Wednesday, November 28, 2007

But I Did My Work

Ahead of me lies a meeting with a student and an academic advisor and a whole pile of guilt that is not rightly mine.

When the fall semester began, I found a student in my class whose writing skills were more problematic than any I have encountered in my five years of teaching. It was jarring, disheartening, and upsetting to come across a person in their thirties who could not construct a simple sentence, but this student really wanted to learn. So I did what I've never done before and I said to myself, Okay, this student is your project this semester. You're going to teach this student to write.

Honestly, I've never made that sort of goal with an individual student before. Sure, I've thought things like, I hope he cleans up his sentences or I want her to understand how to identify a run-on, but I've never decided on as a student as a project. I've never become quite so invested in such an intentional and planned way.

I worked with this student, took extra time out of every class to sit with the student, and encouraged the student to meet with me during office hours and to go to the writing center. The student came to my office hours once and never went to the writing center, despite insisting that they really, really wanted to learn and really wanted to become a better writer. I gave this student lots of chances on revision and I used up loads of patience waiting for this student to tell me where the verb was in a sentence.

But now, as we near the end of the semester, the student is failing and cannot pass despite my efforts. I let the student know and the student is very angry. The student will fight it and so now, I will be meeting with the student and an advisor today to discuss the student's options.

I'm disappointed because I really wanted the student to succeed and I feel like it's my fault - not because I failed the student, but because of the implication that the student should get yet another chance when what the student really needs is another semester to get the basic principles of writing down.

And I'm annoyed because the fact of the matter is this: I did my work. The student did not. But I'm guessing between the two of us, I'm wearing more of the guilt.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Woe is I

It's a bad teaching week. I asked my students to name some American authors and after Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks, and Robert Frost (who they were not sure was American), they had nothing.

I feel pretty shelled out. I feel like the expectations I have for students are increasing while their ability to meet them is waning. Shouldn't they be able to reference Hemingway? We do, after all, live in Michigan. I didn't even suggest that they should have read Hemingway, only that they should be able to put him in a list of American authors.

I'm confused and pissed off and worried that I am not the teacher I thought I was. And more than that, I'm worried that the teacher I am is anachronistic in an education system which does not require the reading of Shakespeare or Fitzgerald or Whitman (because if it was assigned in high school, "No one would read it.") I do not believe my students should want to get published or that they should be able to explicate a poem by Dickinson or even know what the word explicate means. But I do believe they should have heard of Emily Dickinson and they should have some awareness of her as a poet in America.

This is, I am learning, far too much to ask. I think I'll just quit and join the Grand Raggedy Roller Girls. I need to express my anger in more positive and apparently useful ways.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Okay, here's seven facts ...

I was tagged to write seven facts about myself, ostensibly, facts nobody knows.

1. I like to use big words like ostensibly.

2. I was electrocuted when I was five. The scar on the right side of my mouth is evidence.

3. I peed my pants while giving a book report in the first grade. I was standing at the front of the class -- wearing a skirt.

4. I used to make up stories, elaborate additions, and altogether different directions for the books I read for book report day in the first grade. The way I told it, the Berenstein Bears had adventures they never really had. This may or may not have something to do with the peeing.

5. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Catherine Laboure, and Gwen Stefani are three of my personal heroes.

6. I became a vegetarian when I was 14. I did it because I wanted to be cool.

7. Sometimes I wonder if I should be a nun.

So I am to tag seven people now, but I don't know how they'll know. If you happen to read this, I tag: Mandy, Bethlynn, Robin, Anna, Jason, and Sue.

Yes, I know. I can count. That's only six, but I've been thinking about Billy Collins and sonnets and the line: "All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now ..." I like the reduction and the doing and undoing, and yes, I am quoting Thomas Lynch from an interview I did with him last week in case you were wondering.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

No Place Like Home

I found a place. In case anyone was worried, I did indeed find a place to live.

And for nikwalk in particular, we will be living in close proximity of each other. I think a weekly walk with Z is in order.