Monday, April 12, 2010

Grouchy Monday

So I am sure my dear readers are wondering why I am calling this entry "Grouchy Monday" .... it's been a hell of a day. Keep a few things in mind. I ran the St Louis Half Marathon yesterday with a bum foot and today my body hurts worse than any of the 14 full marathons I have done. Not sure what's going on there. And then I drank a little too much wine at my sister-in-law's birthday party (at a winery, of course) and so I woke up feeling not quite tip-top. I am pretty sure I drank too much wine because I am feeling completely stressed out by my job and my graduate work. I am not sure that my research is working out AND so many students this semester keep walking into class late, giving me reasons why essays can't be turned in on time, and generally insisting that I am being too hard.

Which leads to today. Papers were due so, as you might guess, lots of calls and emails about why papers wouldn't be turned in. In the MWF ENG 101 class this morning we talked about the new assignment and students watched one version of Jane Elliott's Blue Eye/ Brown Eye experiment (click here for more info!). Student L, one of my harshest critics this semester, was clear (after watching the video) that she had major problems with Elliott's work. Her blog entry was all about how racism is not a big deal anymore and I am trying to make a topic more than what it is (I don't know if this is important but Student L is biracial). This is the same student who has questioned me on everything this semester -- everything.

And then when I was trying to hastily get everything ready for my 4 PM class, Student A from the 4 PM class emailed me her paper and when I glanced at it as it was priting off, I saw my name. Why would my name be in the middle of her essay? Here is what she said:

"Dianna I’m sorry but the more I write the more I just want to be racist myself this is our third essay on race and I honestly have nothing else to say about it and I also didn’t really get this assignment please don’t be mad and if you want to give me an F then it’s cool but hopefully you will let me write about something other than race so I don’t fail the class. Please email me back because I really don’t want to talk about this in person. I’m sorry please let me write about something else I’m begging you. Thanks."

I check in with students all the time and she has never expressed any concern about having problems coming up with an idea -- besides the fact that as a class we have talked about different approaches to this Crash assignment, approaches that didn't need to talk about race. And so now she is telling me this, minutes before the essay is due? Seriously? During the class tonight she expressed the same opinion as Student L from the MWF class. When I (and a student in the class) pointed out that maybe her white privilege was inhibiting her from seeing beyind her subject position, I could tell she was angry (which I can understand). She thinks racism is dead and Jane Elliott's experiment is "outdated" and "stupid." When I asked to talk with her at the end of class, she burst out in tears when I told her that she will not survive college if she doesn't turn work in on time and ask for help when she needs it. She just seemed so offended that I wasn't willing to work with her. Which I am, of course! I told her to come by my office so we could brainstorm other ideas for the paper (though I wish we could have done this before the essay was due!).

Student A appeared so put out by the whole thing as if I should just let her slide on the paper. But I am not going to let that happen. I do think that students should be a little offended (or maybe even a lot) by what they encounter in college. I want them to think, even if it's not what I think! But how can they do this if they aren't willing to put in the real hard work that college requires? Writing a solid essay is not easy! You have to be willing to think about your rhetorical stance and you have to be willing to carefully proofread and edit your work. Or maybe I should create a cushy, loving class environment where we all just hold hands and sing camp songs together?

1 comment:

  1. We did that brown eyed/blue eyed experiment in middle school once, only my teacher didn't tell us beforehand so we had no idea what was going on and nobody developed those same kinds of things like the kids did.

    Okay seriously, you were never too hard. Your class was quite possibly one of the easiest and most interesting classes I've ever been in. The work amount was just right...and seriously, if I was in your class now, they would get a mouthful from me. They need to realize they're not in high school anymore. They can't just slide by and college just gets harder if you keep going. I would ask them, "Why are you even here if you think you can get away with showing up late and turning things in late? Would you do this at a job? No, you wouldn't, because you'd get fired." Of course, I'd probably be cussing up a storm too because I'd be so mad.

    You know, it's amazing how many of those people still exist in my upper classes. How did they get this far? Well, I know some of my teachers are way too lenient and not mean enough. But I feel you are nice and are not being hard on any of them and you really need to just stick to your guns.

    As for people who say that the racial stuff doesn't exist anymore: Tell them to pay attention to their surroundings. How many people are still abiding by segregation by only sitting with people of their own race, say, in the cafeteria (I know you guys don't really have one anymore)? How often do they find themselves thinking racial thoughts, even if they don't mean to? How are they treating and others treating members of other races at the grocery store (or whatever)?

    Or ask them to take a trip to somewhere like the deep south of South Carolina. They can document their findings there. :)