Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Course Correction?

My Modern American Poetry course isn't going as well as I'd like. In fact, I'm downright discouraged about it. The format--lots of poems, thematically organized, followed by a free-range, rambling discussion--worked wonderfully the last time that I did it, but with this group, and with me, this year, it seems haphazard and unsatisfying.

I just sent an email to the students, checking in with them. Often my sense of a course is darker than theirs. But when I look around the room and see the students who are, themselves, poets--the ones who know the most coming in--looking pained or bored, I get worried. Not what I'm used to, folks.

Here's what the email said:
Good morning, everyone! We're a few weeks into the quarter, and I wanted to write and check in with all of you about how the class is going.

Our current format--vast amounts of reading, arranged thematically; unpredictable and open-ended discussion--doesn't work every for every student or every group, and I want to give you the chance to give me feedback on it.

Would you prefer a smaller number of readings, or more explicit instructions in advance about which ones to focus on? Would you rather cover fewer themes, and spend more time on each? Would you like me to assign (or at least recommend) some secondary readings? Or is everything fine so far?

Please let me know what's going well, and what you'd like changed, as we head toward the middle of the term!
Two responses so far:
Good morning! Thanks for the check-in. The class is going really well for me at this point. I'm really enjoying the reading, and I like the format. The fact that there are so many readings assigned really opens things up, I think. (Not to mention the fact that it increases the likelihood that there'll be something in there that appeals to everyone in some way.)

The one thing I do think would be helpful though is if one or two secondary readings were assigned/recommended. I think it helps frame things out a little more, and also gets the wheels turning for final projects.
And this:
I appreciate the inquiry. I like the sort of open ended structure. I don't feel overwhelmed because I know we're not expected to be experts of every poem and I appreciate at least being exposed to them, especially thinking about them in a thematic context.

I would like some more suggestions/information about the "expectations" for the short papers . I know that too is also pretty open ended, but I'm not sure if it's supposed to be a long response to the reading and class discussion or involve research, etc.
I'll hear more tonight, I suspect, from students who work full time during the day. Will let you all know how it goes.


Today's song, a neotango from Italy, danced here by an unknown couple (unknown to me, anyway). Note to self: Romance Conference in Argentina--investigate!

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