Monday, January 23, 2006

Despair

Three classes, three crash and burn sessions.

Theory (for which all students have a prerequisite class [aka PC] to be taken earlier or concurrently):

Bardiac (having ascertained that all but three students have taken PC already): So, let's review a bit. Who can tell me what a sign is?

Students: [that's the sound of silence]

Bardiac: Err, how about the three kinds of signs?

Students: [silence]

Bardiac: Okay, so let me remind you then, a sign is something that stands for something else. [This is NOT rocket science, people! How are you going to understand Lacan if you can't remember even the tiniest bit of Saussure?] [Writes, or should I say scrawls, the definition on the board.]

Students: [staring silently, motionless]

Bardiac: Umm, if you don't know what a sign is, you might just want to write it down.

Students: [sound of shuffling papers]...

And so it continued until about one third of the class said that they'd never heard these terms in PC. I'm guessing which of my beloved colleagues didn't introduce the barest hint of semiotics in PC. Except I really don't have to guess, and I'm not happy.

Either students learned nothing in PC, or managed to remember nothing, the two being the nightmare all teachers at all levels share, the nightmare of wasting our very breaths for a career marked by student forgetfulness. And one of my colleagues really shouldn't be teaching PC.

First year writing: There's nothing to say about this class, except that when you have students read the syllabus aloud, you can get a pretty good sense of their inability to read aloud. Someone who doesn't read in sentences, or can't accurately read basic college level words (like "attribute" or "baccalaureate") probably doesn't have college reading OR writing skills. I can teach writing, but I'm completely unequipped to teach reading.

Chaucer: The black death would have been more fun, seriously. And the supposedly technological classroom didn't work.

This is all to say that whatever little bits I once knew about teaching has completely disappeared over the break. I despair, and we haven't even started reading Marx yet.

3 comments:

  1. Can I just say that it's a huge reassurance to see that this happens to other people, too???

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  2. This semester has had its odd crashes so far, as well as some successes.

    I am convinced there's some sort of academic zeitgeist, in which, by semester, we all have similarly flavored students and classes...and personal issues as well. But I thought it was confined to my community college; now I find it's national...maybe international. What's behind all this?
    Peter

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