Monday, November 22, 2021

The right time for running out of steam

"You can spend the final 20 minutes of class working on the reading assignment for next Monday," I told my composition students, "But I don't care whether you do it here or elsewhere." So they all left the classroom, possibly to find a comfortable place to do the reading and possibly not. Who knows? They'd turned in their major research papers this morning so we spent some time in class doing some preliminary work to prepare for the final essay exam, but I won't see them again for a whole week and who's going to remember anything I tell them today?

I've reached the point in every class when I've just about run out of steam. Sure, I'll lead discussions of reading material and provide feedback on drafts, but two of my classes are spending the final week of class watching films and I don't feel the least bit guilty about that. They all have major projects due in the next two weeks, so they're working hard enough--and so am I. It just doesn't always look like work.

Frankly, I'm too tired to stand in front of class right now. I've been awake since 4 a.m. because my subconscious mind decided it was really important to find out whether we had any yeast in the kitchen, which we did not, so I had to add that to my shopping list for Thanksgiving food, although why I had to do that at 4 a.m. is beyond me. How am I supposed to stand in front of four classes and be coherent when my subconscious mind is waking me in the wee hours obsessing over yeast?

So for now I'll do my work sitting down. Today I'm providing feedback on a pile of drafts from the African American Lit class plus a pile of Works Cited drafts for the Honors students' research projects. And then I have all those composition essays to grade and a bunch of interpretive maps from the Postcolonial Lit class, where students did some really impressive work on the meanings of Maori tattoos and folk tales and where one student illustrated Peter Cowan's short story "The Tractor" by creating an image of a garden growing plants shaped like dollar signs. Amazing work, and I enjoyed watching them explain their findings to classmates while I sat and watched from the sidelines.

If I've done my work well, my students should be able to take the lead at this point in the semester while I observe and encourage. It may look like I'm loafing, but it's evidence that learning has happened and work has been done, and after all that effort we all need a bit of a break. And so we'll take it, with thanksgiving.   

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