The semester can’t end, it would seem, without a student crying in my classroom (I don’t have an office, really, so this is as likely to happen in the hallway, in front of the Coke machines, or on the way to the parking lot, tbh). I always feel badly when students are upset by the work we are doing, but I’m also heartened – it means that they actually care about what they are writing, and how they’re writing it. Learning to take criticism isn’t something we do easily, regardless of who’s giving it, or the circumstances surrounding it. Some of us are less well-equipped to take constructive criticism than others, and really, end of the semester is hardly a healthy time for students to work on this skill anyway. I’m relieved when the student is crying about a paper, actually, versus crying about an abusive relationship, or money/work problems, or other awful life experiences. We can fix the writing stuff, I tell them. Easy peasy. The other problems are a little trickier. I do what I can with those, and suggest whatever options the school has available (counseling centers, etc.). And I sometimes wind up crying with them. Not a good look for me, but I can’t help it.
But in addition to the crying students, I also get visits from students from my past, which is infinitely easier to navigate for me (I don’t have to decide whether or not to offer tissues, or guide anyone to a “private” part of the hallway – as if that exists). I love when students tell me what they are doing – considering other schools to transfer to, considering jobs, scholarships, travel…opportunities abound for young people today, and youth is nothing if not opportunity striding around making itself known where it can.
But my own end of semester woes exist as well – every semester that goes by, I wonder if I will ever find full time work, if I will have enough classes next semester (both Queens and UNCC have opted to stop using adjuncts, as their student load isn’t heavy enough to justify it) and if I will manage to finally paint that wall in my studio with chalkboard paint during this semester break. I’m hopeful about this summer – I’m teaching a summer class, and I haven’t done that in a while. I have a bit of time before class starts, and I’m going to use that time to shake up my plans for the semester…I feel like things are getting stale in my 111 classes. I want to have more in class work that’s got a payoff for students, that they can actually see and appreciate. I don’t want busy work for them or for me, so I’m careful with my assignments so that I don’t have them do things that don’t offer a strong payoff in the end.
One thing I’m considering doing this summer is having students teach a 3 minute grammar lesson. I already have a handout with all sorts of common errors and how to fix them, but it’s been my experience that students learn best when they are peer taught. I’m also considering having them create presentations based around the readings – I’m always trying to find ways that students can show their proficiency with the readings, other than by using quizzes. I find quizzes singularly hateful and pointless. Boo for quizzes. Not sure the students will be gung ho on the presentations, but hey.
This is going to require me to write some new assignments/exercises/handouts, but I find that to be a fun creative outlet, honestly. This makes me wonder about myself and what I see as fun. What happened to me?? Good grief.