2005-02-22 - 9:13 p.m.
....the psychological burden....
Last night I finally gave up on grading essays. When I came in to lecture today with my scraping voice, I think it was clear to the students that I was not lying to them about being very ill the whole weekend. Several looked sympathetic. Several said, "feel better." One sent an email this evening asking where his grade is. (one who clearly was not in class today. I feel no guilt about ignoring the email).
I am approximately halfway through the essays this evening, and I must say that I had higher expectations. I'm afraid that I have graded them rather harshly on this first round. It's clear that many of these students have not been exposed to the skills of writing a solid argument. If I want them to do this, then I have to give them encouragement, and tell them exactly what I want them to do.
This has got to be the most challenging course that I have taught so far. Although I don't feel this with all of the students, my overwhelming impression is that I am teaching robots. I cannot tell what is causing this problem. This may partly be that many of them are taking this course because they have to. This is partly because many are terrified of mathematics and have not learned to think about problems. But I was very surprised to find this similar problem in their writing. I expected math fears, but not writing issues. On Thursday I will spend a good part of the class outlining formulas for writing. What startles me the most is the sense that many cannot reason or think through a problem for themselves, either in mathematics or in writing.
I have to remember that some of these students are clearly performers, and I can already point them out. One very bright woman alerted me to a relevant news article in the NY Times. Another student (who actually has not done so well on his essay), is clearly engaged in the course, and asks good questions in every lecture. There is another student from a previous course of mine - he's a pleasure to teach because of his insightful questions.
My colleague was soo right in calling this course the psychological burden of the department!
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...they are just words, Suzi... - 2011-08-29