I just got home a bit ago from my second week of teaching Epic Poetry at the college. I gave them their first quiz on Monday and just marked it yesterday–I was shocked to see how many had failed. It made me think that maybe I was pushing them too hard or that the quiz wasn’t set up correctly. I had them do identifications, meaning that I gave them a speech that a main character gave and then asked them to identify it and then give me a sentence for context. I think that was a big mistake. I made that worth 1/2 the quiz, but the problem turned out that if they didn’t know who made the speech, then they sure didn’t know the context and then they automatically lost all the points for that section. Big mistake. I gave them a long pep talk yesterday and again today about them not getting depressed about this first quiz. I am working them pretty hard and they are doing an absolute ton of reading. I gave them another quiz today and reformatted it. The last one I had them write 3-5 sentences on a question I gave them and nearly all of them got full credit for it. So this time I let them pick two questions to answer out of four and I still gave them 4 identifications, but this time they were only worth a point and they didn’t have to give the context. I looked through some of them on my trip home on the train and they have made me a very happy man! It looks like most of them got it this time.
I’m a bit worried about some though and I guess that is always the case. One continually comes in 1/2 late or sometimes not at all even though I told everyone that if they miss 2 whole classes their grade is going to go down by one whole mark. I figure that this is an accelerated course and 1.5 days of lecture equals one week of regular class time, so missing two classes is missing a week of regular time–and no instructor is going to allow that. So the person who comes in late told me he was going to be away Monday and Wednesday of next week (Tuesday if 4th of July and no class) and wondered if that was going to affect his grade. Ugh. The 10th they have their midterm, so I just reminded him of that date. I also told him that ultimately the decision to come to class is his own and it is his grade as well. According to college policy I can only give excused absences for serious illness or deaths in families or some other reason that is out of the control of the student–and not because they have family visiting and so on. I could drop the student, but I figure they are all adults and it is their responsibility to do the work and come to class. If they don’t I certainly am not going to go easy on them when it comes to grading–they’ll be graded just like everyone else is.
Next week I am having them read the Aeneid (or most of it) and I am pretty excited about it. I’ve geared the course to be historical as well, so it will be a good chance for me to brush up on my early Roman history and get into all the reasons why Virgil wrote it. It should be a good week. I also have to remember to put a bit of effort into showing the students how to write essays, including doing proper footnotes. I have to keep reminding myself that some students are still in high school (2) and some are taking college courses for the very first time. I’ll do that on Monday.