Monday Confession

I confess: Sometimes, when I am pressed for time, I assign the students a reading without reading it myself first. I just choose something that seems like it would be good to discuss. It’s like throwing spaghetti at the wall. It gives me 15% naughty thrill, 85% guilty anxiety.

Next semester, next year, after the revolution, I promise myself, I will stop doing this.

This afternoon, however, I’m reading the essay I assigned on Thursday, and trying to figure out something edifying to say about it tomorrow.

The essay came from the Best American Non-Required Reading series—something that will prove, I think, to be a good source of readings for freshman comp, since they’re interesting, often funny, and well-written but not at an unattainably high level. The book is practically put together with reluctant readers in mind.

I’ve Been Reviewed!


Are these stares of attention, affection, or pure hate? Sometimes from the
teacher’s desk, it’s hard to tell. (Image: Foxtongue)

It’s the middle of our term already. (We have a crazy, sped-up, eleven-week semester. Not that I’m complaining.) And with the middle of the term come mid-term evaluations. The college sent us a form to distribute to our students to fill out anonymously. They had to answer questions about how the course was going, commenting on their experience, whether they understand the material, and what could be going better.

First, I budgeted 15 minutes for this task; it took the students about five.

I did, but didn’t, but did, but didn’t want to look at the results. It felt sort of like a car crash. Curiosity just won out over fearfulness (and anyway, the answers were so short), and…omg, they actually kind of like me!

They say they understand what they need to do. One asks for more one-on-one time. I am “very nice and very clear on assignments.” Apparently it’s good that I email the class. Somebody’s “really enjoying the class so far” and someone deems it “overall a good atmosphere” even though she’s “not a huge fan of english.” I’m a “great teacher w/ good teaching style” and “a good teacher, easily teaches us what we need to know & is easy to understand.”

This is a huge relief. I’m a little surprised, actually almost giddy. These sometimes zombie-like teenagers, who drag themselves from warm beds at a heartbreaking hour to take crowded trains to a windowless room where I spout off about things like APA citation and ask leading questions that are often as not greeted with fuddled, surly silences think it’s all…worth it? Yes, some of them smile at me. But sometimes they also look at me like I’m mentally ill. Especially that one who sits to my left, especially when asked to do something creative. And that other one, when I ask her to put her phone away during class time. Knowing that they’re not planning a mutiny and that I’m totally hanging in there as compared to their other teachers is really, really soothing.

Getting down in the comment stack, I find that I also “need a little more enthusiasm in the class because it’s hard for a lot of us to stay awake.” Yeah, I hear that. Will work on kicking it up a notch.

Finally, a brave soul with crabbed handwriting notes that class so far is also “kind of boring. Needs better + enjoyable activities.” (Ahem. I know who you are, unique handwriting. Know what I think would be better + enjoyable? You turning in a goddamn assignment once in a while.)

In other news: I showed this blog to a friend, who says that she likes that I am “writing searchingly, instead of authoritatively.” I liked her saying that.

I also showed this blog to my mother, who didn’t appreciate the Grendel’s mother reference. To clarify: my mother isn’t like a monster. She is like a spring day. I was only trying to convey some sense of the ferocity of her comp-fu. Sorry, mom.


My sister walks into the room where I’ve been prepping class for hours. The sheer amount of paper involved in this teaching business is incredible: I sit amid handouts, student papers to be graded, papers graded already, printouts from the internet, ideas for exercises, our textbook, my own notes. A one-and-a-half-hour-long class requires three or four exercises at least; it’s like a symphony with several movements. These activities need to provide variety but should also engage each other in some logical way: allegro, adagio, what-have-you. It’s hard not to feel like twice a week, I’m writing and performing a new one-woman show.

“You know,” she says, “I never believed it when my teachers used to tell me that it took a lot of work for them to get class ready. I always thought they were just whining.”

Yeah, I kind of thought that too. It turns out they were hustling for us, and that every now and then they wanted us to know it.