new quarter, new classes and new students

Today was the third day of the new term, so I have about 70 new student names to learn and three different classes to get ready for each day. While three preps is a good bit of work, I took that over teaching two of the same class, because those two would likely be English 101, first year college composition, and as much as I enjoy teaching, and even reading and responding to student work, though not always, having two classes of essays is just too much for me to enjoy. It's more like I have to endure. Our comp classes are capped at 28 students and I have 24 or 25 enrolled right now, though several have yet to make it to their first class meeting.

Don't ask me what runs through their minds when they don't come, but I guess it's that nothing of consequence happens in the first day or two. I think I'm not like that as I have something due this Friday, though it's only an informal step in the first essay assignment. Still, I don't think I'd want to come into a class a couple/few days late and then get hit with an assignment. I think it would be a bit disorienting. We'll see how it goes. I did have one student email me about one class today because we changed rooms and he wanted to know where we were. I felt like making a snarky comment, like show up and you won't get left behind, but I thought better of that.

I also had to delete a comment I posted in one of my class blogs today. One of the students wrote for their journal that the exercise we did in class was a waste of time. Another added that it was not only a waste of time, but vapid. There was a third who chimed in. As is typical for me, my first response was defensive. I felt like telling them they could leave anytime. In some ways, I shouldn't be surprised. The college in the state cater to what we call "running start" students. These are high school students who take college classes. All they need to do is test into college level composition and they can take classes. Some of these students can do the work. Others lack the emotional and intellectual maturity. They should probably leave school altogether and get a job and not waste their time and mine, and the time of all their other teachers. The legislature instituted this program in order to spend less money on higher ed by having school districts pay their students college tuition. It also, supposedly, gets students to an BA or BS more quickly. For the good students, this works. For the students who haven't the desire to be in any school, it's a waste of resources. But I'm probably not supposed to say that. If only there was a way to ferret out those who waste the resources up front.

What is clear, at least to me, some of my colleagues I told this to, and my wife, is that these students lack audience awareness if nothing else. As my wife said, if she sat through a class and she didn't understand the point of things, she'd probably ask "why do you think we did that today?" rather than rag on the exercise. A few students came to a defense of what we did, and countless others wrote, perhaps thoughtfully, or maybe they were only sucking up, but I'll think thoughtfully, that the assignment did as intended: laid the foundation for asking questions about words and texts and prompted them to think beyond the way they tend to think. Plus, it's not like I made this assignment up out of the blue. I took it from a text and when I used it last quarter in my Shakespeare class, it was a hit over all. I think part of the difference is people who take Shakespeare do it because they want to and the high school students, of which 26 of my 28 students are, bring that high school attitude with them on occasion.

But I'll get over the snarkiness, really I will. Maybe the snarky students will come to see the point of things, since they'll be dealing with the fundamental question we dealt with yesterday for the rest of the class. If they don't, it's no skin of my nose. I still get paid, I still get to work with the students who give a damn, if only for the few weeks we're together, and I still get to read books and write for a living. No way a couple of snarky comments can queer a great deal like that.