I've taught at 2 different junior colleges near my family's home and I don't make enough to live on my own. I'm 28 and feel 15 at times, except I no longer have my own room - it was converted. I sleep on a nice bed in the basement. My dad and I built a makeshift bathroom and I have my own door out into the back yard. Living the dream.
My first year writing students are execrable. Here's an example from last term, the results of which I'll cover at the end:
I tell them to write an analytic essay about a text by an author named Meredith Jones. It's an essay we read and discuss in their textbook. All of my examples are from Jones. I say, among other basic guidelines, that students must quote Jones, show why she is right or wrong, and analyze if Jones' argument is successful or not.
49 students turned in that paper. 10 wrote about the wrong text. The most succinct answer I got - beyond shrugs - was, "I thought we could write whatever we wanted."
15 students didn't follow simple instructions like putting their name on the paper, stapling it, using MLA Style for documentation (which we covered in 2 back to back classes right prior to the Jones essay; we even did examples on the LMS and in class using Jones as the model).
Jones' essay is about hunger in America. She gives specific examples of poverty throughout the country with examples and stats about how families do or do not qualify for benefits through the state or federal governments. The instructions are specifically NOT to write about poverty or hunger. Every example thesis I provided makes it clear that writers are supposed to evaluate the argument Jones makes. Is Jones' essay convincing or not? Is it successful and why. Does it fail and why. Those are the only options. I even showed them a solid B sample paper from one of my best students last semester on the same assignment. Still, about 10 students simply didn't reference Jones in any way except to say that she wrote an essay on the topic. The rest of their essays were often just their own opinions of hunger and poverty. (One was called: "Get a Job. Don't be Hungry.")
Despite having been told that the first person is not allowed under any circumstances. I tell them that this assignment is all about evaluating how persuasive Jones essay is, how successful. Does she help uninformed readers understand that this is an issue worth being concerned about. And then at least 10 writers simply wrote first person accounts of how their family (or a cousin's, or a friend's) was impacted by poverty or hunger. None of these mention Jones at all.
There were a lot of Fs and a come-to-Jesus speech the next week where I cancelled our last essay giving them a chance to rewrite this one, using all of the previous instructions and guidelines - along with new example and info and two more sample essays that did the job well.
Two days ago my chair called me in for a review. She had my grades and my student evaluations. The evaluations were okay, maybe a bit low in textbook usage and fair grading, but positive in most categories.
But the grades. I failed 40% of the students in those classes. It was "unacceptable." What did I have to say in response.
And then I told her the above story.
We sat there for a while and she asked me to bring to her all of my student papers from this semester, two sets so far, all of my grades, etc. "You must be doing something wrong if your students aren't getting it."
As I left she set me up with the departmental administrator for remediation registration. I am to sign up for mid-May lessons on teaching with other instructors who were "failing."
I told my only good friend among the part-timers the story. She said, "Pass them, Adam. It all happened to me. I found out that all the department wants is a higher percentage of passes."
Q: Do you think I've done things right so far? In your own - much more experienced view - does it sound like I'm requiring too much of my students? Is remediation of part-timers normal? Does it help? Would you willingly go? Is it a precursor to non-renewal of my semester-by-semester contract?