Monday, April 27, 2015

End of the Semester

We are in the homestretch, people.

This means -- among other things -- that I must design exams, and design study-sheets for those exams, and walk students through review sessions over the study sheets for the exams.

It means I must hold office hours so that students can come to my office with last-minute drafts of papers for me to look at, and talk to them about.

It means I must hold office hours so that students who have not actually attended class all that often, or studied that much, can come to my office in a panic wondering whether they will pass, and what they can do about the fact that they probably won't. (And I can talk gently to them about the True Facts of Life.)

It means, and this is the very saddest part, I must grade papers and exams and then Reckon Up Final Grades.

This is my least favorite part of the whole bit of teaching.

See, in my worldview, teaching is about, well, teaching.

Students come to the university to learn.  I exist as a teacher in order to teach.  We're in this together.  It's a road trip, a journey, an adventure.  An essay into experience, if you will.  We find out, the student and I, what we can, in the time we have, about Working Class Literature, or about Fiction Writing, or about English Grammar.

And, you know, some students are really good at finding that out -- just as some students are really good at Aikido -- and some students are less good.  That's how the journey is.  We all travel our own road.  We learn what we can on that road.

So it kind of annoys me to have to grade students, most of whom are (in fact) trying their best to learn what they can.  This student -- trying as hard as she could -- traveled a C distance.  This one -- who in fact didn't have to try all that hard -- traveled an A distance.  This one tried very hard, but traveled a B+ distance.

And if it was just a road marker, you know, that would be one thing.  But there's such a moral component attached to grades in this country; not to mention a possible commercial component, since students can keep or lose scholarships and financial aid depending on their GPA.

And yes, some students can deserve low grades -- I have a few students who just didn't attend class or do any work, for whatever reason.  Maybe those students deserve the F or D.

I still don't like it.

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