I haven’t blogged, Twittered, or even Facebooked much lately. I got caught up in the Rubric‘s Cube.
In getting back into teaching this semester, I found that I needed to have a system or else I’d quickly sink. Students may not mind a teacher without structure in the beginning, but that soon gets old. If they become restless, students will eat the scattered professor alive.
There was one semester last year where I barely escaped from a class with my life. I taught one freshman composition class that proved to be a nightmare. While it didn’t help that I cancelled some classes due to dealing with the accident and an illness, I was simply disorganized. My bookbags were chaotic with essays from various classes that mingled together with all the memos and junk mail from my faculty mailboxes. I was drowning in papers from that class and the others I taught at several other community colleges. Papers would be returned several weeks later, and I even lost some. And then I found myself trying to keep down a student mutiny. One student went off in front of me with the class as her audience. Even though I moved the discussion away from class, she was right – there were others who weren’t happy. Another student attempted to fuck me up with a question he knew I wasn’t comfortable answering when the dean visited my class for an evaluation. Worst of all, I learned from a young woman in my class that some people conspired to get me fired and tried to get her involved. To her credit, she didn’t want any part of it.
That semester was the worst one since I taught a creative writing class for the first time in grad school. With the TA’ship, I didn’t know what I was doing and Mindy Shatner was just some poor soul who didn’t know better when constantly disrupted my courses. No, she did know better and that makes her an asshole. But this post isn’t about her. I knew more of what I was doing in that freshman composition class. I just didn’t have a good system of running the class. Even after taking responsibility for that awful semester, I still see those student mutineers as monsters. Dealing with the nightmare students is one of the reasons why I’ve recently taken steps for a career change.
In the meantime, I am still in the classroom and I don’t want to recreate that semester. I’ve created rubrics for evaluating their writing, which makes it easier for me. It’s not a perfect system, but I give myself several questions to answer about their work and a scoring scale, and that makes grading much easier, even if it takes a few more minutes. I’ve worked on getting assignments back to my students in a short amount of time. I also started keeping more detailed records about grades, especially on Excel spreadsheets. I recently used that data to show my current students where they stand.
I may not want to be a professor for the rest of my life, but I’ll certainly work on being a better one in the meantime. If I can do this, than I can do anything.