Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday things

Notes from Grading Jail:

- Why do I hate doing units that touch on contemporary popular culture in my classes? Because I get critical reading responses in the vein of this collage: "I had Barbies...My mother didn't let us watch cable...The media oppresses people...I shall regale you with a four-page tale, unrelated to the readings, of my trip to Developing Country and what that told me about Western media..."

- Why, why, why, why is it so hard to learn a citation style? It. is. not. difficult. to open a book about the style, or look online at the website I direct you to in the syllabus, and simply DO WHAT YOU ARE TOLD.

- On that note, how many times do I have to tell you - either in class, or on your weekly assignments - that we do not put article titles in italics, when we are referring to them in our writing, but we put them in QUOTATION MARKS? Obviously telling you half a dozen times is not enough. I worry about your brains; are they sieves?

On the non-grading front, I have had the most ridiculous email from editors of a journal that is publishing an article of mine. I am, frankly, not happy. I didn't reply to this morning's email from them right away - I had to send it to a senior scholar first, to get confirmation that it was, indeed, ridiculous. And then I had to just sit on it for many hours so I would be able to compose a calm reply. Combine this with two other awful stories I've heard lately about dealing with journals in my general area, and it is all VERY disheartening.

I don't know how I'm going to get through this weekend of heavy grading - I have hit the wall - harder than ever before - and I have been avoiding grading like nobody's business. Not my usual habit. So now I have an ENORMOUS pile of...badness to get through. Thankfully, I have one of my recently acquired wine-drinking friends coming over for pasta and wine tonight. Yay!


neophyte said...

I don't know how useful this would be, but perhaps try taking the word "response" out of the assignment to avoid the evils mentioned in Thing 1? A conversation between two Petri Dish faculty who didn't know that undergrad me was listening:

A: "My students never turn in their g-ddamn reading responses!"
B: "Really? Mine do. They're very worried about them, usually."
A: "How do you manage that?"
B: "I call them 'position papers.'"

The lesson we learn is that response=gabfest while paper=serious-work. The mind of the undergraduate. What can I say.

And yes, yay for wine -- be good to yourself. You're in the home stretch.

Hilaire said...

Very interesting, Neophyte! I've thought a lot about the name of this assignment...I thought critical reading response was good because it mentioned, ya know, *the readings*. Reminding them that they had to discuss them in the assignment. But maybe not. Hmm...This is a whole new way of thinking about this.

I actually have an assignment called a "position paper" in one class - that's the other thing I'm grading this weekend - and in that one I am asking them to, like, take a position!! Imagine that. Intervene in a critical debate. Many of them also can't wrap their minds around that, it appears. It's so ridic, all of it. It all comes down to not being able to discern a critical position in the readings, much less in their own minds, no matter what an assignment is called. Frustrating - especially when they're third- and fourth-year students.

I shall have to think on this - thanks for the input.

Earnest English said...

Wow, Neophyte. That's really interesting. I'll have to think more about that. (I guess students aren't aware of the rigor associated with "Reader Response theory," which even annoying critics sometimes think of as a non-critical free-for-all.) I used to call my RRs "difficulty papers" because I asked students to specifically frame them around the parts of the reading that they were having trouble grasping. Someone else in my field calls them "microthemes." So there are some naming issues.

Hilaire, I feel better reading your post and am somewhat disheartened. What is the deal with citation? How bloody hard can it be? I was in a meeting where teachers said that one of the outcomes of a class I'm teaching is that students should know Dominant Citation Style in my field. I have told students over and over to please consult the frigging website I listed on the syllabus for citations. With things like RefWorks and bib-ing websites where you just put in the information, there is just no reason to screw up citation style. I tell them quite honestly that I haven't memorized it either, but I know how to go to a frigging website in order to get my questions answered. I was hoping that this had to do with the particular laziness of my oh-way-too-privileged students with their tutors and drivers, but apparently not. Sad. Article titles in quotation marks? Completely beyond my students. BEYOND. I can't even go there. Now I have to go and grade five portfolios. I hope you had a good relaxing rant-fest and drink-fest with wine-drinking friend.

Hilaire said...

EE, I know, it is *so* insane. Seriously, it is things like this - complete inability to follow instructions - that make me weep for our future. Not even joking.

I did have a good time with wine and friend - I really feel like I have a new close friend here. Hurrah!