I wondered if it ever would—today is the day. Students routinely come to class without having completed reading assignments, often really short, almost symbolic ones. But today an entire class of college students came without a single one having completed this week’s writing assignment.
I came prepared to lead a revision workshop. I was prepared for some percentage of the students to come without anything to revise. I use turnitin.com to collect essays, and only five minutes before class was to begin not one student had turned anything in. I gave them a long break (it’s a three hour discussion/lecture that meets Wednesdays) thinking that some of them would sneak to a computer. Nothing. Two students left the class to take phone calls. Two others left before the class was finished.
I didn’t bother enforcing any of my telephone rules. As for the essays, I played along without ever mentioning them. I taught a workshop on flawed assumptions, and we reviewed a paper that makes serious errors. And that was it. I told them their revisions are due next week and sent them home.
For the record, this is a horrible feeling. I feel useless, inconsequential, like I went through motions that had less value than steps on a treadmill. I could have spent this time writing or playing with my children. I could have cooked food for a hungry person. I could have gone to the Zen center to meditate. Continue picking numbers—the gutters need cleaning and my garage door is broken.
I used to get angry and frustrated. I used to think about what else I could do to motivate, to interest the students. Today I just came back to my office and ate the meal I had brought with me. I put on Pandora and sat to write this post. I’ve become one of them. This is how it feels—I’m finally there—to have nothing at all to say.