Friday, May 05, 2017

End-of-semester questions (possibly unanswerable)

I've been asking students questions all semester--on exams, on essay prompts, in class discussions--but grading all those final exams and papers raises some questions I have to ask myself:

If 10 students turn in fun, creative, coherent, polished papers that make me want to pat myself on the back for inspiring them but one student turns in a steaming pile of poo, why do I obsess about the one instead of celebrating the rest? 

And why do I agonize over the fate of that one student who underperformed this semester when other students earned an F without registering so much as a blip on my emotional radar?

If the majority of students in a class make A's and B's, am I guilty of grade inflation or is it a result of the peculiar makeup of the class? And on the other hand, if a significant number of my composition students made grades low enough to require them to repeat the course, how much of their failure is a result of my teaching?

And how silly is it to tell myself "This assignment produced lousy papers" when the assignment itself produces nothing? I've used that assignment before and the results were fine. What changed this time?

What can I do to improve? This is the question that will haunt me as I prepare for next fall's classes, but I won't try answering it today or my little gray cells will go on strike. Besides, I've got all summer. (Starting right now.)


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