Friday, December 12, 2008

Great solution? Or just laziness? Not sure I care....

For years, I found myself enraged as the weeks following the end of a term spooled out. Why were the students not coming to pick up their papers from me? After all, I had spent so much effort making good comments on each one, spending an hour, sometimes more, to read thoughtfully and carefully and critically, and to write comments that would provide good direction for future writing. But every term, in every class, a large portion--a horrifyingly, frustratingly large portion--of the students didn't ever come to pick up these monuments of my investment in their continuing education. I routinely watched my goodwill evaporate, to be replaced with resentment.

But no more!

Starting last spring, I began to make an announcement in class the final day, as they were rummaging through their backpacks to produce and turn in their papers. "Listen," I now say, "If you know yourself, and know that you in all honesty, being totally realistic, aren't going to come pick this up when next term gets under way, please write me a little note at the top of your paper indicating that you're not going to pick it up, so that I don't waste all that time and energy writing comments you're never going to read."

And they do. Between a quarter and a third of them admit that they're probably not going to come near my office again. Which saves me the work, and keeps me happy about the kind of feedback I give to the ones who DO come pick up the papers.

I read JW's recent post on the troubling morality of his recent experiment on a final exam. And though I confess that I feel a twinge of conscience about actively trying to get out of student-oriented work, it's ameliorated by my knowledge that those little poops would've stuck me with it if I hadn't asked them to tell me in advance.

5 comments:

Flavia said...

Actually, the better solution is to ask which ones actually totally, totally want them back. Even better is in the spring, when you can tell them that if they DO, they need to provide a stamped, addressed envelope.

In my experience, it's nowhere near 70% who come for them. It's in the neighborhood of 10%--maybe 30% in an upper-division class.

Renaissance Girl said...

Damn. I'm STILL too much of a softie. You need to teach me how to kick ass, Flavia-flav...

squdratomagico said...

The other thing you can do is... look over the papers, calculate grades, but don't bother with extensive commentary UNTIL the student contacts you the next term asking for the paper.

Renaissance Girl said...

but erggg....if i waited until the next term to comment, i'd overcomplicate an already insane NEW schedule. i prefer to leave semesters at the curb when they're finished, and not to look back again.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I asked my students to provide envelopes, and only two did. Easy grading for me! Since I'm an adjunct at this school, and I'm not teaching there next semester, they'd have to go through a hassle to get them back -- and so would I. Forget that. I have enough on my plate! I will always, always do this at the end of the semester from now on. It makes that pile of papers seem much less daunting.