Monday, January 30, 2006

TA Bastard

So, the course that I TA for has been going well, I suppose. But, to be honest, as I get better at teaching, I seem to care less about the students. Of course, I still care a lot about the %60 or so that are just good kids trying to do well at understanding a topic that they have very little background or interest in. Those tend to be the ones that I teach for anyway. And, I've never really worried about the wonk 10% that are all-but-guaranteed to get an A. For the most part, you can just let them be and try to encourage them on occasion and they'll do fine.

But, as for the lousy students, I just don't care anymore. It seems like, when you do that, you end up playing this stupid game with them. You assign some reading, then they don't do it and then you worry that they're going to fail and don't know what to do, and so you try to think of tricks to get them to learn the stuff some other way, which is just lame. I've decided that what you should do is just fail them. I mean, I can't think of any job in which a boss would say: "Joe, you haven't been doing your work, and so... I've thought of some ways to encourage you to do it." Remember: These are College students.

I may only have about five or six lousy students in each recitation, but that's enough to ruin my teaching if I focus on them. It's like watching someone die in excruciatingly slow-motion. You know that they're going to fail at the end of the course, and you don't want to see that, but some of them are just bound and determined to do the least that they can, and that's often just not enough. Moreover, I feel corrupt when I give them "extra help" or, let's just be honest, inflated grades. I kept fairly free of that last time. But, I still did the other version of it, which goes something like: "Oh, nobody did the reading? Okay, well let me go over what it was saying..." Fuck that. I feel dirty when I do that.

The sad thing is, no matter how low I set the bar last semester, that 30% still found ways to disappoint me. Eventually, I realized that the problem is not that they're 'unmotivated', 'problem students', 'behavioral problems', 'anti-intellectual, 'learning disabled', or 'unchallenged', although it may be a bit of all of those things. The problem is that they're really fucking lazy. Just like their parents. And so what? This is college. Some children get left behind here.

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