Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Grading without students
(You know, I should make some sort of cool pun about Deleuze and Guattari based on that title, but I'd have to read them first, and I'm behind enough with life as it is.)
So, currently I am grading midterms. (Here is a picture of the midterms for those of you who are visually inclined.) This is my first time grading without teaching, i.e. being a "reader" for a mid-sized lecture course for pay. It's kind of strange grading work by people I don't know, and not leading a section. There are many things I could tell them to work on if I had a discussion section with them, but I don't, so I keep stopping myself from making notes for a lesson plan while I grade, which is my usual practice. I'd actually rather be teaching, not least because I'd be paid more and they'd have to kick in for my fees, but also because it feels so strange and disconnected. I'm hoping that snagging this job at the last minute will help me get on the "ins" with this department and eventually they will let me teach for them. Since I am almost at the limit of teaching availability --- the graduate division has recently started being draconian about cutting off grad students who have been here "too long," not allowing them to teach any more classes (I could go on about this further in an additional post) --- it will also require asking them to file special exception paperwork with the evil trolls of administration, which makes it all a long shot.
The nice side to being an "academic dumpster diver" --- i.e. scrounging up work in whatever outside department you can find --- is that you get such different perspectives on the university, the disciplines, and even the students. I've taught a lot of gen ed classes in many different departments, but usually you wind up with the usual "clueless frosh" ---- that rather unformed, vague type it's your job to wake up and shape up, teaching them more about the norms and expectations of the university and the concepts of hard work and study skills than specific content. You basically, regardless of department, run them through their paces on the library and paper-writing process, coax, cajole and threaten them to come to class and do their reading regularly, and sometimes splash them with a cold bucket of the realization that they need to stop whatever stupid thing they're doing (like partying or working 3 jobs) if they want to still be in college next quarter. This department, on the other hand, actually prides itself on being hardass, having "weeder" courses with high fail rates and not allowing students to sneak around requirements (one must also petition to become a major after successfully passing the intros). I'm pleasantly surprised by the midterms. They might still be a bit thin on the analysis, but the majors have all their terms down. It's a refreshing change. On the other hand, one reading's offhand mention of the word "phallocentrism" has made me understand why people might want to ban it, and theory in general, from the face of the earth; these peeps are randomly sprinkling the word around their tests like red hots on a meatloaf. It's just wrong, I tell you.