Sunday, October 26, 2014

Well, I survived that.

Mostly, anyway --- just like most other activities at the community college level, scheduling conferences was a bit complicated by the large number of students who happen to not be there on that day, don't check email, or just plain do not sign up. I also had probably about 10 or so miss their conference time. Surprisingly, most of them went fine and without incident.

Ooh, spoke too soon --- I have a pretty full day tomorrow and I notice that quite a few of the people I need to have stern talks with put it off until the last moment. But two of the people who were especially snotty to me the other day haven't shown up to class since, as if they are afraid or penitent. The third had a pretty quiet session with me and I didn't even bring up the attitude ---- that one skedaddled out right quick and didn't make much eye contact. Interestingly, from the comments this person made, I might have been totally off base ---- I think this person was being a little snot not because what we were doing in class was too hard, but too easy, too babyish. But since the writing I have seen is around the C+ range (though this person claims not to have put much effort into it), I don't have any evidence that this person is mis-placed in the class or that the class has been dumbed down too much. Ugh. People. I can't handle this much face-to-face time. And I hate saying the same damn thing, just individually, over and over again. Conference meetings are just not my thing.

Also, for many of my students, we didn't have much to go over ---- they already knew where they stood, grade wise, so my handing out their grade report and going line-by-line over the individual remaining points didn't really do much for them, and if their second essay was a big improvement over their first, they didn't necessarily have questions in relation to my comments. Now, I did get to make some important interventions with some of my confused-looking students (whose response to not being able to log in to their student portal, which covers everything, not just the CMS for my class, is to just shrug and wonder about it, I ask you? How did they pay their fees?) and I got some of the ones who were doing poorly to ask lots of good questions and act like they were penitent and really wanted to turn things around... but, yeah, it was a bit dumbed down from my usual methods. But I guess that is the price of community college ---- if you are smart and studious and hardworking you pay for that low tuition by being in a very diversely-prepared classroom and have your instructor spend a lot of time and energy and discipline on the less-prepared students.

And several of the students who I sent a stern email about them missing major assignments showed up and brought them to me late (and now I feel like I have to accept it) and swore up and down that they would turn over a new leaf and anxiously asked me if I thought they had a solid chance of passing --- and how can I be blunt and honest one-on-one? It's usually my offhand comments in front of the whole class that get me in trouble; I'm blunt and impatient and curt when I don't mean to be; when I'm facing someone in my office, all anxious about whether a student is going to go ballistic on me (all interpersonal communication is a defensive maneuver with me) I am too conciliatory and kind and soft-pedal the truth. What this means is that I had a bunch of students I hadn't seen in a while back in my classes, and they look so lost and tuned out compared to their classmates, who are starting to behave like college students and have expressions on their faces like they are thinking, and they are starting to turn to each other before class starts and tell each other why they hated the reading (which is often because they want to argue against a major or minor premise and not because it was some sort of knee-jerk angry reaction), and in comparison, my second-chancers zone out or pull out their phones.

I should be more sympathetic, since it is hard to change a bunch of habits at once, but maybe I should have not let them back in or been more forceful about how they are in deep deep trouble. All of them missed a lot of homework and didn't do the reading for the quiz the first day post-conference and have trouble reading and are very poor writers, and if I didn't see much change in attitude I probably won't see much change in the results either. Hmph. I did these conferences (mostly because of mentor nagging) to get my student eval scores up and to get rid of the repeated "I don't understand how she grades" comment on the evals. The side effect seems to be that besides creating a lot more work for myself I have a big stack of papers that were due a month ago and a big pile of students who were on their way out the door are back in my classroom. Yay?


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I do individual conferences, but I decretky hate it. You're right. It's hard to be tough when you're one-on-one. But I still manage, mostly, to follow the rules on my syllabus. It's such a pain though.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Freaking iPhone. Secretly hate!! Secretly!!

Anonymous said...

You do NOT have to accept late assignments! Put it in your syllabus! Every time you hold a college student to standards, an angel gets her wings.

Contingent Cassandra said...

And if you have/do accept(ed) late assignments, you do not have to do anything more than *grade* (as in read quickly and put a grade on) them. That's a lot quicker than what we usually call "grading" (i.e. reading, commenting, *and* assigning a grade).

It sounds like you also got a good deal of information about the individual students, and the types of students in your population, some of which you can put to use immediately, and some of which may have to wait for next semester (or subsequent semesters, and the additional information you gain as you go along, and try to fit to various hypotheses).

I actually like individual conferences (strong introvert here), but my sense is that they're exhausting for pretty much everybody. And yes, they're inefficient in many ways -- except that there are definitely students who will take something to heart when you say it to them individually, but will let it go in one ear and out the other when you say it to the group. Human beings are not be nature efficient, I suspect.