Friday, February 26, 2016

Let me just brag on my students a little bit, okay?

This week I've been called upon to explain to students the difference between subtly and subtlety and to remind them that a question asking for characteristics of modernism will not be satisfied by a list of modernist characters. But those are small things, minor and easily repaired holes in vocabulary and knowledge. On the whole, I'm thrilled with my students' eagerness to learn and their facility in sharing what they're learning.

My first-year composition students may complain about how much I require them to write, but I see such improvement in their writing and in their engagement with ideas that it's worth all the griping. Today I'll commend their diligence. Ya done good, I'll tell them. And if you can improve this much in a mere six weeks, imagine where you'll be by the end of the semester! Let them groan. The proof is in the writing.

My American Lit Survey students at first seemed reserved, with just a few willing to talk about texts in class; now they speak up (most of 'em) with many interesting insights and probing questions. And best of all, they take knowledge gained in my class and apply it in other literature classes--integrative learning at work!

My Postcolonial Lit Survey students floored me with their most recent papers, and their eagerness to learn about the aftermath of the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan has led to some really fruitful discussions about why we know what we know and who determines what counts as "history." Best of all, they don't seem intimidated by Salman Rushdie's writing. Confused maybe, but not intimidated. 

And the film class...all I can say is Wow. Their papers are a joy to read, and discussions (both online and in class) venture into some really interesting territory. Yesterday after we finished viewing The Birds, a student pointed out that the film ends at what would be the halfway point of most horror films; what's missing is the part where human ingenuity develops a cure for whatever has disrupted the community and eventually restores stability. Yes, I said, but why doesn't that happen here? I don't know whether we found a satisfactory answer, but we had fun trying.

I could certainly come up with complaints about students--don't even get me started about that whole plagiarism fiasco, and I resent the need to confiscate the cell phone of a student who insists on using the rest room during every exam. But those are isolated instances, mere potholes on the road to job satisfaction. My job is not always easy to love (or, let's be honest, even like), but when my job is most lovable, it's my students who make it so. 

So three cheers for great students! Even the characters have some great characteristics.

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