Tuesday, February 06, 2007

And they're off!

Well, another semester has begun. I have one section of English 102 (emphasis on argument and rhetoric) this semester, and a Tuesday/Thursday day time schedule--the best of all possible schedules. That leaves M/W/F for whatever it is I do when not teaching.

It looks like my section this semester will be a "good" one--that means, thoughtful students, who give every appearance of being interested in learning, who participate in class discussions, who take notes when I lecture (with the help of PowerPoint) and who actually read the text from time to time.

But, not everyone has a good section. From my colleagues, I have heard that students have made the following comments: "do I have to do this work at the beginning of the semester? I took the course last semester and have already done this work." This from a student who failed the course last semester and, in retaking it, has the same instructor! And another comment--"I didn't come to class today because you didn't list it on the syllabus that we have class." The exasperated instructor points out that the syllabus lists classes by the week, as in "the week of February XX, read these pages" etc.

I have had bad sections in the past. One semester, the students just seemed to feed off each other's misbehavior. They talked over each other, and over me, they made totally inappropriate snickery comments, they made racist and sexist comments. They did not read any assignments, they resented every requirement of the course. And so on. In desperation, I asked my husband, an educator, what to do. He pointed out that groups go through "storming, forming" times--when they first get together, they test the limits and boundaries, and then settle into whatever norm they will hold. Well, this section certainly stormed, but never formed. Then my husband noted, there are some groups that NEVER settle down--they are bad at the outset, and stay bad. Yeah, that was that group.
Thankfully, every semester ends.

But, for now, we are at the beginning--and as the semester moves along, I will learn who will mysteriously stop attending classes and not tell me he or she has dropped the course, who has more excuses for not attending than there are days of class, who actually does the work, who writes well, and who cannot put two words together and make any sense.


Mary said...

I enjoyed this. I worked in a high school for a long time and noticed scheduling would group a bad lot of kids together in one section - I guess it had to do with their course selections in other areas. They never settled down and drove the teacher nuts. Once, the Principal asked for scheduling changes to split the group. Now I'm in a community college - a different story but almost the same. You might enjoy my rant on Education...having to do with the parents...


Climenheise said...

I have two classes this semester (plus my two last semester and one in the Summer). they're good this year. It's curious how little I am able to predict which class will be good and which I will struggle to get through. This semester has been good (we're in our fourth week).

So you use PowerPoint. I'm impressed! You should teach me how. I have to chuckle when I emphasize, "This point is really important. If you remember nothing else ...."; then later throw up a PowerPoint slide. All of sudden the pens come out and people pay attention. Never mind what I say is essential; just show us what's on the slide!

KGMom said...

In all my years of college teaching (8 in my first job. . .many years ago) and now 5 at my community college, I have NEVER had to deal with an irate parent (such as Mary wrote about in her linked blog).
Today, we are strictly forbidden to give parents information under confidentiality requirements.
As for using PowerPoint, and students' response to same, I will gladly teach you, Daryl, or anyone. And I agree-I am most amused that when I lecture with PowerPoint, students take notes like crazy. No PowerPoint, no notes!

Anonymous said...

When people are paying for their education at the college level, you would think they would give their best effort. When our girls were in university, they paid 50% of their tuition and knew they would have pay 100% if they failed.Tough, but they graduated at the top of their class.

Cathy said...

Fascinating analysis of student behavior. I'm having lunch with a couple former teachers today and will run the 'storming/forming' theory past them. Isn't human behavior something?

Hope the waters remain calm this semester.

dguzman said...

Wow--reading this entry was like taking a time machine back to my days (six years, actually) of teaching Composition I and II and sophomore literatureat a Texas junior college. I only lasted those six years, and all I can say is this: God, I'm glad that's over. Bless you for holding up the flag.