The evals are in! *drum-roll*

The grading is done, the student complaints are over, and student evals are now in.

 

It wasn’t a good semester for me–I was disorganized, apathetic, and had my head off elsewhere for so much of it.  I blame a lazy thyroid and the winter from hell, and the PHD program that promised a release from this drudgery, or at least better pay for it.  But either way, I was not expecting good student comments.  My disorganization frustrated them, and I can’t blame them in the slightest.  I was never actually caught up on grading (sometime there will be a post about how much I loathe that particular activity), and my schedule frequently fell apart.

 

On the bright side, they weren’t the worst evals ever.  I didn’t get rated 1 out of 5 or anything. They were critical where I expected them to be critical, and very kind where I had hoped they would be.  Even when one is expecting to be raked over the coals, it’s nice to know that at least some parts of the class did something for someone.

 

But there were two winning factors that made the evals still kind of awesome.

 

1. No one made the “she was a blind professor, so it must have been hard, but…” insert good or bad thing here.  This is always the most puzzling non-sequeter, and its absence was delightful.

 

2. The big one… someone complained that I graded their courses like an upper-level course!  My grading was unfairly difficult, and I did not grade like it was a first-year course.  I almost wept–I feel like a real teacher now!

 

As an aside, student you are a silly child–if I had graded all of you like upper-level students, not more than six of you would have passed.  I have expectations, and those do not include coddling you until I think you’ve learned enough to start getting graded harder.  Nothing is as motivating to an over-achiever than a well-deserved B.

 

All in all, I’m glad to see the back of the semester.  I plan to blog, fill my mind with as much trashy adventure lit as I can get my grubby little paws on, and, oh yeah, probably find a place to live for the big August move.

 

See you all soon.

Happy 2014

Well, here goes another year.  2013 was…interesting to say the least.  There are too many world events to count, and huge momentous things that I am in no way qualified to talk about on a teaching blog.

 

On the personal front, it was a year of learning to wait.  I did grad apps in the spring that didn’t pan out, got let go, got re-hired, and had one of the most challenging semesters I’ve had yet.  But all in all, it shaped up pretty well.  It was a strange year of limbo for me, but also one that taught me a lot about patience, and finding the good even in the ugly, and about enjoying simple things no matter what.  I think I grew a little, and that seems like about as much as anyone can ask from a year.

 

The most interesting, and relevant to this blog (yes, sometimes I stay on topic), was my collection of students this semester.  Partially because of me, and partially because of them, we had trouble getting places this semester.  I talked and talked, but it felt like we never really got anywhere.  I left the semester fairly convinced they hadn’t learned anything.

 

And then I looked at the class reflections, and almost cried.  I got several comments that this was their favorite English class, that it challenged them, and that it helped them come out of their shells.  Now granted, I forgot to give them the talk about how I don’t read these until after I grade, so some of them might be sucking up, but those folks aside, I got some very sweet and uplifting comments.

 

As a teacher, that’s my main goal–I want to help them.  And if I can’t teach them how to formulate a bloody argument, or that a thesis statement is not a question, I’d like to at least teach them that they can write, that writing is important, or that they have opinions worth listening to.  And I think I managed to do that, and that makes me feel good about the last five months.

 

So even though things kind of ended on a whimper instead of a bang, I still have a warm fuzzy for these kids that I never expected to have.  I might actually miss them.  And so many of them are teetering on the cusp–I hope they tip over on the side that lets them do great things.

 

So that’s me.  As for you, I hope your year was full of learning and interesting discoveries, that you moved beyond something, or gained something, or just left 2013 a little better and more interesting than you found it last January first.

 

All the best from the blog.  Everyone have a safe and happy night, and let’s give 2014 a run for its money.

 

Cheers.

Poor, poor neglected blog…

I was doing so well with keeping up posting here, and then I just…failed.  This fall hit me hard.  I couldn’t really tell you why.  But my energy levels have been at less than 0.  But I’m back in action now, so let’s hope it holds.

 

Translation: I’m submitting PHD applications, prepping my students for their final research papers, and trying to prepare for the holidays.  So, go go gadget procrastination.

 

I won’t do a recap of the entire semester here, because frankly, none of you really care that much.  I don’t, either.  But let’s say it’s been a little rough.  I can’t tell if it’s my lack of enthusiasm, or if I just have the biggest collection of bums ever, but we are just not making headway.  They are not bad kids, but they are lazy, and ballsy about being lazy.  I am also lazy, and we are just having a big old collaborative laze-fest that is not getting things done.

