The Downhill Slide

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas break begins in 1, 2, 3 more weeks. My students were not too thrilled to come back to school after Thanksgiving and I am finding it harder than I remember.

The best thing about the last three weeks is that I KNOW they are hard for most students and I try to have easier work the last few weeks. Easier, of course, is relative.

Cademuir Forest by Jim Barton

My first year composition students are writing an evaluation essay. Not an easy assignment. However, they are writing the evaluation over the commercial they analyzed as their group digital product, so it is something they know very well. I chose two of the criteria I want them to evaluate in the commercial and they are allowed to pick up to two more. It should be fairly simple.

The students will finish the evaluation essay over this coming weekend and then next week we will be reading and preparing for the final–a department-wide essay exam over a set of four readings which the students will have to read starting this Thursday. They can bring the readings (and any notes written on those pages) to class with them for the final exam.

My sophomore British literature class has just finished Shakespeare’s The Tempest and on Thursday we will be moving onto the Neoclassical period and doing “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift. Next week their digital presentations of a musical playlist relating to a character, event, scene, or poem is due. They have been able to work on these for the last three weeks. About half the class has begun them while the other class only has their playlist composed, but no video started. They will have a little bit more to do over the weekend, but it is an assignment that can be done in two days, if someone is willing to put the effort into it.

We will spend the last week of class watching those digital playlists, using them as a review of the characters, stories, plays, and poems we read this semester. Then their final will be the week after that. They’ve already seen sample questions from the final and have had one exam that, though not comprehensive, was formatted the same way as the final.

I try to make the last few weeks easy and fun for my classes because I’m usually exhausted too by this point in the semester. If I am, I expect they will be too.

My students have overall been great. I’ve enjoyed these classes immensely. I’m even looking forward to reading the 15-page research papers from the graduate students that will come in on the first day of Finals Week.

But I am also very glad that the pace of the semester is easing up for all of us in my classes and not continuing to be a horse race to see if we can get everything on the schedule done.

Yes, I would have covered a lot more things if I had been given a six-hour class to do the covering in, but my courses are in line with the reading (and writing) expectations of the university. I’m just glad most of the tough stuff is already behind us and we can look forward to the Christmas break without feeling as if we may break our necks on the way.

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