Thursday, May 17th, 2007
The Course Weblog will be going through some redesign in preparation for the literature course I will be teaching in the summer and for the Fall semester. Some pages have been prepped, but they’re not really what I want them to be. Lots of cool reading there, though. How does one design a weblog to handle information for multiple courses without the writer falling into a grave?
The New Media Weblog may see light traffic till September. Now some steam.
Another semester is done. It was an interesting one. Shakespeare was fabulous, reminding me that the dramatist has lots of relevance left in his old bones. Good writing, thankfully, never gets old, and students coming at Shakespeare with a fresh eye or for the first time will experience compelling newness and interesting questions. The students rose to the ability-based occasion, a method of evaluating student performance that avoids the traditional give and take of grade distributions, worthless curves, vague averages, and guesswork over what grades may or may not mean. They performed well and showed that they could learn. The writing course, on the other hand, was odd. Students in that course arrived in shifts and missed lots of critical involvement, which leaves gaps in work. I will not force adults to incline to a subject, nor force people to learn what they may not feel inclined to struggle with at this point in their lives. It’s the students’ job to study and learn and to apply what they learn about argumentation and rhetoric in carefully prepared work. If they don’t want my offering, they can certainly try another opportunity elsewhere.
New Media was also a gem, with good participation, interesting content, and the students who came to the course were good sports. It’s a team-taught course, with John Timmons, and this approach keeps the class fresh and honest. The fiction writing course was fun, lively, and produced some interesting writing, although some students in this course never seem to understand how much work it takes to set a good scene, revise for clarity, and to grind out language that will keep an audience interested, whatever that may mean.
I note that in lots of work that I read this semester, much of it lacked self-awareness (I’m writing now and not talking), a strong critical sense (I need evidence for this point and need to come and strengthen this other argument before I develop paragraph 5), an awareness of the codes, habits, structures, and complexities of writing, speaking, listening, and analyzing in an academic or professional context (should I use this word? combine these sentences), and compulsion to improve for a purpose (I really need to get a handle on complex relationships and understand the difference between an inference and a fact). In some cases, instilling curiosity is enough to compel the above; in others, habits of disaffection or disawareness are pretty ingrained. Some of the people I work with simply haven’t thought through why they are doing what they’re doing. Purposefulness cannot be taught but it can be nurtured. Those students who wanted something of the content, added to the experience, and contributed to the subject, did well or satisfactorily (which means they can be trusted with the forklift).
I’ve met no incapable people. But there were plenty of lost opportunities. Plenty of opportunities taken. In this way, the semester has been typical. I was stunned by how many did not work yet they still expected something meaningful from under performance. In this sense, the semester was strange because more and more people are simply not taking the time.