Sunday, May 21, 2017

Week 13: Pansies Versus Crocodiles

The Semester Comes to a Close

I had hoped to post a blog every week of the semester about my experience teaching Legal Research & Writing 1 to my Arab students.  But, the semester gets so intense about Week 10 that I feel happy just to keep up with class prep and grading.  

Over the past two weeks, I have conducted individual conferences with students. We look at their attendance record, the point scores on their assessments, their current ranking in the course, and the chance they have for a higher letter grade.  I then review their written work. 

My female students met with me first.  All of them have been working hard this semester. They are dedicated to their studies and show it by good attendance, preparation for class, and a level of engagement that still surprises me.  After all, we meet from 3 to 4:45 p.m. at the end of a very long day.  

I told them that coming to class is like looking out on the sunny, eager, upturned faces of pansies in a flower garden.  I just love them to pieces.  Now that we know each other better, I see their humor, their struggles in balancing home, careers, and children, and their desire to get a good education with a good GPA. 

Then I met with my male students.  That experience is much different.  After a two-hour class, I feel like I have been "wrestling crocodiles."  Their needs are greater, because they are less prepared for the course.

Most of my male students have several children, jobs or businesses, parents who need help, and then a full course schedule. Their attendance for a 9:30 a.m. course is more inconsistent. I need to set more boundaries with them.  I am strict about enforcing course rules. I police more cheating. And, I find myself in more futile negotiations over assessment scores (futile for them). 

Despite being strict with them, I am impressed by their open hearts, good humor, and strong desire to complete the course.

I have about eight male students who show me every class just how smart they are.  One student has perfect attendance and almost perfect scores on the assessments.  They consistently use my office hours to work on their memos. They ask good questions. They help me communicate with my weaker students who struggle because they have poor English language skills.   I am very thankful to them.

We are all exhausted.  My patience runs thin. I need more sleep.  But, all that is true for my students, too. 

I keep telling them:  "I will get you through the semester!"  I keep telling them, as I did the first week of class, that my job is to get them ready for Legal Writing 2.  Most of them are ready.  For the struggling students, their outcome will depend on how they do on the final exam.  I hope they surprise me. 

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