Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do I have time for any of this? Why no, I do not!

Nor do I have the patience!

Does anyone else simply lose patience at about this point in the semester? Ooh, I have been a Cold Bitch to my comp students this week, and have felt absolutely no remorse. (In fairness, I was only a Cold Bitch to about three or four of them, and they were being singularly annoying, in their various ways.) But oh! The papers I am grading! They are atrocious! My comp-teaching colleagues and I have decided to truly Uphold Standards this semester, and I am--disturbingly, weirdly--reveling in giving Fs and Ds to the truly F- and D-deserving papers. Normally I agonize. Am I being mean? She tried!! It's not his fault that he can't write a sentence!! But this time, I think: Can I genuinely pass this student on to a colleague with my writerly stamp of approval? Why no, I cannot!

It helps, I'm finding, to have some clear guidelines. E.g., use 5 or more sources, at least 3 of which must be books or peer-reviewed articles. So when a student uses 5 newspaper articles or websites, boom! No! Fail! (Or a seriously lowered grade.) When a 5-7 page research paper has 3 citations in it, total, wham! Demotion! It's all so shockingly...easy.

The thing is, we've spent--in one way or another--six weeks on these damn papers, including three or four peer workshops and two conferences with me. I've told them what to do. I've told them that you can't write a good research paper if you write it first and then go looking for "stats" to support it. (How I loathe "stats," and "facts," too, for that matter.) The good thing here is that, while this paper is worth 20% of their grades, they now need to write a new research paper on the same topic, but directed towards a different audience--and this will also be worth 20% of their grades. So they can fail this one and, if they work their asses off, maybe redeem themselves next time.

Tomorrow, therefore, we will not discuss the reading (which is on style, and I don't much like the chapter anyway, as it tells students to write in their own voices and not try to sound more formal--well, that's a little unfair, but it does say that, and frankly writing too formally is not a problem that besets the majority of my froshes). We will, instead, discuss Why Passing Composition Is Important, and Why Blowing Off This Course Is A Huge Mistake. I actually have some good thoughts on this, I think. See, they might know, in their hearts, that they can do research. But my responsibility is to ensure that they can do research, and so, if they don't show me that they can do it, they can't pass. Easy! We will then Review The Goals Of The Course (which include things like, "Appropriately use MLA or APA citation style"--really difficult, people, and we did spend, what, two or three weeks on this? Lordy). And then--then!--I will give them an exam. Yes, a surprise composition exam! It is genius. It will ask them to do things like cite, and create a topic sentence, and use signal phrases appropriately. It will ask them what a research-driven paper is. And, at the end, it will ask them to please tell me what it is that they're struggling with, and where they'd like more instruction. For ultimately the exam is an assessment tool, even as it is also there to scare them into giving one little damn about their next papers.

Oh, and in the meantime, one of my heart-monitor reports alarmed somebody who contacted my electrophysiologist, and starting tonight I will need to take a twice-daily heart medication "to get things under control." Dudes, my heart has pounded away since I was born, but okay, whatever. I don't mind. It's only until the surgery. The downside, though? The medication causes fatigue. And man, I have me some fatigue. Siiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

(Otherwise, all is well on the Mihi front, I promise.)


Phul Devi said...

I LOVE your exam idea! Formulate a thesis statement on demand! Yah!

And, I hope your ticker is okay!

Belle said...

Me too! I just gave my majors a citation exam; 7 things they had to cite and then create a bibliography. And yes! They will likely all fail! Yes!

Do I feel badly? Nope. It was open book, they have 2+ hours if they need it (is that insane or what?), we've gone over it again and again... and they will/have blow(n) it!

Do I feel badly? Why no, I do not!

Maude said...

Yay! Oddly, this makes me feel sooooooo much better. And yes, you have no reason at all to feel bad about the Ds or Fs. It sounds like you have gone well above and beyond. Rock on sister!

Sisyphus said...

Poor Heu Mihi! I love though that when you are annoyed, you write exactly like Dr. Crazy when she is ranting and annoyed. Some sort of cosmological balance is being achieved here.

(PS, I'm going back through your archives looking at how you revised stuff as a way of me procrastinating from my revising stuff. Bet you never thought this blog would be so helpful! Well, it is at least on the enabling-procrastination front.)

Good Enough Woman said...

You are emboldening me. (Is that a word?)

And I'm sorry you have to deal with it, but I'm feeling much better. Sometimes I think that I must be sound like the teacher in Peanuts when I teach MLA and documentation stuff, for all they seem to learn.

Good for you, handing out those low grades.

And don't let them aggravate your ticker!

(My verification word is "scrie." Seems apt. SCRIE! ARG!)

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