professornana (professornana) wrote,

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Wake Up!

I just read a piece online about how first exams in a semester can serve as a wake-up call for students. Perhaps it is just that I am a curmudgeon and can be a bit cantankerous before I am fully caffeinated, but this just struck me as GOTCHA! learning. I know that some professors and some teachers seem to take some sort of joy in the GOTCHA! approach. I have heard students discuss teachers who bragged about the number of failing students they had. I am the opposite. I worry about each student (even at the graduate level) who is not successful in my class. I do not "give" As, but I do try to structure my classes so that students can achieve As. I want them to feel successful and happy, too.

The first assignment in my YA literature course is for students to do a reading autobiography. It is not an assignment original to me. My professor had his students write one. And HIS professor had students write them as well. As a matter of fact, the content of hundreds if not thousands of those reading autobiographies became part of the basis for the book VOICES OF READERS by Anne Sherrill and G. Robert Carlsen. I keep up this tradition because I want to know my students as readers (or non-readers, though that is thankfully rare). Especially in an online setting, I want to know more about my students than their Twitter names and email addresses. And I want my students to reflect on their own reading lives and know more about their reading identity.

I read the submissions last week. Some opted for a traditional personal essay. Others conveyed their reading lives through timelines (we love for this; here is the link to one I provide as a starting point for them; it is not complete: Some used Prezi and Power Point. Some of their pieces moved me to tears; some made me laugh; others made me nod in recognition. And a few made me wince as I read about how some of my students overcame incredibly uncaring educators and decided still to be teachers and librarians. In almost every single piece, though, I saw connections to my own reading life: series books, hated of some classics, caring parents who somehow managed to buy books despite economic hardships, becoming lost in books and reading, needing more time to read.

One more thing: everyone received full credit for the assignment. Everyone is beginning MY semester with an A. I hope it is a wake-up call of another kind. I hope it awakens the reader and writer in them. I hope it awakens a feeling of success, a feeling of "Yes, I CAN!"
Tags: gotcha, reading, success
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