My Comp Students

writing1It’s midterm week–the week when each class starts to “gel” or form its own personality.  I love this time in the term.  Yes, I did just return graded essays, which can be stressful when the student hates their grade, but luckily, that hasn’t happened this term (crossing fingers, toes, etc.).  Instead, students are coming to class on time, chatting casually with each other and with me, and seem to be engaged with the work of the class.  For both classes today, I basically had to tell students our class was over.  I love when that happens.

Composition I: they are working on analysis and interpretation as skills, in preparation for writing an essay analyzing and interpreting a “text” of their choice (artwork, song lyric, film, for example).  As with last term, the students are so intrigued by an explicit discussion and practice of these skills–as if they never really understood what they were doing in high school literature classes. 

Composition II: These students are starting to do research on an issue in preparation for their Annotated Bibliography and Review of the Literature essay (for many, these are two new, and frightening, genres of academic writing).  While many stick to topics that feel safe to them (alas, I have a few of the old standbys) others have more confidence and select the less typical topics such as gender and globalization, or parasites and schizophrenia, or different perspectives on the value of monogamy–topics they most likely were exposed to in other classes. And really, isn’t that the point of a required composition class: to get students to write about subjects theya re exploring in other classes, to integrate the content knowledge with the writing to learn knowledge?

Composition III (yes, all comp. for me this term, no lit): These students are working on a term-long research project, from topic selection, library research, to the prospectus, annotated bibliography and, finally, the 15-20 page researched essay. (While still a first year class, we must review the skills from the previous classes.)  This term I have topics ranging from the Psychology of the Vampires (Twilight, of course, led to that topic), to the Science Behind Dune–two literary-inspired topics I don’t usually get.  Then there other interesting topics such as Children of War and Aggression, Hypnosis, Dream Therapy, and the Invasion of Iraq. This class is my smallest, and they are all bravely plugging away on their research and note-taking now–this is impressive, considering the high attrition rate of this class normally.  That 15-20 page paper, as well as the sustained attention to the topic and process, truly weeds out those who skated by in the previous comp. courses.

I have many more young male students this term than ever before:  33 out of 80 students (4 classes).  (The collegewide ratio is 45% male, up from 43% last year, though I used to have classes where only 2-3 students were men.) This adds an interesting dynamic to the class, since some of these younger male students are sometimes quite confident challenging me, politely, but firmly,  on abstract ideas.  I’m enjoying that new development, and  it’s catching: the students are, too.

Just one of those postings where I get to express how much I enjoy my job.  (And it doesn’t hurt that it was 60 degrees and sunny today, and tonight is my weekly “Lost” gathering with wine and pizza).

2 responses to “My Comp Students

  1. Alas, it’s been the new “normal” one quarter a year for the last 5 years. When I first arrived at this community college on the quarter system, we had 3 comps, 1 lit every quarter. When enrollment started to fall, to share the lit load, most of us went down to 2 lits a year. One silver lining in increased enrollment: next year, I’m back to 3 comps/1 lit a quarter.

    Our literature classes have a “cap” of 49 students, (comp classes are capped at 26), so in some ways, the missing lit class means less work. But I do miss it.

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