Totally pointless post

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. If you’re reading this and you start to get annoyed because you’re discovering that I’ve got absolutely nothing to say, don’t get mad at me about it. You probably shouldn’t be spending your time reading this anyway.

It’s only the second day of NaBloPoMo and I’m faltering! It’s not that I don’t have things to write about. I do, as a matter of fact — I want to write about Rosamund Lehmann’s A Note in Music now that I’ve finished it and I also want to write about Seneca. But I’m still sick, all coughing and sniffly and woozy, and I’m not sure I can think straight to write about something serious. And I just got terribly annoyed because I read through some student essay revisions and found that they hadn’t revised at all. After ten years or so of teaching writing, why this would surprise me, I don’t know, but I am still always surprised when it happens. I mean, why would anyone think it’s a good idea to hand in an essay revision that is almost exactly the same as the first draft? Don’t they realize I will get frustrated at them, which is, surely, the last thing they want? So I’m more in the mood to vent than to write something thoughtful and smart.

I have discovered over the years that the best approach for me to take in the classroom is to be all happiness and cheer all the time. Somehow I’ve never figured out how to make any other teaching persona work for me. If I let myself show frustration or annoyance, things go downhill fast. Given that I am by no means a cheerful person generally, staying so cheerful might sound hard, but since I see students only for three hours a week, I usually do okay. But what it means is that I have a powerful need to vent when the students aren’t around! Not that teaching is so hard or unpleasant, or that my students are so terrible, let me clarify. Most of the time they are a pleasure to teach. It’s just that … well, I’m a perfectionist and was a perfectly obedient, perfectly diligent student myself, and I (still) don’t understand why students aren’t more like I was. I have to remind myself that, yes, occasionally, even I skipped the reading now and then or asked for an extension or took the easy way out in an assignment. I think this is one of the hardest things to learn about teaching — so often (although not always) those who end up teaching were the model students of their day, and they have to learn that not all students are perfectly-organized perfectionists like they were. (But why not? why not?? Don’t they see how much easier things would be if they were?)

So, this has turned into a post about teaching, which is something I rarely write about. But at this point in the semester with all the grading I’m doing, it’s hard to think about much else. I do have the pleasure of choosing a new novel now; perhaps that will cheer me up after that disastrous grading session …

11 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Life, Teaching

11 responses to “Totally pointless post

  1. Not in the least useless.. very much enjoy your thoughts on teaching. Bad luck about cold. Do hope you feel better soon. A post is a post in NaBlo, and you will get around to Lehmann’s book soon.

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  2. It WAS interesting to hear you talk about teaching. I could listen to more of that. I remember that I was a not always perfect student who did really well but only on occasion. Seeing that from a teacher’s perspective, I can imagine it must be incredibly frustrating.

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  3. How frustrating. You put so much time and effort into teaching them, you hope they can put time and effort into learning. When they don’t, what a disappointment. Maybe the student had a good, to them, reason for not revising. At least it’s nice to think they did. Hope a restful weekend helps you feel better.

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  4. hepzibah

    what a wonderful post, I like to hear about your teaching and it wasn’t a pointless post at all. I know what you mean, those who become teachers, were model students (like us) but so many students aren’t like this, and I guess we have to figure out how to deal with it.

    And it must be hard to be happy, cheerful in front of the class all the time, but I can’t see myself acting anyway else either!

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  5. You’d be surprised at an impact you might be making. Students won’t say it, but trust me: somewhere in one of your classes, a student is saying, “Wow, my teach is AWESOME!” and looks forward to your class. I never told my favorite teachers who they were, but there are a few I’ll never forget. I wasn’t a model student by any means–I ditched class and got away with a lot, and only got caught on one or two occasions–but that doesn’t mean I wanted to disrespect them intentionally. I realize now that not showing up to class is disrespectful, but students don’t normally see it that way.

    A lot of my teachers would probably say that I was a model student, but teaching is something I know I don’t have the patience for. I really respect those who do. But maybe we aren’t more like you because we have a LOT more distractions. Cell phones, computers, Blackberries, MySpace … you get the idea.

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  6. Ah students, students. That’s why teaching as a profession absolutely must include rewards that you give to yourself, whether it be time off or a small present (not necessarily that small) or something special to eat. It would grind you down too much otherwise.And I know what you mean about being cross – mine expect me to love them or else they are totally devastated!

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  7. I’ve never taught but I feel like I know exactly what you mean. I was a very diligent student (almost to the point of obsession – not always good) and would get incredibly frustrated with my peers when they didn’t do the work! I would sit in seminars and tutorials and *fume* that they hadn’t put the time and effort into even the most cursory reading. How can you come to a class about Donne, or Woolf, or Milton and not have read *any* of the texts? And, like you say, *why* would you want to? What a monumental waste of time!

    I often felt like the only person in the class willing to speak and discuss, and left wondering what was the point for the poor tutor.😦 I had some wonderful professors, who inspired me enormously, and I felt sad that other people didn’t realise the privilege of being taught by them.

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  8. Lilalia — thank you! I’m feeling much better — enough better to post on Lehmann today!

    Charlotte — it can get frustrating, but I do try to remember that some things stick with students even though I can’t see it, and that, more importantly, not everyone needs to be like me! In fact, it’s a good thing not everyone is like me …

    Stefanie — I do think most of the time students aren’t being mean-spirited or lazy or anything like that, but they simply don’t understand what they are supposed to do, or don’t know how to do it, or something like that. It can feel like they are being mean-spirited, though.

    Hepzibah — yes, figuring out how to deal with it is the challenge, and, as Litlove says, taking lots of breaks and giving oneself rewards!

    Brandon — thank you so much for saying that! I really appreciate hearing that students sometimes appreciate what I do, even if their behavior isn’t quite perfect. I know intellectually that I shouldn’t take the things they do personally, but it’s another thing entirely to know emotionally that I shouldn’t take it personally. Your comment helps a lot.

    Litlove — oh, you are SO right! That’s what the summer is for, for me, and I should probably make sure I never teach a summer class again, so I can have that recovery and reward time. If I’m going to do this for years and years, it’ll probably be the thing that keeps me sane!

    Victoria — oh, yes, I know what you mean! Those people who wouldn’t do the reading and yet would talk in class as though they had — arg! And so much wasted opportunity. And yet no one can force anyone to learn anything. You’re ready for it or you aren’t.

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  9. One of my coworkers used to teach part time–just a basic freshman writing class–nothing creative, but your run of the mill learning to do research sort of thing, and she would always get frustrated with students who wouldn’t revise or worse that obivously plagiarized. I can see why you’d want to be upbeat in class, but I’d need to vent a little, too! I suppse there will always be a few diligent students and many lazy ones. I imagine the diligent ones must make it all worth while, though.

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  10. I also find that things go downhill fast when you let frustration show; especially with junior high students. One of the reasons I left the school environment and started my own private school is my frustration level. Students who are required to study English don’t generally put their heart into it, but students who are paying a lot of money to do extra study in English are usually craving knowledge. I want to teach those who want to learn.

    Would you be cheating on the NaBloPoMo if you predate 30 short entries and watch them appear each day?🙂

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  11. Danielle — the diligent ones certainly do make the difference … without them it wouldn’t be worth it. But with them, it can be quite rewarding.

    Bikkuri — I don’t think it would be cheating! I’d have to write those entries ahead of time, though … perhaps I could get ahead on the weekends or something??

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