I carry these color folders back and forth with me from my office to my home and then back again to my office. They are filled with papers, quizzes, exercises that I haven’t gotten around to looking at. There is always the intention of reading them, correcting them, and grading them. The stacks continue to grow as more and more work is turned in. I walked into the division office the other day and showed another teacher my bag of papers, and she said, “Oh, so I’m not the only one.”
Is this a wide-spread problem, or am I in a tiny, little minority of procrastinators? What is it about keeping up with the workload outside the classroom? I always seem to be behind the minute the first, second, and third assignments are handed in. My intentions are always good, but that sounds like the students who don’t get their assignments done on time. (And we also know where the path paved with good intentions leads.) In addition, what kind of a role model is it for students when they see their papers are not returned in a timely fashion? “What was the big deal about having to turn them in by a certain date if the teacher doesn’t get around to looking at them?”
A colleague casually said, “Why don’t you give assignments that you look forward to reading?” In the best of all possible worlds, this would be ideal. The classes I am teaching now are 3 and 4 levels below English 1A. The students are still learning the fundamentals of English sentence structure. They are learning to write correct yet complex sentences. Many of the assignments are quite basic.
In teaching to write adjective clauses, I’ll show certain scenes from Groundhog Day and ask the students to summarize the scenes and include who the different characters are. They can explain that easily using adjective clauses. “Phil Connors is the guy who is living Groundhog Day over and over.” Not exactly earth shaking. But such simple exercises lead to better writing, or so it is hoped.
I have asked myself whether the amount of homework I give is excessive, considering that I cannot keep up with it. Part of me thinks that mechanical exercises in the book teach form but not usage. I try to make outside assignments reflect the world of writing. I want the students to be able to incorporate adjective clauses, for example, into their regular writing on campus in all their classes. I could go on, but continuing to write here will not make the pile of papers any less. It’s back to the stacks.