I'm gonna have to give some students the beat-down about academic writing tomorrow.
Here's a tip: When you're asked to write, say, two pages, and the professor specifies that that means two pages of text, don't turn in one page (with a 5-inch header) and then three lines on a second page. Two pages [does not equal] two sheets. You might not like it, but there is a difference.
Evidently the five-minute lecture I gave on this subject last week didn't take. Oh well.
On the other hand, my upper-level class went great today. I was really nervous going into it, for some reason--more nervous than I've been since the first day of the semester, all of eight days ago. I'd prepared pretty well, but I figured out in my survey yesterday that things actually do go better when I don't stick to a detailed plan. A couple of students asked some good questions yesterday, and we ended up having an actual discussion that lasted 20 or so minutes (about half the class); this was vastly more interesting, I'm sure, than having me work through the text with them in the more Socratic method I'd been using. So for the upper-level class today I decided that I needed to get them into a more topic-based discussion, rather than focusing on explaining what's going on in the text (which could be confusing, but they seem to be getting it) or working through it sequentially. Of course, this meant relinquishing a lot of control over the discussion.... And lo! It worked really well. I also hardly needed to refer to my notes--because I'd taken a lot of time to prep, unfortunately--and ended the class before I'd exhausted my list of things to talk about. Virtually everyone in the class spoke, too, which was a rare and delightful treat.
And, in all fairness, some of the paper-writers in the lower-level course did put in a sincere effort, for which they shall be rewarded. But to the others I can say only this: Your slack does not go unnoticed. Nor shall it go unpunished.
Or unremarked. Tomorrow I'll be lecturing on what constitutes a "page."