And I have pushed through 5 of them already. I will go back and do another 5 later today, but right now I am supposed to be revamping my job materials. Hello job market my old friend; I've come to talk with you again. Bleah. But the only way to deal with either of those tasks, of course, is to break it down into little chunks with lots of rewards. The hershey kisses are across the room from me; I have to cross something off before getting up to eat one. Of course, even with these constraints I'm going to end up gaining way too much weight, so I'm trying to have some of my minirewards be non-food-related. Hence the blogging.
That reminds me, I need to force myself back into an exercise routine. The gym here is unacceptable for many reasons, but they do have a couple yoga classes that seem decent and fit into my schedule ... finding this stuff out was on my to-do list last week; this week I really need to get my ass in there to work out!
And also, since I tossed my threadbare old swim suit before I moved, I need to decide if I'm going to replace my swim stuff and go back to doing laps. Humh. That's really more a note to myself than anything for you all.
For my lit class's first essay I am making them do a close reading of a single poem, very traditional New-Critical stuff except I am not even really teaching them about the keystone and the structures of irony and the architecture of a poem stuff. So you could say I do a crappy job of teaching how to do a close reading, considering I don't even get much past "quote actual lines from the poem" and "tell me what the words mean exactly" and then my standards for what they produce are even below that, but, whatever.
I have had almost phenomenal success in the past showing my students a model: a segment of my undergraduate essays that is very focused in on word choice and image patterns. At my old school, the few times I got to teach lit classes and made them do this assignment modeled on my own, I got great stuff that was looking closely at the writing and saying interesting things. And even here, where the students are not quite as prepared and everyone is a non-major fulfilling a GE requirement anyway, I have pretty good results of the form of a close reading. I glanced through the pile and I am getting short essays sprinkled about with lots of quotes and they range from a fairly simple reading of the form/content interplay of the poem to a very in-depth paraphrase.
And I am totally on the fence about that. On the one hand, students are not necessarily doing a reading of the poems, in that they are not making much of an argument or analysis of what is going on in the poem. But on the other hand I TA'd for years for lit classes and got back "close readings" that didn't have a single quote and that floated so high above the poem at the level of platitude, vague generality, and description of some of the themes, that I feel like it is a major accomplishment to get students to the level where I know they understand the poem at the level of paraphrase. (Oooh, those New Critics would hate me for the heresy of paraphrase!)
So showing them a very concrete model of what I mean by "use lots of quotes and analyze each one" really helps to get them to the form I expect, if not actually produce the level of analysis and texture present in the sample. However, this is why I have a paper due already; this very short "getting to know each other" essay gives them the warning that I am actually an Evil and Heinous Bitch Who Grades Extremely Hard, and gives them a list of what I really hit and don't hit for their later papers. So yeah, grading a lot sucks, but it pays off in that I get to read less-terrible essays further down the semester line. At least I hope it will --- it did back at my old place.
Yeah I don't know if I'm fooling myself or not: why yes, I get much more specific simplistic generalities with my patented method! So much better! They can't analyze, but they can blindly imitate! You go!
Also I have no clue how to teach anyone to think about rhythm and meter, or even any idea about what to say about it myself in lecture. If students address it at all, they say something like "this meter makes the poem flow along very smoothly" or "by making every two lines rhyme, the author produces a very pleasing, harmonious sound." Gah. My assignment has a long list of poetic terms and characteristics and maybe I should just lop those off the end of the list; I don't really cover it, and too many of my students trudge along and do a random paragraph on each one as if they had to discuss them all. Going over the instructions more carefully doesn't help, either, since so many majors do explicitly want a bullet point or separate paragraph covering each term (I'm looking at you, biology and psychology midterms!).
Sigh. Ok, need to revamp my job letter and teaching philosophy. Last night was the horrible experience of emailing people to ask for stuff again (I hate that!): letters, copies of stuff they promised me, statuses on articles and things, updates on conference plans. But, you know what, reading a tired old job letter and polishing it once again is no more fun than nagging people for letters. Even with chocolate at hand.