Sunday, May 20, 2007


Have been doing Actual Work: among other things, drafting syllabi for next year's classes, since we're supposed to get the book orders in by an impossibly early date. Go me. (Actually, I'm not sure this counts as work, because it's something I really, really like doing. All that idealism and potential! All that room to experiment and have Great Ideas! Besides, you can make up any policies you like and it will be a long time before anybody complains about them, nor do you have to read the papers for months and months! What's not to like?)

Now I'm starting to wonder what you do with a freshman comp class that isn't a total death march. At the U. of Basketball, the rules were very strict: eight papers and a speech every semester with the last paper due on the final day of class, three hours a week in the classroom, mandatory library instruction, etc., etc. At New SLAC, there are five comp papers every semester, and one of them is due during the exam period and counts as a final, so it's really only four during regular class time. And it's a four-hour-a-week class. This is liberating in some ways (we're going to have actual discussions! About ideas 'n' stuff!) but also a bit scary -- all that time! What am I going to do with it? (As a side note, I'm also slightly alarmed that the sample comp syllabus that one of my colleagues-to-be gave me includes the rule, "No smokeless tobacco," but let that pass.)

I'm hoping this will make me hate grading less than I do, and that I will be able to break out of the very bad habit of handing out Bs like candy at the end of the semester because what the hey, they've survived Death March Comp and they deserve something for not rising up in mutiny. I'm not sure I believe this will happen, but I'm going to try. (Part of the trouble is that I'm a skeptic about the whole concept of grading. And about the whole concept of freshman comp, for that matter. I kinda liked what they did at my undergrad college, which was to shoo everyone into a "writing-intensive freshman seminar" with maybe six sections of regular comp left over for the international students. And so I found myself in a class called "The Films of Ingmar Bergman and the Classical Tradition," with six or seven other freshmen and a somewhat eccentric Classics professor who appeared to be under the impression that the films of Ingmar Bergman and the classical tradition had something to do with each other. I'm not at all convinced that they do, but we got to watch lots of black and white movies and read Plato and Euripides and feel all intellectual, which is not a bad experience for an eighteen-year-old from the suburbs. Also, it was sort of a revelation that the professor spoke Greek, Latin, and Swedish, because like most eighteen-year-olds from the suburbs, I hadn't known that you could do all of these things at once. However, this sort of thing probably works best if your students already know how to write, because I don't think we got much actual composition instruction in that class at all.)

Oh well. Back to work...


Bardiac said...

If you want to share some essay topics, drop me a line. I have a good one for thinking about the liberal arts as a starting place; I've come to really like it.

I'm going to order and use a new book next term, "They Say / I Say" by Graff and my mind lost the second name, alas. But I think it's going to help.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Gerald Graff, I think. Good book -- I should reread it and see if there's anything that can be adapted to this class.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Oh, and I'd love to hear more about your essay topic -- the class is going to involve a lot of reading and talking about what college is for, why the liberal arts, etc., I think.

Bardiac said...

I would be happy to share! Drop me an email, please, and I'll email you a couple pdf readings and the essay assignment stuff.

I'll respect your identity privacy, of course, should you need to use a real-name email; I'd email it right off, but I don't see your email here.