have ever had to teach. Every time I come out of that classroom, I am completely exhausted from having to do the vast majority of the intellectual heavy lifting. And I've tried everything I can think of to change the tenor of the class, with only temporary success. Every class, we start right back at square one: everybody either stares at me like I'm a particularly dull 2am infomercial or smiles like the Mona Lisa.

So. I asked for informal midterm evaluations last week, and they are the pettiest, whiniest set of evals I have ever received in my life, many of them about how nasty it is of me to make them do discussion. Why can't I just, you know, ask them really specific questions all the time? Why do I let them sit there in "awkward silences" instead of jumping around like a trained monkey every class? And hey, why do I make them spend class time working on mechanics and grammar and stuff? Why can't I give them writing assignments more than two weeks in advance of the final due date? Why am I so "closed-minded" about interpretations? Why am I so mean that I give them quizzes? Why can't I give them more feedback? Why won't I let them do re-writes of assignments they not only had loads of guidance and feedback on--both from me and from their peers--but already wrote two drafts of? Why can't I administer websites for them? Why can't I just scan things for them and email it as a PDF document instead of asking them to make one set of about 25 photocopies for one class?

I am really near the end of my tether, and I am seriously considering telling them that in class this afternoon. Normally, I am patient to the point of insipidity with my students, but I really have absolutely had it with them, and I'm wondering whether it might not be more salutary to tell them so than to do my usual Socratic method (i.e., "Okay, so why does the university designate this a discussion class and why might discussion-based classes actually be good for your education?")

Honestly, I just don't even want to see them today.

I have to admit that I might be less angry if I didn't know that the university's assessment of how effective I've been as a teacher this term will depend solely on the evaluations these students turn in at the end of the class (sound familiar, New Kid?). And if these evals are any indication, the university is going to decide that I did a very poor job indeed.