Whiplash

The semester is back in full swing, and I am back to whiplash — a fairly common malady plaguing many teachers. Teacher whiplash is defined as a rapid swing of emotion teachers experience when they rapidly move from bemoaning lack of discipline, shoddy critical thinking, or just plain old gum stuck to the bottom of the desks to witnessing student epiphanies, getting thank yous, or sometimes just finishing a lecture with every student’s head staying off the top of the desks.

Yesterday was a whiplash day; I started by printing out grade reports for the students who’ve already used up all 4 of their free homework passes for the semester (and, yes, we’re only in the third week of the semester). This effort took 30-45 minutes out of my morning. I’m tempted to say wasted my morning, but it’s my sincerest hope that these students, realizing that I’m invested in their success, will turn over a new leaf and get invested in their own success. Still, it’s frustrating. I could have spent that 45 minutes checking email, planning classes for next semester, or sleeping in (with the third option clearly being the least noble of the three, but, hey, it was a Monday morning).

After grade reports had been distributed and my classes had been taught, I trundled over to the writing center to see what was going on. One of the enjoyable aspects of being on the actual writing center tutoring schedule is the fact that my former students come back to schedule appointments with me. I get to catch up with them and see how their writing has progressed since leaving me. I had a former student come in the other day who started out in my Intro to English class; I remembered her teary days of recognizing that paragraphs were not coherent and sentences were scrambled. I remember the frustration of trying to match credible evidence with strong topic sentences. And, I loved to see yesterday that after working hard in my classes and working hard with several of our writing center assistants, those teary days are in the past for her. Instead of just talking about how to express a clear thought, we were able to discuss the complexities of her position, how to highlight those in a revised thesis statement, and how to rewrite some topic sentences. I saw a writer who could engage with ideas without getting overwhelmed, and I saw an awareness of how sources are supposed to support and not control an author’s argument. And, then there was the icing on the cake. I checked the school website and found out that on Friday, the president of the college gave a shout out to the writing center in his chapel speech.

Ah, the whiplash…

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