Another week gone … this term is disappearing at an alarming rate. I’ve given up catching up on my workload and have settled into a comfortable “chipping away at the pile” mentality. I still don’t have a firm picture of what these courses look like and it’s driving me bonkers even though I know it will be December before I can visualize what I’m doing. How I loathe teaching a course for the first time. x3 this term. Horror!
But there is the advantage that I’m letting my students (at least my 4th year students) guide me a bit. On Wednesday I asked them to fill in their journal entry for this week as to what was working or not about the course because I really want this writing course – very the likely the last one they will ever take – to be relevant and make a difference. They are beyond hoop jumping, there is an opportunity here for real learning to take place.
And yet I agonize over the damn grading. Gawd, how I hate grading. Not that it is difficult for me, I’ve always been able judge an A, B, C or below at first glance. I know my grading is accurate but my rationale needs to be firm. When I was a teenager I joined Beef 4H (seriously, you made way more money raising a steer than you did riding a horse). One of the things we had to do was judge beef cattle. Every time I could put those cattle in perfect order based on the best side of beef. But part of our job was to explain why that was the correct order … I always struggled with that.
Twice this week I had students come to my office hours and say, “But I always get an A” as if that should dictate how I grade their work. One student actually said, “Congratulations, no one has ever given me a grade lower than a B before.” As if the fact that he had done “Satisfactory” work rather than “Good” or “Excellent” was somehow related to past performance.
I’ve been asked three times in the last week if I’m a “hard marker” – my standard response is “I’m a FAIR marker.” But how I hate having to grade. I would rather give feedback and strategies for improving the writing than grades.
And today with my senior students I had to actually ask the class to refrain from comparing their grades until class was over. This constant competition and evaluation is a thorn in my side.
This weekend I’m completing 39 self study plans for my 4th year course. My goal is that these students will have a better understanding of themselves as writers by the end of the term. Self-knowledge is the key to success.
As I spout my self-knowledge gospel, I’m also faced with the task of writing the Abstract for my doctoral dissertation. Defense is creeping closer and the abstract has to be written. Among the many things that must be squeezed into those 350 words is my own learning process. What have I learned through the researching and writing of this project? What can I take ahead with me into the composition classroom? How is this relevant and why should anyone care?
As all these ponderings are examined I also wonder how my practice as an instructor will shift and change when I am no longer a student. Will I slowly forget the importance of re/discovery of self? Will I become settled into an ongoing routine? Or will I keep growing and pushing myself as hard as I push my students?