Monthly Archives: December 2012

The agony of grading final exams when there’s fresh powder on the mountain

get-attachment-11.aspxFour days before the new year and I’ve yet to finish grading my fall semester final exams.

Yes, I’ve been half-heartedly slogging through them, but they take forever–and although I enjoy seeing the students analyze, synthesize, and evaluate, I’ve lost interest, for it’s been snowing like crazy here and the mountain tempts and beckons.  Ski or grade exams??  Enjoy life or be productive?

Putting off this pesky bi-annual chore has been chipping away at my sanity, yet “why should I let the toad work / Squat on my life”?  So, for now, I’ve chosen the mountain of snow over the mountain of tests.  But, as grades are due next week, I’ll need to get serious damn soon.

Anyone else having procrastination problems?  Anyone else enjoying the vacation just a little too much?

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Fuck you, English!

A student in my Women in Lit course–I’ll call her AL–has broken her middle finger and when she raises her hand or rests it on the desk (as pictured below), she appears to be making a blunt assessment of the course, or, well, of me.   Saucy, sarcastic, aloof, yet very, very smart, AL abhors reading and thus dislikes English classes–she advertises her hatred regularly, wears it like a badge–so it seems fitting that her hand is now frozen in a posture of perma-defiance.

True, I joke about her finger in class–it is really funny–but, truth be known, I’d really like to reach this young woman.  AL hates reading because she’s dyslexic, but she’s a deep thinker, clever speaker, and gifted writer.  That said, she will not–cannot?–open her heart to the promise of literature.  She hated the summer reading novel, Sula.  She hated Room of One’s Own.  She thought the play Wit decent, but only because it was short and we read it aloud in class.  She chose her independent novel solely for its brevity–she searched and searched for a book as close to the two hundred page minimum as possible–and now, no surprise, she hates that book as well.  She’s disliked basically everything she’s ever read and, of course, reads only when “forced” by teachers.

I’ve made a few suggestions–audio, large print, etc–but she says nothing helps.  I’m no dyslexia specialist, so I’m at a loss.  Here’s a young woman who’s become bitter and defiant.  Year after year, in all sorts of classes, she’s had to perform a task that for complicated neurological reasons is extremely difficult for her.  No wonder she’s so cynical and sarcastic.  No wonder she looks at me with distrust.  (No wonder she asks to go to the bathroom all the time….)  Yet I can’t help but think that deep inside AL’s psyche dwells an extraordinary reader just waiting for liberation, for I’ve had glimpses of the beauty of her amazing mind, a mind ripe for the provocation that literature can provide.  Call me idealistic (or pedantic or biased or simply annoying), but I believe that literature is exactly what AL needs.  I just don’t know how to open up this world for her.

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