Thursday, February 2, 2006

Boiling Point Reached.

A full time professor of English at a college in the west sends this. The original version - I was sent two - had the most inventive and exciting combination of curse words I've ever seen. It was quite a remarkable display. I preferred it over this more modest version, but the writer wanted to keep the focus on the flaw, not her dynamic expletives!

I have often thought the posts on here were frivolous, and I've been ill at ease with the notion of rating students, but today changed all that.

I have few rules in my class, but reading what's assigned is essential. Because we're only in our second week here, I've carefully established that reading each small section of text for the next class is the only way we can have an active class the next day. I've led class when I've had to, but I've been generally pleased at how many people seem aware of what our articles cover.

But today, today was a breaking point. I reached a boiling point, and I just want to scream.

I assigned a 4 page article from our textbook, a piece that is about Hollywood, and that mentions several fairly recent movies. The article says - endlessly - that movies form much of American culture, and isn't that too bad, given how single-minded and glib these movies are.

So we gathered in our normal spot, me and 15 sophomores, and I asked the typical opening questions. Nobody was biting, however, so I went to basics. "Well, let's just get the simple things established. What's the point of the article?" No sound. Crickets, maybe.

Then I tried, "Well what is the article about? It's about Hollywood, right? But what's more specific than that?" Nothing again.

Years ago I was taught in a teaching workshop that "letting them wait" is the way to go at times like this. I sipped from my cafeteria coffee and smiled pleasantly. I looked out the window and watched some snow coming down. I counted to ten in my head. Nothing.

Some students shuffled a bit. One brave soul was clearly reading like a madman.

Finally, the one reader raised his hand. "Is it about Russell Crowe?" (He'd located one line early in the piece that mentions a movie Russell Crowe is in, but in no way is the article ABOUT Russell Crowe.)

I didn't say anything. We all went home early today, that's my point. And now the idea of facing them next week just gives me a pain in my head and my heart.