 

Some of my favorite examples of our issues:

“I didn’t get the essay. So I didn’t do it.” (We had been working on it in class for 20 minutes.)

“Can I get some help? Also how do I do citations.” (the evening *after* we turned the paper in.)

“We have to read the whole thing?” (I gave them class time to read an article they were supposed to read for homework.)

 

So I think it might be a combo.  Grad apps season also means that my brain is not totally on teaching.  So I’m working on being better–if I have more pep, maybe they will too.  I’m also hoping stuffing myself with potatoes and pie for the next three days will put a bit of zip back in me.  Or it will send me into a food coma.  I will take either.

 

And, finally, since I know you were all dying to hear about it…

 

THE TEACHERS LOUNGE SAGA CONTINUES!

 

So, either my colleagues are paranoid, or actual hot magma comes out of the coffee machine.

 

Me: *creeps in, trying not to interrupt jabbering ladies*.

Jabbering ladies: blah blah blah, What Not to Wear, so-and-so’s grandpa…*slow fade to silence*.

Me: *continues to be awkward. Grabs cup for coffee.*

Jabbering ladies: *whisper whisper, mumble something about coffee*.

Single jabbering lady: *comes over* it’s hot. Do you need help? I don’t want you to burn yourself. It’s REALLY hot.

Me: I’m fine.  It’s…I’m…I’ve got it.

Lady: *looks dubious*.

Me: *collects coffee.  Waves like manic idiot. Flees.*

 

And they keep going silent and watching me when I go in there.  It is coffee, not lava. Calm down, people.  It’s getting to the point where I don’t even go in there if I can hear people–the worried staring is just uncomfortable for everybody.

 

So, I hope that amused you, or at least told you my sense of humor has not improved.  I’m going to try going back to around once a week.  If that doesn’t happen…someone poke me.  I either got lazy, or I’m taking a cross-country hike to go throw eggs at the ETS building.

 

…or I crawled under my bed and am refusing to come out.  Anything is possible.

On Student Excuses

First off, for professional dignity, I…sort of feel the need to apologize for the last manic coffee post.  Tea has been returned to work, and I am mostly mentally well again.

 

But I’m not posting to talk about my crazy this time.  Today’s topic is the student fiction contest of excuse-making.  Well-traversed territory, but worth a few minutes of my time, since I do see them as often as assignments.

 

If I’m starting out with honesty, I haven’t actually seen as many impressive excuses as some.  Most of the ones I get are the classic “my computer crashed,” “my Email failed,” etc.  But from this mine field of mundane has come my favorite excuse ever.

 

Here is how this plays out.  Student has failed to hand in some assignment or other.  This is not the first assignment that student has not given me–it has become a pattern.  So, politely, I call student up to the front after the rest of the class has left/stopped acknowledging my existence.

 

Me: You haven’t handed this in to me.

Student: I’m sorry. I’ve had XYZ going on, and it’s been really hard.

Me: I understand. I too live a real life. I too know that the universe sometimes just takes a crap on your head.

Student: *smiles apologetically, contrite and enjoying our bonding*.

Me: But I say in my syllabus that you need to keep me informed. XYZ are excusable problems, but I must hear about them ahead of time so we can make arrangements.

Student: I understand. I just hate making excuses. So I didn’t say anything.

 

“I just hate making excuses.”

 

Translation is either: “I truly am overwhelmed and felt weird burdening you with my problems,” “I didn’t even think about you/the assignment/your late work policy, whether I had legit crap going on or not,” or, most often, “You caught me and now I need a way to sound noble and silent-suffering but really I just didn’t do it and can’t think of a better excuse off the top of my head.”

 

This has shown up twice now, in two different classes, with two different students.  It amuses the hell out of me, because it is just so ballsy.  It dares me to call them out, to shame them for their toughness and willingness to silently drag their grade into the toilet without involving their teacher, who just doesn’t need to hear about their woes.  And it’s a hard one to fight.  I can’t catch them out in a lie.  The most I can do is just wag the scoldy-finger of shame, tell them they must complain to me more, and send them on their way.

 

Just once, I wish someone would throw me a good old-fashioned bald-face lie, with a magical disappearing notebook or a paper-inclined house pet.  No one has any respect for the classics anymore.