I am holding individual conferences for the Brit Lit I papers this week, which means that it's only Wednesday and I'm already totally, completely exhausted.
I tried this for the first time in the spring, when I had fourteen students in my one and only section of Brit Lit II. It was nice. Holding individual meetings with forty-eight students is totally different.
I'm glad I decided to do this -- I think it's necessary, especially since so many of the students have told me that they've never written a literary analysis paper before, or they've never written a paper this long before (5 to 7 pages). But oh God, I feel like I've had the same conversation about twenty times this week. And it is still, as I said, only Wednesday.
(It doesn't help that I finally broke a long-standing resolution and made a list of suggested paper topics, although I think this, too, was necessary; last year I got some papers on ... interesting topics, of which my favorite was entitled "Is it possible to sell your soul to the devil yes or no?"* So I thought it was only fair to give the first-time paper-writers a little guidance, but it turns out the students collectively homed in on two of the seven suggested topics and ignored the rest. I'm getting heartily sick of The Relationship Between Canterbury Tale X and Its Teller and Is Beowulf an Ideal Hero?, especially since most of the students haven't really got the "anticipating and responding to potential counterarguments" move down, so many of the papers are turning into long lists of Why Beowulf Is Awesome. Personally, I think I am on Unferth's side, if not the Fire Dragon's.)
Anyway, this is the first time my two sections have started to feel like a great deal more work than one, and it's a bit of a shock to the system. (I've taught double sections of comp before, but not lit, and with comp it's obvious much earlier in the semester that you're going to spend your life slogging through massive quantities of paper.)
* The answer, in case you are wondering, is "Yes it is possible because Dr. Faustus sold his soul to Lucifer, in exchange for his body and soul." Who knew Lucifer threw in a free body? Certainly not I.