Ok, I'm up; I'm working. Sigh.
I did not do much of anything yesterday besides a couple loads of laundry. Ooh, and naps. I think I took three naps, which were highly important. That was how I celebrated throwing a chapter draft at my advisor on Thurs.
Now, I didn't finish it, not even at the "done is good enough" level; I'm just hoping that since it has a crappy introduction and you have to read about 15 or 16 pages before it starts to break down into some bullets and unfinished sentences, that my advisor will either be reasonably ok with that, considering that most of it is mostly written, or she just will have moved from reading to skimming by that time and not notice. But thanks to everyone who congratulated me. Now all I have to do is write one more chapter from scratch. And have a draft of that in about a month. And many other things. Sigh.
Like grading!!! Joy!!!!! The joy of grading!!!! I cannot tell you how thrilled and excited I am to read dozens of papers badly rehashing the same topic!!!! The excitement here is so thick one could cut it with a spork. Yee.Ha.
Thinking back to my class observation, I could conclude either that I am not pushing them enough to reach for a higher bar (or possibly not modeling the difficult types of moves I want from them) or, more cynically, that pretty much everything a teacher does has little to no effect on students' writing abilities. A lot of the time I fall into the cynicism camp. Ahh, yes ---- Camp Cynicism; I'm there right now, grading essays instead of making little lanyards and writing home to you all who are undoubtedly having a better time. But I'll show you! I will have s'mores with my papers. And then get promptly eaten by bears.
So far I am seeing a marked improvement in clarity in my students' papers ---- but that could be simply because the first paper was designed around a much more interpretive point while this one could be seen as a straightforward plot summary. It's not supposed to be, but I am getting quite a lot of it. They are doing a good job being very specific about what is in which text and using nice specific quotes to illustrate their tedious recapitulations of the obvious. This actually is a huge improvement over paper one and something I have been hammering at them, so I am grading in response to them taking me seriously. In the first paper (they have four texts ---- five, actually ---- that tell basically the same story) I got the vaguest statements possible, of the sort that since something roughly similar happened in one of the other texts, it must support the point the student is making about this one, even though it is completely contradictory.
So, of the papers I have read so far this morning (not that many, I'll admit), everyone is paying very careful attention to the differences between these texts, and all of them are more or less noting how these are very different portraits of the same "character" and that these different representations all tell us something different (for some of the essays, that last bit might as well be a quote from the thesis). However, even my strong students aren't actually asking, much less answering, why. Why would these authors tell the same basic stories in such different fashions? I mean, that's the interesting point, and the whole point of this class and the way it was structured. I can't tell if students are especially afraid of pushing too far in this direction with this kind of material, or if this is a larger, more general student problem. (I've definitely seen it in other classes.)
Is there something about, say, students and the high-stakes mania, with its overemphasis on getting the perfect grades and jumping through all the hoops and seeing college as a certification program, that is training them to not think on the level of why? Is this just one of the differences between "English majors" (or successful English majors) and "non-English majors" ---- that people who are already good at asking "why" in a specifically "English-y" way are the ones to become majors? I don't remember being taught how to see texts like this, for example. And I'm not saying that my students aren't smart, nor even that they can't ask why questions, cause I've talked to some of the bright and lively science majors for this class, and I know they ask lots of good questions in a very scientific-method way. But the idea that an author could have some sort of "intentions" or "tendencies" or even an "agenda" but that this point wouldn't invalidate what they are writing, this baffles them. They baffle me.
I'd say more, but my timer is about to go off. Back to the papers and the chocolate! Eh. Expect more postings with my later breaks.