Although it’s only about two months worth, it’s pretty great that I’ve managed to survived this semester, especially a lot better compared with last year’s. Granted, two months of teaching isn’t really that long, but if you particularly have first-year university students, it can feel like it drags at times.
Compared with last year’s spring semester, I had an extra first-year class this year, which of course gave me more work than usual. In total, it was six classes of first-year students, and I have to say that they’ve been surprisingly okay. I’ll be honest and say that there was one particular class which I didn’t like at all, but otherwise, I was pleased to see that most of my students paid attention in class, had a decent level of English and, most importantly, worked hard.
First-year university students are notorious for being difficult. Much of it is due to the fact that many are 18 to 19 years old, fresh out of high school, and with plenty of freedom as newly-minted “adults.” Maturity-wise, they’ve a long way to go– it’s shocked me at times how some of their behavior is on-par with that of middle-schoolers, and it’s enough to drive someone crazy. I got a few of those students in all of my classes, but as I wrote, they weren’t so bad. And again, most were serious about working and keeping things amicable made the weeks go smoothly, more-or-less.
…at the same time, however, let me just take a moment to address the one class which was probably one of my most-challenging ones since my fall semester during my first year of teaching at this school (PS if any of my students reads this post, just know that I’m not out to get you– rather, I’m just venting out my frustration). Besides this class being my last class of the day (after having back-to-back classes beforehand), it was also my largest at 34 students. Not only that, but also so many of them were disruptive; they obviously didn’t want to be in class, and it boggled my mind that they would continue to show up every week if they didn’t even want to at least pretend to pay attention in class. Half of them failed their first exam, and it was clear by the end of the second week that I didn’t like them, which made disciplining them all the more challenging than it already was.
Look, this isn’t to say that all of them were bad. There were some of them who actually cared about doing well in the class, and it was unfair that they had to put up with their classmates’ crap while I was teaching. Despite the small percentage, it was the one-third whom I actually liked, and whom I focused on when the rest of the class was screwing themselves over with their grades. Those who actually worked will pass, and the rest will not. That’s the simple order of things, really.
At the end of the day, though, it’s important to understand that these students aren’t bad people– they’re just bad students. I reckon many of them came from vocational schools, so to put them in academia is just a recipe for disaster. I blame the French schooling system, but otherwise, I hope these students will find a better path after this year, whether it’s in education or not.
Any case, it was that one class which was my challenging moment this spring. At least compared to last year, when I had more difficulties with attendance and discipline, this year has been a lot smoother in teaching and managing classes. Again, the other five of my first-year classes were more-or-less fine. Not to say that they were perfect, but not nightmarish. I just ended this week by giving them their final exams, and it’s a matter of grading them and submitting final grades to administration thereafter. Most of them will be fine, and that’s what it matters.
There still remains about two weeks with my second-year students (who are fine, for the most part), but I can say that, at this moment, the worst has passed. Not just with my least-favorite first-year class, but also with the sheer workload that I had to deal with. It was grading paper after paper, exam after exam, and at one point, I was kicking myself for having done this to myself in the first place. But I also think that it pays off in the end, as I can better evaluate my students, i.e. who will pass and who will not. Pass or fail, it’s never personal: either you know your material, or you don’t.
This post turned out to be rather a rant-y one, but in any case, it’s been good to let off some steam, as well as reflect on how the semester went. Maybe I’ll come back after I wrap up with my second years in a couple of weeks to add more, but until then, thanks for reading my *messy* thoughts. Bon courage!
— The Finicky Cynic
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