Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I was the best of students; I was the worst of students

As my most recent post explained, somehow one of the voices talked me into taking a class on a 1200-page Spanish novel. After 5 or 6 weeks (I lose track), I've figured out what sort of student I am: The one who seems really bright, but just isn't performing up to her potential.

We've all had these students in our classes. Chances are, you've got at least one right now. I've got two (in two different classes). They're great in discussion, but don't leave themselves enough time to get the As that your best professor instinct tells you they're capable of. If only they budgeted their time better! By all rights, they should be pulling straight As! How can you get through to them?

Being in the student position myself has been enlightening in this respect. Here's how my semester has gone in this class:

Weeks one and two: knocked it out of the park. Did all the reading. Took conscientious notes. Participated in class -- maybe even a little too much.

Week three: Holy shit. How did so many deadlines pile on at once? I need to finish that article, and there's that performance review that I totally spaced on and it's due tomorrow, and I'm trying to organize conferences and stay on top of the grading for once... And come the evening before the night class, I realize that I haven't done any of the reading, and I won't have time to do it the day of class, because I'm teaching all day, and so I make the decision... to skip class.

Week four: Similar to week three, except I've cleared off two of my three big must-dos, but another one that I had been putting off was due, and it was a hard deadline, so I got about half of the reading done (and no, I didn't do the reading from the week before -- no time for both). So I attended the first half of class, then skipped out at the break.

Week five: back on track. I back-burnered my grading (I'm paying for this now, I'll have you know) and managed to do all the reading again, understand what was going on, and turn in a creditable performance. Again, I probably talked too much -- something I'm acutely conscious of from my own discussion-leading experience. So I tried to shut up. But there are just so many interesting things to discuss!

And here we are at week six. And that grading needs to get done. But I just found out that a dear colleague's husband died suddenly so I'll be attending a memorial service on Saturday, and a housewarming for Voice of Reason on Sunday, and there's a college-level committee meeting tomorrow, and pick up the bike from the shop, and buy and mail off a small birthday gift for my sister. This weekend.

Which is to say: Where before I intellectually knew that my class is not the only thing going on in my students' lives, now I understand. It's been a long time since I've been in that position. Ouch.


JaneB said...

I find that taking a class every 2-3 years, in something I need to work at whether it's painting or an academic class, makes me a MUCH better teacher... and a lot less riled by my students' apparent lack of appreciation for MY CLASS!

Comradde PhysioProffe said...

Deep cover!

Susan said...

Well, we also recommend that students don't try to work 50-60 hour weeks while taking our classes. So you might be a bit kinder to yourself by saying that instead of that you're not performing up to potential.

I like taking classes because it does Remington me how hard learning is.