Wednesday, October 9, 2013
In Which Bella Wonders If She Has It All Wrong
I have had success with this, many times. I have had classes where the majority take part and actually read their assigned pages to get an easy 100 on the in-class exercise. This semester, I have one of those other kinds of classes. Monday, as I was watching six of my students happily write out their exercises in class, and nine of them sullenly read the material (also, I don't assign all that much reading----four essays, two or three pages in length...they can easily finish much of it in the 20 minute period during which the others are doing the exercise) I felt very sad and full of self doubt.
We had an in-service training where we were reminded, for the thousandth time, to "meet students where they are at." We were told we need to try to capture their interest, make them come to class. We had to listen to a twenty minute clip explaining how professors could be more exciting to encourage more of their students to attend class. We were encouraged to go outside for class discussions....to do fun things.
One part of me just thinks FUCK THESE GUYS. I am not asking them to do all that much, in terms of reading. Just fucking do it! Or fail, and screw you! But another part of me thinks of what Cool Cal said about our focus-on-the-reading-element in our composition classes at the last in-service about it: "Our students just won't do the reading----it's simply absurd to ask them to do it. We will lose so many of them if we ask them to read in a Composition class. I for one plan to continue to focus on helping my students where they need it most----just to feel comfortable putting words---any words at all, onto a page." Cal also spends a lot of time just getting his Comp students comfortable in the college environment. You pass by his class and see them with blindfolds on, leading each other around. He says it is a trust building exercise because writing is a scary thing and we are all in this together. You pass by his class and see students pounding their chests, Cal at the front pounding away, everyone laughing, having a great time. Cal says it is a way to get the blood moving for a quiet or frightened class. He also spends ten minutes at the beginning of his classes doing exercises----jumping jacks, windmills, even playing tag. Cal is Very Popular and has an excellent student approval rating, both officially and on the site that must not be named. Cal is highly educated----a PhD from an Ivy League school. Part of me thinks he is actually a snob----he truly has extremely low expectations from our particular student body.
But is he right? My students in this dumbass group of low achievers (the six beautiful hard workers aside) in this M/W Composition class are not getting what I am selling. Is it me who needs to change?