This is my least favorite part of the semester. Regardless of where I teach, it always seems that the class stalls significantly after the halfway point of the term; students start getting listless, the quality of their writing goes to hell, and my motivation is limited. It’s just hard to get jazzed up when everyone around me is so lethargic.
An example? Yesterday, my evening writing kids were tasked with coming to class with a copy of a draft of their analysis paper to workshop with their peers. About two minutes into the activity, a young man strolls to me and announces that he’s not done the work. He can’t “get behind a topic,” he tells me (keep in mind that they’ve been working on this project for the better part of five weeks). He might want to do this, but then again, he might want to do that.
The whole while, he’s stroking his chin in a very thoughtful manner as if trying to convince me that he’s not spent the last four weeks stoned when he should be in the library doing research. I kicked him out of class despite his protests that he could stay and workshop someone else’s paper (“okay, but what are they going to do while you’re reading?”) and his asking me not to count the dismissal as an absence.
Every other week, the composition staff at Local U. gets together for a meeting to discuss pertinent issues. This was in my inbox the other day, announcing this week’s topic:
Several of you have noted a general lack of energy in your classes at this stage of the semester. I think we all see that lack. For staff meeting tomorrow, let’s bring in some class activities and assignments that are a little off-beat but which can stir things up in a good way. No old Halloween costumes, please! See you tomorrow. Tom
I’ve been wringing my little brain, trying to come up with something – anything – of value to bring to this discussion. If I’m asked, I’ll trot out the ad analysis lesson – I love it and I think it’s a good activity – but that’s all I’ve got.
So, what do YOU do when things get dull and drab in your classroom? Any suggestions for college-level writing activities that re-ignite a dying spark? What do I do with my darling pot-head chin-stroker?