Each new semester I start out with a positive outlook. I think about the new students, maybe some former ones as well. My syllabus is well-crafted, having paid copious attention to the details, assignments, and goals for the course – each element to build on the next new skill.
Students are enthusiastic and swarm about the classroom door waiting patiently to take their seats. Each is excited about the writing process, and enlightened by completed work and my constructive comments. They love the concepts they learn, applying them with ease. New skills are embedded into their newly acquired craft on a weekly basis. They long to cite their sources, and embrace the documentation as if giving credit is noble, almost heroic.
Reading and comprehension flourish. Incorporating another’s work into their own writing is now second nature. Each student leaves the course with a complete understanding of how to take their skills to the next level.
Ah, yes, it is a great dream – the kind of dream that keeps me coming back to the classroom, year after year.
Hmmm, the truth is, new names and faces can be difficult to remember at the start – I fumble through the pronunciations like an amateur. Seat hoppers become the most challenging. Why can’t that student stay in one spot? At my age, the students’ faces tend to look alike; they dress the same for the most part and hair styles are almost exact. The fashions have changed since I was in college. I wonder what they’ll be wearing this year.
It takes me a while to remember 140+ names; but around week 6, when the first papers are graded, I begin to gain a sense of who they are by their names – not quite yet by face. It’s easier when students actually speak up in class and feel comfortable sharing. Often, I’ll have a few who rarely look up or engage. Sometimes I remember the ones who sit way back from me because I tend to heckle them a bit and ask why they think I bite.
Part of my challenge is to remain authentic and build relationships with these young creatures from another time. I desire that they embrace their uniqueness and learn the confidence to determine their opinions – and speak about them. I do feel the standardized testing takes away some of their freedom to examine their own ideas and come to understand their biases.
I imagine that the students will absorb the reality of midterm grades and resolve to put forth the effort to see themselves through the course and finish better than they start. I anticipate they’ll see me as a coach, a supporter, rather than one who condemns. They’re early writers, I tell myself. I’m building a base.
I truly feel college success skills should be embedded into a freshman composition course. Students should seek the help of a tutor from start to finish for each paper. My comments and suggestions should promote revisions that demonstrate they’ve learned something. I need to keep the dream alive, don’t I?
As an intellectual nurturer, my heart breaks when I see the greatness of those young minds – yet they do not recognize their potential. So I continue to try and pull it out of them and help them write. Keeping the dream alive.
Shaping – Gentle Nudging – Showing I Care.
Thanks for reading. My classes begin Monday morning with another new set of students who are headed for greatness.