THE RADICAL KICKS SOME STUDENT BUTT
Today Extravaganza paid a visit to Zenith -- dressed very spiffily in a blue tennis shirt with the collar popped, and a silk designer tie discarded unworn by his paternal unit (paisley on one side -- navy blue with white spots on the other -- can't magine why it was put aside by a grown man.) He came to my lecture class to check out the scene.
It was an ok class on my part, and we had a great book on a gay Asian community, but the participation rate was unusually low for a class not notable for its participation anyway. This is particularly difficult when the entire session was supposed to be devoted to discussion -- probably ten kids in a class of forty speaking consistently -- although queer studies classes can be like this: "We're gay -- why do the reading when we can talk about ourselves?" I had previously vowed to deal with this once the history search is over, and in a way that preserved my carefully detached, post-promotion trauma sensibility. But as we got into the last twenty minutes, conversation dried up utterly. I looked around and said, "How many people finished this book?"
Two students raised their hands. Two. I had a few words to say about that, and returned to an article we had read for Monday. In the past I might have ended class with a severe lecture and ended it in a huff ("Don't leave in a huff," says Groucho Marx in Duck Soup, "Leave in a minute and a huff.") But I just ended by saying they needed to finish the reading for next time. Whatever.
As Ex and I were walking back to my office, he confessed to horror that *college students* were so fully unprepared. The eighth grade would never dream of such a thing. "And," he said, "Did you know that one of the kids was doing email on a computer?"
No I did not. I thought the little so-and-so was taking notes. I thought people only did that kind of thing in law school. That was the final straw -- I went into full huff, if belatedly.
So upon my return home, the following email went out to the class:
"Please note that participation in class discussions is one of the
requirements of this course. Let me clarify what I mean by that.
"Participation requires completing the reading thoughtfully for the class for which it is scheduled on the syllabus.
"Participation means speaking and making a contribution to the general discussion. It means responding to your classmates as well as to me. It does not mean allowing a small number of your classmates to carry the load for you and teach you about what you have not read. In the future, if participation is as low as it was today, there will be a quiz.
"It has also been brought to my attention that at least one member of the class was checking an email account during class. I am not even going to say what I think about this. Please do not bring computers or any electronic device for use in class in the future unless it is required for a disability and we have discussed it in advance."
There are disadvantages to being too relaxed, people. No one ever said the Radical was plannng on being a pushover for the rest of her life.
Footnote: I came across this post as I was doing a careful read through on April 3, after having discovered that my blog was widely read at Zenith. I considered taking it down, and decided not to. The update is that -- for whatever reason -- snarky emails, comfort level, a good communication of expectations -- communication in the class is significantly better. And I relented on the computer when the student involved offered a gracious apology.