Friday, November 03, 2006

I Need a New Job

I have just finished a week of conferences with my research and argumentative writing students. They had to write a paper in which they speculated about causes or effects of a problem and then offer a solution to the problem. Two students wrote about the problem of marijuana being illegal. Someone wrote about steroids in sports. A few students wrote about obesity. One wrote about the fact that department stores don't carry a good variety of fashionable clothing for larger sized women. One student wrote about global warming. And the rest were not remarkable enough for me to remember what the topics were.

I need to read something intellectually stimulating. Unfortunately, my next task is to read my freshman students' process analysis essays which consist of such topics as how to end a bad first date quickly, how to apply makeup, and how to drive a stick shift.

I really like my students, but some of their writing makes me feel as though my brain is going to go numb from disuse.


Streak said...

I certainly feel your pain here. I teach history and several students chided me for grading them on writing, telling me "this is a history class, not composition." My explanation that if they can't communicate their ideas, I can't assess what they know seems to fall on deaf ears. The biggest frustration I have is with students who either don't care about, well, anything, or those who think they already know all they need to know about writing.


Tony Arnold said...

Ah, so you have identified a problem here with the ability of your freshman to think and communicate beyond a shallow level.

What solution do you propose? That would be a good blog essay, maybe a good example to your class.

I sympathize with the mind-numbing frustration. Some of my seniors are amazing me at the hard time they are having grasping some simple problems.

Keep in mind that God just may have put there to enlighten these young people. For your own sanity, try to focus not on the poor beginning outputs, but the amount of change you see by the end of the class.

If you can see progress in just a few students during your short time with them, then you should take great comfort that God is using you.

Hang in there. Based on what you have shown us, they really need you more than ever.

I hope all of that sounded like encouragement and not chastising, it was meant to be encouragement.


JMG said...

I know what you mean, Streak. I'm gratified when profs in other departments emphasize good writing skills.

Students seem to think that once they leave college they won't ever need to write again.

Tony, I do try to remember the big picture and think of the improvements that some of my students show over the course of a semester. I have had many students who took me for several different English classes, and I saw a tremendous improvement over a year and a half with these students.

I guess I'm just sort of feeling sorry for myself because I'd like to devote more time to studying things that interest me (perhaps read MD again in more depth) but my time has to be spent on student essays. In about six weeks I'll be free for a month to read what I want.

JMG said...

Gee Tony, I just realized that you assigned to me my own writing assignment. OK, I'll bite.

How many words does it have to be? When is it due? How many sources do I have to use?

Tony Arnold said...

Yeah, I thought you might have missed that little jab.

OK: More than 300 words. Sometime next week. And the only source you have to include is a plug to my blog somewhere in the content. Well, never mind that last one, I might like the context of the reference. :-)

BTW, I really miss being able to spend an evening reading v. preparing for class.

JMG said...

Hmmm. Next week. Might be very late next week, but we'll see.

You don't grade with red ink, do you?

jettybetty said...

Brings back painful memories for me.

When I was teaching college (over 25 years ago) our academic dean decided the students couldn't write--so every discipline should assign papers. I taught computer programming, so this was a stretch in a lot of directions--namely, I could write computer language--but not so much on the English language.

So, now you have my former student's kids and they still can't write? This is so discouraging as I thought I did a great job at introducing those people to hyphens! ;-)

Perhaps you need to re-read Mere Discipleship this weekend--that has some depth!

Amy said...

I don't know, I might like to read those freshman papers about how to end a bad first date quickly.

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

This is why I rarely ask for essays in my teachings.