Having taught ENG 3U twice, 4U this term was relatively easy. For one thing this crop of teachers were a whole lot less demanding. Last year the English team were all driven individuals, with a high degree of competence. There was a friendly, professional competition to outdo the other in terms of preparation and material covered. We were each producing a major slide show per week and then sharing them around the group. As a result I had a great cache of material in my computer that I simply had to retool.
I don’t think this year’s crop produced a single slide show all semester, and after an initial effort to get them going by example, I just accepted the norms of the new regime. The expectations were a lot lower, and the marking a whole lot less strenuous. I remember Natalie last year carting home three classes worth of journals every other weekend, and she had nearly ninety students! This year journals got marked four times all semester, and it was made pretty plain that others did not want you doing more and making them look bad.
We also met a lot more frequently last term, at least every two weeks for a good hour, sometimes longer, with a lot of individual conferencing going on in between. This year we were lucky to get started before 10 when we all had to go teach at 10:30. I do miss the excellence and drive of last year’s team, but I have to admit that this time around it has been a whole lot less stressful. As with any group of highly motivated individuals, my own drive to excel was simply accepted as part of the norm. In this group that drive is seen as being pushy and out of step, and I have had to take a large step backwards and simply let them go at their own pace. As a result I too have become a lot more relaxed.
Since the students have now been in English for two terms, the ISU (independent study unit) essays and presentations are outstanding. The essays are two thousand words, although I have marked several in the 2500 word range, and they have been excellent; well researched and meticulously cited; insightful, witty and wise. Their presentations make my own look sick. Some of these kids have put weeks in collecting slides, videos, songs and games to enrich their presentations and get their thesis across. Each presentation is twenty minutes, followed by a ten minute seminar where they have to defend their thesis in discussion with their classmates.
The presentations take about three weeks worth of class time, and I have three days left to go. Our long weekend is the one coming up (Buddha’s birthday) and I hope to be done by then with all their essays and presentations marked, clearing the decks for next week’s race to the exam.