Thursday, February 28, 2008

Auf Wiedersehen, Kids

This is my last instructional week with my half-semester tech writing class. You know--this bunch.

I can't tell you how much this pleases me. Next week I am meeting with each of them for 15 minute blocks for portfolio conferences. They are going to show me their careful revisions, explain why they made the choices they made during the editing process, and then I'm going to wave goodbye and send them on their way. We will be done with each other.

That ending can't come quick enough, if you ask me. Especially after what they pulled today.

Because it is a half-semester course, our class meets for six hours a week, in two three hour blocks. For anyone who has never taught before, just know that this is an awful lot of time to spend with a group of students in one week. It's an insane amount, in fact. Because of this concentrated time we've spent together, I know things about these boys that I never, ever, ever wanted to know. I know, for example, what one guy likes his girlfriend to do to his balls during intercourse. Yes, I really do. I did not ask for this information. I did not wake up thinking, Gee, I wish I knew what method ol' so-and-so prefers his girlfriend to use during intimate moments. No. I woke up thinking maybe I'd go to school and teach them a little something about writing, but instead of careful attention to the subject at hand, I got discussion about balls.

But even the ball-talk is less annoying than the stunt these boys pulled today. We went on break after an hour and a half. I give them ten minutes to go do whatever they want, and what they usually want is to eat half a pizza and guzzle some Red Bull. But today they added another activity to that list: turning the clock back by forty minutes.

I didn't look at the clock when I came back into the classroom, so I don't know if they'd changed it while I was in my office over the break or if they changed it after I came back and was otherwise engaged with helping them revise their memos, reports, proposals.

I was busy commenting on and grading late papers and generally helping them out when the subject of being let out early first came up.

"Hey, hey, hey," one of my students said. "Can we get out, like, early today?"

I didn't even look up from what I was reading. "No," I said.

"Oh, come on," he said.

"No," I said.

He dropped it then, and I bent closer to the stack of papers on my desk. Some time later, one of my students said, "So, uhm, what do you want us to do? Do you want us to do this stuff for homework?"

I was getting annoyed. I knew there was plenty of time left to get the revision work done in class, so I looked up at him. "You've got so much time before we get out of here!" I said. "Why not just get it done now?"

"We don't have that much time left," another student said.

That's when I looked at the clock. It said it was three minutes before our class's end time. My first reaction was shock. I looked back down at the pile of papers I'd been reading. "Oh my God!" I exclaimed. "How long have I been doing this?" It had felt like ten minutes, and the amount of work I'd gotten done seemed reasonable for ten minutes--not an hour or so. I was confused. I was also confused by the fact that no one was getting antsy like they usually did right before it was time to go. No one was shuffling papers. No one was shrugging into their coats. That was weird. They usually had a sixth sense about that sort of thing.

Still, I was discombobulated. "Okay," I said. "Uhm. Right. Well, yeah, here's what I want--"

But then everything felt so wrong, so out of place, that I leaned across the table to check the time on the computer. Instead of 4:52, it said 4: 22.

And I won't lie. Some foul language came out of my mouth at that moment. I wanted to scream. I really did. I also wanted to lie down for a nap. I was so, so tired of this and them. But I just told the student who fessed up to setting the clock ahead to set it back and get to work. Then I sat down and went through the rest of the stack of papers, and I finished them before our time ran out for real. Of course, not before one of my students decided to chuck an empty bottle at another student who was sitting across the room from him. When that empty bottle crashed into one of the computers, I sighed, shook my head, and told them all to get out of the classroom, to just go home.

And they went. And that was it. I'll never have to see them all in the same place ever again.

Thank God.

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