On Being Tough, Being Clear and Being Civilized

It’s the Fall, and that is just about the only time I ever miss teaching college. I loved teaching, and every September I would tweak my materials and welcome however many students were brave enough to stay in my classes. I didn’t deliberately try to scare people away, but as New Adjunct blogger Erik Hanson writes in his post “Peace Lovin’ Hippie or Mr. Tough Guy? What’s A New Adjunct To Do?” 

In one of my grad seminars on teaching, we discussed the benefits of beginning a semester as a strict disciplinarian, having one of those “my way or the highway” attitudes. 

That was absolutely how I began each new semester. We launched into the meat of the course from the first class, and stuck to the syllabus. No one fell behind, and no one got left behind. I met with each student in my courses by the end of the second week just to see how they were settling in, and when I gave them the first writing assignments, always made sure we went step-by-step through the assignment so that I was sure they knew what they were doing. What’s the point of assigning a paper and getting back piles and piles of D material? It’s depressing to grade poorly written assignments, and irritating. I always believed that poorly written assignments were the responsibility of the faculty member as much as the students. 

This week, our AdjunctNation.com Mentor, Dr. Bruce Johnson, writes about the importance of giving students meaningful feedback. I really like the list he created to assist faculty in providing feedback that helps students succeed. Bruce writes:

Feedback becomes meaningful and encourages student progress when instructors customize it to address specific developmental needs.

Amen. This week Rich Russell posted a piece on the site that (at least to me) is as close as I’ll ever come to a dream I always had when teaching. I was frequently tempted to get a set of rubber stamps made up with the comments I made most often on my students’ written assignments. The set I envisioned would have included comments such as “Comma splice,” “NO THESIS,” “???” and so on. I’m sure you could easily come up with your own set, as well. Rich writes in his piece this week about Grademark, an online resource that allows faculty to grade written assignments online. One of the most attractive features of the program is that it gives the faculty member the ability to insert Quickmarks. Rich writes:

Still, in Grademark there was a new method for being able to comment in-text with Quickmarks, a series of pre-loaded and custom comments for the teacher to click and neatly insert directly overtop the student’s own work. Rubrics could be attached. Summative comments provided. It all seemed so civilized!

Pre-loaded and custom comments with the click of a mouse. Imagine. Sometimes, when I read about the technology available I wish I were still in the classroom—at least until the end of October. It appears as though by the time the leaves have all fallen, I lose my desire to go back to school, stand and deliver.

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