Not at ALL What You Thought

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Schooooool's In. For. Autumn!!!

My lit class didn't make (again), so I'm teaching only comp, which I don't really mind as much as I thought I would. Especially when I'm in the Developmental Writing classes. The older I get, the more helpful I feel I am for these students, the ones who, by no fault of their own, "test into" that class, hate being there most, and yet (or consequently), are the most grateful for the help in getting out of that class.

DW isn't all I'm teaching this semester, but it's the only class I'm enjoying. Already.

Because, today, I read my classes' first essays. As diagnostic essays go, they were brief (I asked for only one page to mollify folk who hate writing in the first place), but pithy. I had forgotten how easily I slip into the psyches of nervous, desperate, and often sarcastic neo-writers, when I read their first essays. Emotions lie right under the skin, especially when the prompt is "How do you feel about writing? No, really? Can you remember a positive writing experience? A negative experience?" Lordy.

So, of course, today, I read the standard fare, where some students actually tried to respond seriously to the prompt: "Writing has always made me nervous, especially for tests." Or "The only writing I enjoy is in my journal, where nobody grades me." But I also have several ESL students in my classes (as usual: an unfamiliarity with English means that a person can't write effectively), so I also got quite a few "I am learning English. This means I think in [Spanish, Italian, French, Romanian, etc] and then translate to English. And then I have to re-read for grammar and punctuation. It is a very long, tiring process" essays.

My favorite today (probably my favorite this semester) began with a student recounting what a high-school teacher had told him about writing: It's communication, like speech. "That's a bunch of bull-crap," the student went on to say.* I was hard-put not to burst out laughing right there. Y'all know how I laugh. My laughing at students has been the subject of many a student evaluation. ("She doesn't have to laugh at us the way she does.") So I try not to roll on the floor during class, no matter how funny the essay (or remark) in class, unless the student clearly means to be funny.

Some essays were neither run-of-the-mill nor funny. One student wrote about the hand-made cards he made for family members, like his 90-something grandmother, the time she fought off a thirty-four-year-old, and ended up in the hospital. Another student's essay ended with a sentence like, "You wouldn't believe the stories I could tell you." Well. By the time we finish the semester together, she's going to realize that, yes, I would believe.

Dear Jesus, my Brother, help me help somebody this semester.



*And he's right: who puts punctuation between their lips?

6 Comments:

  • At 1:20 PM , Blogger Bob said...

    I wish I'd had more profs like you when I was pursuing a degree. I might have stuck around long enough to catch one.

     
  • At 2:59 PM , Blogger Gine said...

    *I* wish I had more students like you ---folk who actually want to learn something!

     
  • At 3:36 PM , Blogger Christina said...

    You help me every day.

     
  • At 3:39 PM , Blogger Gine said...

    You won't believe this, but the help is mutual. Thanks be to God.

     
  • At 12:12 AM , Blogger Trin said...

    Me too bob. I would have loved to be an official student in your class gine, but I'm glad I get to learn from you now (and I learn far more than you know too)!

     
  • At 6:46 AM , Blogger Gine said...

    Y'all'd make me blush if I could....

     

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