Week 5 of Graduate School and Teaching Comp
The overriding feeling of my week has been, in the wise words of Insepctor Gadget “Yowza.” The adrenaline rush of starting grad school has started to dissipate and I’m rationing the reserves for the last two weeks of the fall quarter.
My compulsion to work hard for a large portion of the day occasionally waned and the tug of lethargy calls to me. Come on, man, read that AV Club article, says the laziness imp from its perch not on my shoulder, but sitting at the bridge of my nose, Reading is reading, it coaxes me. And I consider listening to it before I pick it up by its slimy wings and drop it into the filing cabinet next to my office desk where it bangs until it falls silent within a few minutes (it’s a huge proponent of sleeping twelve hours a day, excluding siesta time).
Fortunately, I still like the classes I’m taking. In previous weeks I had an underlying fear that my enjoyment of them was a delusion I created so that I wouldn’t regret having decided to once again leave Belize, or Houston, my partner Melissa and our friends for the next two years. My pedagogy course continues to provide me with fantastic reads that further complicate my ideas of teaching, which I’m glad about because things-being-square does not settle well with me. And even though I may not always see the purpose of a particular session in my intro to Grad Studies, I’m grateful that the prof shares a lot of logistical information on what I’m doing here and also provides us some good reading that strays from the type of high brow, unintelligible scholarly lit articles I often encountered during my undergrad.
The ‘Yowza’ feeling then I mainly ascribe to concerns over my WR121 classes and that necessary evil that in polite conversation people avoid discussing- grading. Having started on Tuesday night during practicum where I spent a good chunk of time making a grading playlist on my iPhone (lots of Spazzkid, the Roots and Dawn of Midi), I’ve now gotten fifteen of twenty-four papers graded. A quick browse of my journal where I wrote their tentative grades shows a single A- and a few D+’s. The thing is, it’s not the grades that bother me in the slightest. It’s that when I look at them I recall reading each one and the frustration I felt when a student completely overlooked something we spent a good chunk of last week’s conference discussing. In those moments, I exert myself in mustering some empathy for them, recalling my first year in college when most of my Lit papers were finished at 3 am on the day of the deadline, a time when a second draft was also known as a final draft.
I’m trying to figure how to convey the ‘writing as a process’ spiel in a way that they GET IT, but whenever I get on that topic the lot of them look at me like a hippie trying to sell them on the wonders of hemp. They just don’t believe me and when I think about who’s to blame for their indifference the list goes on for a while and includes their parents, their schools, apathetic teachers, state education boards, principals, Mark Zuckerberg, Instagram, Kim Kardashian, the Huffington Post, them and me.
Add to this that today in class their silence about the assigned reading caused me to ask whether they had done it. To which looks of shame told me no. In that moment, I lost all momentum and my lesson plan for the day appeared so idealistic as I scrambled to come up with what to do in the fifteen minutes that remained all the while feeling like a jackass of the highest order. I ended up correctly assuming that they had little idea about the actual prompt for their 2nd paper and we discussed its key components in detail before I had them do a free write about why they hadn’t done the reading.
The majority of their reasons involved Halloween. Like I said, it’s a long list.