It's as easy for teachers to complain about job-related stuff as it is for anyone else, I guess. It's a bad habit to get into, so I try to avoid it, and in that spirit, I would like to share something that happened today that made me feel good.
In my lit class, we have a workshop day before papers are due, giving the students a chance for some peer review before they hand the paper in (and not incidentally keeping them from writing the entire paper the night before it's due). On each of these days, before we get into pairs or groups, I have each of the students reduce the claim of their paper, its main point, to one sentence - a thesis statement, if you will - and write that on an index card. Using the document camera we look at all the samples, and talk about how complex (or not) they are, how interesting (or not) they are, what strategies would be useful in exploring them, and so on.
We had out third and last workshop today, and halfway through the stack of cards, it struck me: none of them were complete clunkers. Oh, sure, some were more sophisticated and some less obvious than others, but overall, all of the ideas were analytical, specific, and potentially robust candidates for the focus of a lit paper. We had come a long way from out first workshop, which offered some claims along the lines of "this poem is about love".
It was satisfying to see that the class, as a whole, had moved from one place to another. While some students clearly have more aptitude for verbal-linguistic learning, and some individuals are just more interested in things literary, everyone's grasp of the form and conventions of literary analysis seems to have been ratcheted up a notch or two. Whether they will ever be really good at it or whether they will ever really enjoy it, they all know how to do it: what the objective is and how to get there. And in the final analysis, that's all I want.
So, yeah, we'll put this one in the win column.