Thoughts during CSAP proctoring

18Mar09

Oh, the blank “page.”  Isn’t it great how Word and other programs try to make you think you’re typing onto actual paper?  Do you ever stop to think about how it is, in fact, NOT all that logical that letters and such pop up onto the fake paper on your screen when you’re typing simply because you hit a button on a keyboard?  And then there is the whole phenomenon of typing-we train our fingers into a pattern that comes to feel natural to us; as I’m typing now, I feel as though I’m simply putting thoughts directly onto the “page” from my mind.  Meanwhile, however, those thoughts have to go through the filter of language (if you believe that thought precedes language, and I’m not sure I do, but let’s go with that anyway), your fingers, whatever complicated functions occur in the computer itself, then through the web (I want to say airwaves and can’t, accurately), onto your screen, through your eyes and back through your brain, where it’s converted back into thoughts.  Well, converted into thoughts, anyway, because who knows exactly what they’ve become as a process of all that translation.

Isn’t it kinda wonderful and grotesque-what we do to communicate with each other?  Absurd, really, I guess.

I’m sitting in my classroom watching students take or not take CSAPs.  Today is our final day.  I’m going to miss this bunch-it’s funny how being in a room together for a week of mornings actually brings us together as a cohesive group.  In particular, there’s one student in here who reminds me uncannily of a student I had last year, which makes me happy.  I wonder if I’ll keep doing that-treating last year’s students like my Plato-in-the-cave students; after this, all students will be an echo version of someone I had in my first of years here…Maybe.  Probably not, though.  I told some of my seniors last week that I like it when I have their younger siblings in class because it’s like having a little piece of them still in my classroom.  Then, of course, the ones with siblings I’d taught last year started asking me whether I reminded them of their older siblings, and I had to say no, honestly, in all cases.  I guess they grow their own identity over time.  The sibling factor just makes the transition to new students feel a little less jarring, maybe.

Thinking about my seniors this year, I don’t feel the same panic at the thought of them leaving-as a group, anyway, though there are individual students I’ll miss.  Sometimes I wonder who’s letting who down more-them, or me.  I know I’ve sold these kids short in some respects-many, I suppose-and my own enthusiasm for the content has waned a bit in light of the Old Newsiness of it all; it was exciting when it was my first time introducing kids to the books I’d loved in college, had grown to love since graduation, had loved in high school… Now, I can predict their reactions, I can imagine what they will be likely to latch onto…the wonder of discovery isn’t central to the experience this time.  How can I get that back?  How can I recultivate that feeling of charting new territory together?

On bad days, I blame them.  They don’t like to think, I say.  They don’t push themselves.   They don’t have the same kind of intellectual curiosity that last year’s group did.  Even the best of them are just here for a grade.  On better days, I know that I’m just falling into the trap that the other teachers do when they assess this class-selling them short, bemoaning their obvious inferiority to last year’s bunch of seniors.  It’s a copout.  I think we’re all giving up on them because we liked last year’s kids so well.  Then our assumptions-and the actions we base upon them-create this snowballing chicken-or-egg situation in which we continually exacerbate the problem that we insist existed before we even began teaching them.

I think I need spring break to start, and I need some time to think and rethink what I’m doing so that I can give these kids the kind of College Lit class they deserve before they graduate.

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One Response to “Thoughts during CSAP proctoring”

  1. 1 J

    I just got to thinking about how we’re supposed to be actively proctoring the whole time during CSAPs, and I want to clarify that I was, in fact, not needing to actively proctor at this point (that is, the point at which I was writing the above) because someone else was. Whew! No misadministrations, please!


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