Good Writers, Bad Grades

For quite some time, I’ve seen an interesting pattern among students who said that they were “good writers,” but unfortunately they don’t receive a good grade at the end of the semester, which I wish they did. As a writing teacher, I don’t want these confident writers to change their self-perception in any of my writing courses. But I have to grade all students on the basis of the assignment’s instructions and objectives as they are specified in advance.

The case of a self-described “good writer,” Brian (not his real name), has been the most memorable one among those of students who somehow couldn’t write well in spite of their claims and, presumably, backgrounds as good writers. read full post…

Butterfly Moment in the Classroom

I don’t have a better way to describe this highly satisfying situation in teaching than to call it the “butterfly moment.”

No, that’s not an established English idiom– I just made up one for describing moments like the one below. Moments when teaching turns into learning, as it were. Moments when students’ sense of ownership of their learning breaks out of the larvae of all the things that I’ve been demanding of them and takes flight like butterflies. Butterflies of what they want to learn, how they want to conduct their learning, why they want it. read full post…

“Here’s Why I Am in College”

Almost every semester, I have a student whose behavior or activity in class throws my teaching off its balance, more or less significantly. Some of these students dominate class discussion, others fall asleep during class, and yet others are consistently late to class. As a teacher, I like the “challenging” situations that these students create because, at least in hindsight, I realize that they create the opportunity for me to become a better teacher: when faced with those situations, I have to come up with new/better ways to address the issue, and the solutions often add significant benefits for the class as a whole. read full post…

Maybe the box doesn’t exist

I just had another student today who used a common trope that many, many students have used for describing themselves over the years: “I am not the academic type.”

This student had served in the navy for six or seven years before returning to the university. He said that he wanted to get a degree in electrical engineering, but he was worried that he may have lost his academic footing while he was away. A non-native speaker of English, at times it seemed as if he ascribed his anxiety to his language proficiency/identity but he said that he was not worried about his language per se when I asked him. This gentleman was, clearly, academically brilliant in my view. The problem: he somehow didn’t think he was even capable of catching up with the rest of his (regular, younger) peers. read full post…