Friday, December 12, 2008

Weird Moments in Teaching

A quick post before I go and start vacuuming up my flooded basement:

Teaching college creative writing has been a frustrating experience for a variety of reasons, but we'll focus on one now, since there was just an interesting moment that happened.

One thing I find frustrating is students who fuck around and, as cheesy at it sounds, don't live up to their potential. I had a student this semester who did that. And he is a great writer. For his young age (these are sophomores, mostly), he's got major potential. His writing is always interesting, always well done and complex and researched.

But he barely participated, just doodled in his journal. Sometimes didn't hand in stuff. And when he did participate, it was often with a quiet, but challenging tone. I quickly got the impression that he wasn't impressed with the class, or me for that matter, that he might have felt "above" the introductory subject matter.

Now I told these kids from the start: being a good writer does not mean an automatic A. I'm more interested in the effort put into it, the genuine effort to try and get better. You can be a great writer, I told them, but if you don't put in the work, you're not going to get a good grade.

So today. The kids came in to hand in their final portfolios, no actual class. I said I would be in the classroom from 10:45 - 11:15 to receive portfolios, and if they were late, it was their own fault, and I wouldn't accept it after that time. They trickle in slowly, unless it's down to one last student to come in, our buddy here.

11:10 - nothing.

11:15 - nothing.

I'm having this internal monologue at this point - I'm asking why do you do this? You're so talented, but you keep fucking around, and now I'm going to have to drop your grade by 15% because you're not here on time to hand in your portfolio, blah, blah.

11:16 - pack up my stuff.

11:17 - he walks in.

I say "oh, you are lucky! I was just about to leave!" He says "yeah, I guess I am" with this offbeat, kind of light tone (very ususual).

He hands in his portfolio, then sticks out his hand.

"Good class," he says pleasantly.

Shakes my hand. Then leaves.


But weirdly enough, I find that one sentence to be a big compliment.

I might post more later, after this flooding thing is dealt with.

1 comment:

Paranormal Dog said...

I'm sorry to hear that your basement is flooded! Never a fun thing to deal with. You didn't have much down there, did you?

Mabye he did think the introductory stuff was too simple for him, but that doesn't mean he thought you were a bad teacher.

There are lots of things that could be going on in his life that causes him to be like that...or he could just be lazy. :) Either way, potential or not, if the drive isn't there there isn't anything you can do.

I get the feeling that this was how one of my teachers felt about me. Talent...but no drive...bored with class...always late.

And look what I amounted too! Oh...wait...that's not a good example.

Or...mabye he thought you were pretty. Cause you are. And you grow even more so each year! I think it's the fairy blood in you.