Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Favorite Assignment

One of the things that's supposed to be important in writing classes is getting students to write a lot. I do okay at this, I think. My students write about 60 pages of prose ("typed") over the semester. It's a lot, for them and for me.

I just graded one of my favorite assignments; it's a journal assignment that asks students to reflect on their first semester of college. It's a fun assignment to grade because they usually have lots to say, and can articulate what they're trying to say well, so I get to make encouraging remarks and they earn fine grades.

Their responses are generally wonderful. They usually love their school; that's been true at every school I've taught at, so I'm guesing it's a fairly common response. They value the friends they've made, but are sometimes aware that friendships based on a few months' acquaintance may not be the same as those built over years growing up. They may love or hate their roommate, but they seem to value the dorm living experience and see a lot of growth in themselves through living semi-independently. They generally talk about what a huge adjustment they've made from high school to college work loads and expectations, and most of them seem to find that they can meet our expectations, though they don't have as much free time as they thought they would. If they've joined a club or organization, they talk about how important it is to them, and how much they've learned.

Lest you think it's all a love fest, they also talk about struggles, sick family members, personal difficulties, problems with classes, conflicts with parents. I'm fairly certain that they minimize their troubles when they write for me. They don't complain about our writing class, unless to say that they really struggled but learned a lot. And I'm sure they tell me less about personal and family troubles than they'd tell a friend; that's quite sensible.

Still and all, I love seeing them they think about how they've changed, and how they're understanding their new, usually more adult selves and their new relationships.

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