Back to grading homework

Tomorrow is the second day of classes, so tonight was the night to grade homework that is coming in before the deadline. We have a class discussion slated for tomorrow at 8:00, so I was hoping to prime the pump for it by putting some comments on the homework now. I also have some students already writing their journal entries. Journals remain one of my favorite assignments to read and grade. The pressure is off (other than checking that the journal meets the minimum word count), and I get to learn about my students as more than just faces looking back at me for three hours a week. I just got to read the coolest journal about the memories one student has about his grandfather. Seriously, the memories could be transformed into a children’s book; I would buy it. I’m estimating a little over half of the homework due tomorrow is already turned in, which I consider a good thing. Sure, it still makes me a little nervous about the homework that is missing since it is 11 pm. But, the reality is that college students will be college students, and I would imagine that by morning, most of the missing homework will have arrived.

I did notice one alarming trend though today that I’ll have to address in class tomorrow — a inattentiveness to  directions. Now, just in case the students who didn’t follow directions read this, they should know that I’m not coming down too hard on them. Adjusting to college is hard. Mistakes happen; it takes time to adjust to new expectations, and most of the students resubmitted appropriate work after I pointed out their error. I do have to give some friendly advice though to the students who do stumble across this blog. For the love of all that is good and right in the world, follow directions.

Here are my four teaching pet peeves (probably in this order):

  1. Being lied to by a student (don’t get me started on this one)
  2. Seeing a student submit work that is nowhere near the level they are capable of reaching
  3. Seeing cell phones in class
  4. inattentiveness to directions

Why does the directions issue make #4 on the list?

  1. Teaching is hard, and learning is hard. It doesn’t get any easier when we’re moving in different directions. I can take students to the next level of thinking much more effectively if we can start with an agreed upon foundation. If I feel like we’re not even at the same building site, it’s hard to give effective feedback.
  2. Yes, I am aware as a college instructor in a rapidly changing culture that I may be training students today to fill job positions that don’t even exist yet. But, I’m supposed to be training innovators not anarchists. There is a time and a place to think outside of the box. But, if students ignore directions on purpose in pursuit of some kind of edgy image, they should consider this: sometimes effective change does happen if  someone thinks outside of the box. However, if you are too far outside the box, no one is going to care what you are doing.
  3. I take time to write assignment sheets and directions. And, in a very selfish way, I get offended when people don’t listen to them. (Yes, I’m human.)

And so, there is the first day of homework for better or for worse. I’m anxious to see where the class discussion goes tomorrow morning because the submitted homework had some research writing insights that I’m eager to explore with the class.

For now, it’s time to finish my Agatha Christie short story and then get a good night’s sleep.

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