My Students Impressed Me Today (Jerz’s Literacy Weblog)
In my “Intro to Literary Study” class, I assigned Arthur Miller’s recent play, Resurrection Blues. At the beginning of the
class term, I told my students that it wouldn’t be in the bookstore yet because Amazon.com said the book wouldn’t be published until early February, just a few weeks after classes started.
When the book did arrive, I let them know it was in the bookstore. Because I know that the bookstore returns unsold copies shortly after midterms, I warned them in early March to pick up their books, or to order them online.
A week ago, I reminded them that the next book we were going to cover was the one that arrived in the bookstore late, and I asked who had already picked up a copy. Only one student’s hand went up.
Then, the other day, one of the other students stopped me in the cafeteria and said, “The bookstore already returned that book, and there are about nine of us who don’t have copies.”
I tried to be pleasant, but I didn’t say, “Oh, that’s too bad, we’ll have to reorganize the syllabus to account for your lack of planning.”
This morning, fully expecting most of the students to show up unprepared, I collected their 200-word reflection papers (which is something I usually don’t do, though I warned them at the beginning of the term that I might do it sometimes), and announced that I was reorganizing the syllabus.
I didn’t go on to say “to account for your lack of planning,” but that was only because I was sure it didn’t need to be said. I was tsk-tsking at them and pointing out how I kind and magnanimous I was, since I wasn’t giving them a pop quiz to slam their grades, that really affected the beginning of the class. But then I looked more closely, and saw that at least three students had copies of the book on their desks, and it turned out that most of the other students had managed to borrow whatever copies were available.
While a few students still weren’t prepared, enough of them were that we could have had a decent discussion. I told them that I had come to class all prepared to be crabby and disappointed, and that I was sorry I had underestimated their responsibility.