Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Students whose "words have no forked lightning..."

Dylan Thomas
Advice to students considering
whether or not to drop my course:
"go gentle into that good night"
(Image from Wikipedia)

At Kyung Hee University this semester, I'm teaching two composition courses that were originally set up to allow no more than 15 students each but that ended up having nearly 40 each.

I don't know why the additional students were allowed to register, but putting more than 20 students who use English as a second language into a writing course means that individual students won't receive the attention that they need for their writing to improve.

Some of my students cannot even understand a simple sentence spoken to them and have to turn to fellow students for a translation, thus making the course even more taxing for me to teach.

I suspect that some of these students will drop the course as it moves into high gear when they have to conduct research and provide citations and bibliography, but I'd prefer that they drop now and save me the extra time and effort that I'll be wasting on them. Every semester, I endure students who 'work' until they have written the first draft of their essays and then give up when they receive a very low grade (such as an F minus) after I've gone to the trouble of making copious corrections and giving additional advice.

I've just spent a hard two days reading and marking thesis statements written by some of these students, so I can already see which ones might not stick around until the bitter end, but I've also had some moments of amusement at the positions that some students want to research and defend in their semester paper.

Here's one by a student who's concerned about those of us who fall short of using our innate intellectual gifts to their fullest:
Although humans have good brains, many people don't use their brains well because they don't recognize the importance of using their brains well.
In an effort to help him use his brain well, I've cleaned up his grammar and spelling, but I suspect that he will need to force his brain to do a bit more hard thinking before this thesis statement is capable of sustaining a semester-length research essay.

Another student, perhaps having reflected on the oft-expressed comparison of sports to battle, takes that comparison just a little further:
Although military strategy and position are different from soccer strategy and position, soccer is similar to war because it has strategy and position.
I rather like the redundancy of this argument, though I'm not quite clear on what is meant by "position" . . . but at least my insufficient understanding means that I still have something to learn from this student.

My favorite thesis statement came from a student with ecological concerns:
Although many people say that it is not too late to prevent global warming, the earth will be destroyed because it is already getting hotter.
Yes, I've noticed this myself. March has been noticeably warmer than February, and if this trend continues, I expect that we'll be suffering considerable heat by early July and utter destruction by early August.

If the English of these three samples seems better than expected, that's because I've corrected the errors, but when the students get these thesis statements back, they'll face a bit of frightening red ink and a lot of stern advice.

For that matter, every single student in these two classes will face the ink and the advice that will either make them or break them...

Labels: , , ,


At 6:33 AM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

perhaps an article adjective before "very low grade". Oh, red ink, isn't it such a power rush!

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Jeanie, even proofreaders need proofreaders.

Power rush? I feel more as if I'm bleeding red ink. I just hope that my ink is really read...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 7:29 AM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

do not bleed, for I would:
"Rage, rage against the dying of the light"

one student will read your remarks and suggestions and that will be one more than yesterday.
I hope I have the rest of D. Thomas right. I need to look that up!

At 8:41 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I remember the dread of having to come up with a thesis for a 10,000 word paper, a necessary requirement for graduation. I never could get what was expected. I plodded through and barely passed the course.

Shortly after I started to blog, I wrote a post that was almost as long as that paper. Suprised myself. It may not have been written well, but I had enough ideas to write at length.

Many times the red ink on my drafts were as a foreign language, so the only thing I did sometimes was to rewrite enough and see what reduced the red ink.

Just letting you know the point of view from and English speaking student who doesn't have the gift of writing.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

One more? I'm hoping for one less . . . more or less.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 8:47 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

But Hathor, you do write quite well.

I myself might or might not have a gift, but whatever I may innately have, I hone the edge of my writing by writing every day. That's the secret.

Oops. I gave away my secret! And for free! What's wrong with me?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell that one student he/she must not Wiki for thesis statements:

"Although humans have good brains, many people don't use their brains well because they don't recognize the importance of using their brains well."

I've play-jury-ized mice elf two often to cee mice elf in re-print.


At 12:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Hodges,

A sad note from Sri Lanka today.

Po po tweet.


At 12:49 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, let them just attempt to plagiarize in my class. They don't know what they're in for.

Sad about Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

Thank you, but I think I would still dread your class.

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Actually, I'm very helpful, but you'd do fine even if I were as tough as I sound.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first semester at Kodae, I walked into a composition class with 90 students registered. The university would not drop any students, so I refused to teach the class unless it was broken up into three sections and two sections were assigned to another teacher. 30 composition students is still a lot of work, given the extra editing required for non-native speakers of varying abilities.


At 8:40 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sonagi, the Korean professors in English departments don't realize these facts because they've never truly taught essay composition.

In fact, students have often told me that I am the first professor (and also the first teacher) who has ever handed back an essay with corrections, advice, and questions -- and that's in both composition and noncomposition courses.

I probably should have refused to take the two courses with so many students, but I suspect that I'll quickly see a dropping off in attendance, which is good because if a student falls behind through laziness, that student will never catch up and will instead give up.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home