Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is it over, yet?

My students write at the start of each class. It usually helps to focus the class and it helps them put their thoughts on paper.

Of course, many of my students don't need help articulating their thoughts in other ways.

Jerky John always has a smart-ass comment or seven, every day. Today began like this:

"One of these days, we'll make you write. You don't write. Why should we write. All this writin' we're doin'. I'm tired o' you makin' us write."

"Jerky John," I said, "Put your thoughts on paper. And I am writing now, doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing." (I was. I often model this behavior for them.)

"Yeah, but you don't write like we do. We do all the writin'."

"Please, Jerky John, it's time to write, not to speak."

Heavy sigh from Jerky John. Then, before the free-write was over, "I got a question," said Jerky John.

I ignored him. It was time to write. He knew it was time to write. Other students were writing.

"I said, 'I got a question!'" This time louder.

I fixed him with my best teacher-deathray look. He shook his head and sighed loudly.

After I collected the writing, I encouraged students to discuss their writing. They did. Jerky John sat there and glowered at me. Finally, I said, "Any questions?"

"Yeah," said Jerky John. "What's due today? And how many more journals do we have to have? What are we doing in class today? And when is this semester over?"

There were some giggles from other students, some rolling of eyes, but otherwise silence.

"Six weeks," I said.


"Six weeks," I repeated.

"You didn't answer my other questions," he said, fairly belligerently.

"Oh," I said. "I'm sorry. Were there other questions?"

The class laughed out loud at that one.

It doesn't occur to the snowflakes that we, too, are counting the days, does it?


  1. I have great respect for all the citizens of CM-land. But I would have answered all of my students questions happily, because it is for them that I teach!

  2. "I got a question."

    That's a brilliant rhetorical flourish.

  3. I don't teach FOR my students. I teach my students FOR society, for their future professors and bosses, for their own good. The students are not my customers or my clients. They are, in part, my product.

    (I also teach for my own satisfaction & sanity -- for some reason I seem to be good at it and I like it. It makes me feel useful -- I can't be an engineer, but I can help future engineers communicate more clearly, and I can help freshmen break out of the 5-paragraph structure and shape theses around evidence, instead of the other way around, which I hope leads to better critical thinkers in the universe. )

    I also teach FOR money -- not a huge amount, as I'm an adjunct, but I'm using my heteronormative married privileges for insurance, and I mostly value time more than money. But one school I am primarily there for the money (and because I realized that the simpler tasks for them are a good warm-up to get me in a grading frame of mind for the preferred school.)

    And Greta - I also love the start-class-with-a-writing-prompt thing. I don't like to grade things, so I don't collect them, but it's a good way to preview an idea, debrief the last assignment, and start the conversation. Some students do see it as time-fill, but I view it like the yoga centering-breathing before the poses.


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