Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Tale of Two Classes

I teach two sections of Writing 2, a class in research and argumentation. One of these sections is cooperative and has produced some really terrific papers. Though there are students who struggle, they try to do what I ask, and generally come to class and do the work. Some go way over and beyond the norm in their efforts to research the topic and write the paper, and there are some of the best papers I have ever seen in this section.
The other, however, is enough to give me conniptions. Again, there are some very intelligent students in this class, fully capable of doing the work. But they often don't, for one reason or another. Either they skip out on classes or on homework designed to prepare them for the papers, or both. And at this point in the class, halfway through the semester, they are consequently either without usable topics, unaware of how to research and use sources, or both.
I know it is not I who have not done the work, but I have to come into class and deal with this group of unfocused and unprepared students every class session.
It is true that the class is late in the afternoon, precisely in that part of the day when I, having woken up at 5:30 AM or earlier, am too tired to deal effectively with their questions. But in addition, we have just had bad luck. This class was the one with the really bad research session, and since then, students have not figured out how to research their topics, no matter how many times I sit down with them personally and show them how to do it or assign chapters in the books that will help them to do it.
At least one of the students seems to think I am trying to get out of doing my job, which is ironic because of the time I put into it. This student himself, although very capable of writing these papers (and actually a very good writer and intelligent person), does not seem willing to put in the time, so perhaps he is only projecting his lack of commitment onto me.
And there are behavior problems in the class, something I am not very good at dealing with. Knowing my limitations, I have avoided teaching the bottom level of developmental writing because there are frequently many behavior problems in there. No matter how much experience I have with students who have such problems, I am just not very good at handling them. That's why I have never wanted to teach high school.

3 comments:

Lou said...

Well, heck, I am sorry. I think a coupl of things. First, did you get that pink sheet in your mail folder from Liz Cipres, the dean of students. The sheet on disruptive students. On that sheet, Cipres says that you can send a student out of class and tell them they cannot come back until the meeting after the next, and that when you do this, you notify Cipres' office.

Students who are disruptive can't stay in class. They are stealing time from other students.

I think, too, that when students don't do the work, sometimes it's because they don't know how. Are they seeking help in WR 180?

Robbi said...

At least a dozen of the students in both sections needed reading classes really badly, but there were no reading classes for them. I talked some of them into 180, and they go there, but at least 2 probably need to be tested for learning disabilities, and are simply unprepared for this class.
I have told them I am not at all certain they will be able to manage this work, but they want to try.
The students who are problematic are passively problematic. They do not yell or throw things or anything like that. They just yack with each other though not loudl7. I have asked them to stop, sent them individual emails where I told them that it is time for them to make up their minds whether they are going to get with the program or get out. I told one of them who does not attend class or once in a while, when she does attend, comes three quarters of the way through the class and turns in homework due weeks hence, without of course any clue how to do it correctly.
I told her too that she needs to make up her mind whether she is going to start coming to class and doing the work at the time everyone else is doing it, or leave the class. Next class, I will ask the two guys who bug me most, one of whom is well able to do the work and the other of whom I am not sure of, to sit on opposite sides of the class. I have already sent them emails, so I expect to hear from them.

Robbi said...

At least a dozen of the students in both sections needed reading classes really badly, but there were no reading classes for them. I talked some of them into 180, and they go there, but at least 2 probably need to be tested for learning disabilities, and are simply unprepared for this class.
I have told them I am not at all certain they will be able to manage this work, but they want to try.
The students who are problematic are passively problematic. They do not yell or throw things or anything like that. They just yack with each other though not loudl7. I have asked them to stop, sent them individual emails where I told them that it is time for them to make up their minds whether they are going to get with the program or get out. I told one of them who does not attend class or once in a while, when she does attend, comes three quarters of the way through the class and turns in homework due weeks hence, without of course any clue how to do it correctly.
I told her too that she needs to make up her mind whether she is going to start coming to class and doing the work at the time everyone else is doing it, or leave the class. Next class, I will ask the two guys who bug me most, one of whom is well able to do the work and the other of whom I am not sure of, to sit on opposite sides of the class. I have already sent them emails, so I expect to hear from them.