Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Begin Again, Finnegan

There's a lot I enjoy about my job.  I get to teach great literature, work with wonderful people (students and colleagues), and always have new challenges.

But there are, of course, also frustrations.

We're just about at the midpoint of the semester, and that means that some of the students who've been getting by are beginning to take notice.  This happens in three waves, I find, roughly.

The first wave happens to a lot of first year students about the third week of classes, when they realize that the strategies they used to get As in high school aren't going to work in college.  And some of them get themselves in gear and work on figuring out what it takes to do well in college, usually better time management and a lot more self-discipline about learning on their own time.

This second wave comes with midterms, when students realize that they really aren't getting some work done, and now they want to, but it may be too late to totally catch up.

The third wave is yet to come, of course.  Those are the students who realize at the last minute that they're in desperate straits.

The good thing for the folks who are in the second wave is that there's mostly plenty of time to actually do pretty decently in a given class.  They may not be able to earn the A they were used to in high school, but they can probably pass, or even earn a B.  That's often not true for the third wavers.

The thing is, after the first few semesters, the student's sudden, new to them realization is just the same old thing, same as that last time, and the time before that.

And then there are the students who seem to have the same sudden realization every single semester, but who never quite carry the learning from one situation into the next.  And you're pretty sure that they've found this a useful strategy, and that other instructors have enabled it in the past, allowing them to turn in stuff way late, or do extra credit, or whatever.  No?


  1. Yesterday I had a conversation with a student (senior) who is working on her capstone, and it was a hot mess of unfocused. She'd turned in her prospectus 10 days late, and it had not shape. (It's ungraded, so . . .) As we talked, and her project came into focus, we talked about her procrastinating, and the way that when you procrastinate it gets harder to do things, and they seem like bigger mountains. So I told her I was going to make her come to office hours weekly. She thought that was good. But, as I said, figuring this out is a life skill, not a school skill.

  2. I think blogger just ate my comment. Anyway - in a nutshell, I said that I had two plagiarizers this week. Of course, they panicked when caught. But that's okay. Sometimes students need to panic. It builds character.