…and Midterms and Essays, O My!

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Finally having gotten miterm grades in, I took a bit of a breather, relaxed, and contemplated the last month and a half of classes. It seems to have gone so much more quickly than I thought at all possible, but there you have it! I’m immensely enjoying my world lit survey course, and the class in general seems engaged and energetic. We’ve been reading from Shakespeare’s Sonnets, spending most of our time in close examination–mostly working through content and syntax, focusing on key images and motifs. But it’s been a real pleasure to share the tricks of the trade with this class, and the expressions of shock and pleasure when they see something more clearly are definitely a plus. Last class period, we read one sonnet for about 40 minutes, and though about half the class was already (!) on spring break, I think we moved ahead substantially. I’ve been routinely impressed with the level of insight and creativity this class brings to the table, and I’m excited about continuing some of the new assignments I’ve planned out for them in later iterations of the course.

Of course, each course is different, each term is different. I’m never quite sure what’s going on in class from my first-year composition students; they could equally be bored out of their minds, completely neutral, or more interested than I know. I was surprised, though, by some of the midterm essays from that class. While in general the responses to the essay topic were pretty expected, a few revealed interesting and emphatically unexpected takes on the material. I’m still trying to find a happy baseline with my students in 102, though; hopefully, the second half of the term will see some clarification on the matter.

Theater history is a conundrum to me, this term; though it was last year, as well. Perhaps it’s the size of the class, or the range of years, or perhaps it’s nothing at all, and I simply have trouble reading them! While difficult, the material isn’t beyond any of my students, but some of the exams suggested that more attention needs to be paid to the study guides. I’m considering ways to help incorporate the essay material into our discussions more concretely, but lecturing I know isn’t the way to go. Many in class are eager and wonderfully willing to participate, and many clearly pore over the reading, taking detailed notes–which seemed to help greatly with the exam essays. Perhaps I need to give quizzes in this class, something that will keep us focused on the material and asking the right questions. Or maybe more visual aids would be effective, as well. I love the Oxford text I’m using this term, because it doesn’t settle for the powerpoint version of early modern drama; each essay is so rich and nuanced, so capacious, without being jargon-laden and inaccessible, especially to the juniors to whom the course is aimed. Perhaps it’s a good thing after all that the course will become a 200-level survey next year. Perhaps I shouldn’t have students read samples of the drama we’re discussing? I don’t think it’s too much to read, but one 2:30 class each week simply doesn’t offer enough structured time to effectively and creatively address everything that we need to do. Hmmm. As I said, a conundrum. Some dark horses in the rom pleasantly surprised me with their exams, though!

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