>Students surprise me sometimes

>Just checking in from ‘grading jail’ to tell a brief little story about something that intrigued me in class the other day.

I was taking class period to talk about why and how we do research, and how to judge secondary sources in doing research. (This is but one of three class sessions I devote to the “how to’s” of research in a class where I’m having students write a research paper. This is the first time I’m doing this at the undergrad level. Keep you fingers crossed for me.) Anyway, I started talking about things like presses and journals and peer review, all rather dry stuff, especially on a day like that day, when the heating was still on in the windowless room even though temperatures outside had become spring-like. But for some reason, the students perked up when I talked about peer review. Frankly, a whole bunch of them seemed fascinated with the process. They asked all sorts of questions, including:

  • How many reviewers does a book or article typically have?
  • What happens if one reviewer likes it and the other doesn’t?
  • What happens if one person’s advice contradicts the other’s?

And so on and so forth. I think I missed a “teaching moment” there, because while I answered all their questions about peer review and more, I think what they were really fascinated by was the fact that we professors still get “graded.” And those “grades” can have some of the same issues as their grades — one reader/teacher might have different expectations/idiosyncracies/peccadillos from another. And then what do you do? I should have realized this at the moment, so that we might have had a desmystifying conversation about grades and assessment.

Then again, maybe they were actually fascinated by peer review. Maybe the students asking the questions were thinking about academic careers and wanted to know more “behind the scenes” information. I have no idea what their motivations were, frankly. But I have to say, it was kind of funny and cute that they were so fascinated. Even the lone grad student in the course noticed this and she thought it was odd, in a good way, too.

Remind me next time students become fascinated with some little detail of a lesson or text or conversation to ask why. Maybe then I’ll learn something.

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>Sometimes students are just so darn adorable!

>An actual sentence from a piece of informal student writing:

Textual evidence from the poem indicates there is no heir to Beowulf.

I don’t know why, but I find this utterly charming.

For those of you who don’t have Beowulf fresh in your minds, the hero, in his dying moments, actually says, outright, that he would give his armor to a son if he had one. It’s not exactly a textual puzzle, even in Old English, and certainly not in the translation my students are reading. I think this is coming from my tendency to write “you need textual evidence here” in the margins when students says something interpretative or analytical without evidence. But this is factual — it just needs line numbers for reference (which he doesn’t provide, but oh well). Apparently I’ve trained them too well already and now they’re salivating when a bell rings!