Thursday, April 29, 2010

A churl I knew

It's been a rough semester all around.

We're all tired, we're all grumpy, and some of us are acting a bit churlish of late.

I put myself in that last crowd. I know I've been snippier, snottier, and snarkier lately than I typically am, even at the end of a busy semester. (After all, I've lived through busier semesters than this one has been, and have been in less of a foul mood by the end, at that.)

I typically write a post at the end of each semester in which I "grade" myself on my performance in each class during the past term, but I don't feel like doing that just now. I've thought a little bit about why it is that I want to forgo that post, at least for the moment. At first I thought this reluctance to post stems from fear of assigning myself lousy marks...after all, this was definitely a rougher semester pedagogically for me than any semester I can remember...but I don't think this is what makes me hesitate before grading myself.

I think rather the hesitation comes from my state of mind: I don't right now feel like I'm close to the classroom.

This is the first term ever during my academic career during which I've felt less like a teacher and more like an administrator.

And I don't like it.

I don't like what I've become.

It's not that the committee work I've taken on this past year has been overwhelming (I know of others who deal regularly with a far heavier administrative load than the one I've taken on); it's more that I've let myself drift into it too far, into its depths, into its dark waters, and out of sight of the calm cove of the classroom with which I'm most familiar and in which I'm most at home. I fear that I may have too often put my committee work ahead of my students, and this is the most churlish move of all.

I don't like myself for doing that.

I need to get back to where I belong.

I'm glad for the end of this semester, for it can be made to be a turning point, a terminus, a full stop before the next sentence begins: "After the summer was over, ..."

I promise I'll be back next fall, my friends. I promise to be in-the-moment in the classroom, to be on-the-spot during office hours, and to be less snippy, snotty, and snarky wherever you find me.

Before ending this post I'd like to apologize to any of my colleagues and students who've found themselves the objects of my churlishness and frustration, and to thank you all for helping me to make the most we can out of a term during which we've all found ourselves overworked, overtired, and out-of-sync after a string of freakish snowstorms.

To my students: nothing I've ever done gives me greater fulfillment than working with you all on a daily basis. Nothing. Your dedication is indefatigable, and your curiosity infectious. You are almost uniformly the most honest, open, warm, welcoming, intelligent, and human group of human beings I've ever known.

To my colleagues: in your own individual ways you all offer support that sometimes goes unnoticed and unrecognized, yet you keep on offering that support anyway. Without your ideas and your inventiveness I'd be stagnant, and without your help I'd be nowhere. I appreciate all that you do.

Thank you all! I'll be seeing you all soon. And I'll look forward to it.


Anonymous said...

in reference to this, and the preceding few posts, there is no accounting for a students tenacity for learning to skirt by in a class, than to learn material. i hesitate to write anything here because i'm quite sure that most any idea for creating a grading criteria has already crossed your mind. However, as a student in your calculus two class i must say that the notion of unlimited revision seemed a bit lenient. I agree that the end result should be grasping the material for knowledge sake, and not for a letter grade, but its not as though we can bullshit in this class like we can in Humanities. i can rattle off a nonsense paper on totalitarianism without really learning much of anything, and still receive a B. In order to succeed in mathematics, the only way to "bs" your way through the course is if the grading system allows it. to be quite honest, i've never seen a teacher as dedicated to learning as you and ive never enjoyed a classroom as much as yours, but it seems as though the lack of accountability on the students end has allowed for complacency and essentially taken away from learning. point being: grading seems to facilitate learning in mathematics, and combining your (dare i say superior) teaching ability, with the numerous resources available, there's no reason students shouldn't excel in your class. if you were just some asshole math teacher with an axe to grind I wouldn't care, but you're too good at what you do, and you try too hard to have your tests taken lightly. i understand that grading on knowledge can sometimes get ridiculous, but its not as though students aren't used to working under pressure. in your case, however, anyone who comes to your class is guaranteed to leave a little bit smarter and there is nothing wrong with asking students to account for their knowledge. keep on keepin' on...

DocTurtle said...

Interesting comments. I should say that I'm definitely going to be overhauling the grading system AGAIN...but I'm not entirely sure what form it'll take in its next incarnation. I already have the first couple of weeks of a problem-based Calc I course mapped out for Fall 2010 (as per an earlier post on this blog), and I hope to map out several more weeks over the summer. This revised, more student-centered, social-constructionist, if you will, version of Calc I will require a much more portfolio-like grading system, so it might not be fair to compare the next iteration of my grading schema with the current one.

We'll see!