The culprit: work. Work work work. I know--it's a new job, new school, new students--lots to adjust to. Not to mention the new town and new apartment. Oh, yeah, and the still-new girlfriend, who resides in another town. So, yeah, things have been a bit hectic.
I tried some new teaching strategies this semester, in an effort to manage a 4/4 teaching load. (I taught the equivalent last year, but didn't have the same departmental responsibilities, so I knew this was going to be an adjustment.) Some strategies are working, some aren't, so I'll be retooling again in the spring. But, I'm beginning to see, that will be the same every semester for the rest of my teaching career. It's the nature of the beast: "I'm sure I can do this better!"
The students are taking a bit of adjusting to, as well. It's not just that they're underprepared for reading and writing, it's that some are underprepared for college life in general. They don't know how to listen when folks (read: moi) are giving them clear guidelines. They don't meet deadlines that are designed to help them be successful on assignments. They don't take advantage of the resources available to them.
I suppose it's, in part, a maturity gap. The older students rarely have these problems--they have other problems, but not the whole "I'll just wing it the night before even though the prof told me I can't" attitude. This maturity gap is also seen in many of those same students using inappropriate language in the classroom. By this I mean, words like "gay" and "retard" and "Chinglish." Yes, really. I had to tackle that stuff head on finally, by having them do a (very private) freewrite listing all the derogatory names they've ever been called, and then putting some of mine on the board:
The Walking Dictionary
The last definitely got some reactions. But it got us talking about when it's appropriate--or at least, less problematic--to use names, and when we need to be more careful. About the limits of intention ("But I don't *mean* that!"). About the need for a degree of respect for the workspace--for a shared environment that isn't just all about our own needs and interests.
A colleague and I are going to put together a short packet of readings on this for spring--if we have to address it, we may as well make it part of the curriculum, right? Students may as well be practicing their critical reading strategies and writing a bit in response to all this, while we're sneaking in a diversity lesson.