Friday, October 31, 2014

I'm armed with a red pen and I know how to use it!

One of my students, a chemistry major, told me he's going to the mall to demonstrate fun chemistry concepts to children this weekend, and I said, "Funny, they never ask English majors to demonstrate fun concepts at the mall."

"That's because we can't make meth," said a colleague.

"Right," I said, "but we can make metaphors."


One thing I can't make, if you ask my first-year students, is sense. Here we are umpteen weeks into the semester and a student finally admits that no one in the class knows what this word means when I write it in the margin of a paper.

Which word?


And they never asked until today?

And speaking of asking, every day for the past week I've started off the comedy class by showing the study guide on the screen and asking if anyone had questions about any of the terms listed there, like satire and parody and trickster. One or two students asked for clarifications, but the rest of the (large) class sat there stony-faced, unable to think of a single question.

Until last night (or I suppose it was early this morning), when a student e-mailed me a list of six or eight terms and asked me to explain them because he "couldn't find them online."

I don't respond to e-mail in the wee hours of the morning, but eventually I responded by pointing out that most of the terms he listed can be found in a particular chapter of the textbook and the others are on a PowerPoint slide available on Moodle.

They're taking the exam right now. Yes, I'm giving an exam on Halloween while the campus is seething with costumed colleagues bearing candy. I'm dressed as the scariest thing I know: an English professor armed with a red pen. Look out or I'll write vague all over you--and that's not a metaphor.

1 comment:

Bardiac said...

I used to be completely horrified when I realized that my students have NO idea what "essay" means, unless it's "five paragraph piece of crap I'm supposed to turn in."

I begin every comp class with a discussion of "what's an essay?" and "what's a thesis?" so at least they have a chance.

And you know, no one in grammar school or HS every told me what an essay was, not until I was in grad school did anyone think it was worth talking about the genre as a genre. We were all just supposed to know or something.