05 May 2010

You Know It's Late In The Semester When...

So...Today was one of those utterly gorgeous spring days that had just a hint of summer in its warmth and sunshine.  I rode to and from work; as I was leaving, one of my students cheered me on from the window of her boyfriend's car.  Now, if she thinks that's going to get her an A... ;-)

In one of my classes, it seemed that about half of the students hadn't even begun to read A Doll's House, which I assigned last week.  I asked them why they hadn't read; they said things like, "I started to read it, but I just couldn't get into it."  All right, I can understand that, I said.  But where did you start to have trouble?, I asked.

Some of them couldn't answer.  One student yelled, "We should read the play out loud in class."  I knew what they were trying to do:  spare themselves the trouble of reading it.  But I humored them and asked for volunteers to read aloud.  Turns out, a number of students didn't even bring in their books.

I know, it's late in the semester, the weather is gorgeous and people's hormones are pumping and clothes are shedding. Under such circumstances, I can understand why some students would rather be almost anywhere but a classroom and doing almost anything else besides discussing a play.  Still, I couldn't believe how much passive-aggressive behavior I was seeing in one room.  

At least the class I taught after that one was better:  They actually read the play and were actively participating in the discussion.  

After that first class, I found myself thinking about Thomas Wolfe's description of teaching in a diploma mill.  It was in You Can't Go Home Again, a book whose high point was its title.  All right, I remember that there was a none-too-favorable description of the job or the college.  

It's been a long time since I read the book and, frankly, I've never had any desire to read it again, not even to look for the passage I've mentioned.  As I recall, that novel and the others Wolfe wrote were longer than War and Peace or Les Miserables and said about a tenth as much.  Some prof of mine assigned them--in what course, I forget.  Maybe I should find copies of those books and, the next time a student complains about how much work they're getting, I could show them a copy of one of Wolfe's books.  "I could've assigned this!," I could tell them.  What good that would do, I don't know.

Oh well.