Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex (video), and Grading Adventures

Interesting thing: I am typing up the response sheets to the final essays for students in my Understanding English & American Pop Cultures course, and I actually had occasion to pass along the link to this video to one student who discussed Superman:

(It is, of course, based very closely on Larry Niven’s original story.)

I am not going to say more about superheroes, because I feel as if I’m a bit superhero-ed out, to be honest. It’s a huge genre, and there’s so much I don’t know about it… but I imagine it’d be fun to teach a whole course on the superhero figure. It’d also be a good excuse to go and read a bunch of history and stuff.

Not for now, though… maybe in some future Popular Culture course, or something. I’d like to get a Special Studies course set up, where we could teach some experimental course, a kind of sandbox for spinning out new course subjects. But I don’t know how hard it would be to get one set up. Another I’d like to teach is “Representations of African-Americans” or something like that, which, in fact, would be an expanded version of the first half of my Pop Culture course from this semester, which followed the track through to the present day instead of stopping at sometime around 1945. (We got to 1969 or so in terms of social movements, but also briefly discussed Madonna; we talked about her somewhat less than we discussed Josephine Baker, though.)

Anyway, I have five essays left from that class, and it’s my biggest course. There are a few other piles of things to get through — the most sizeable being a pile of creative writing submissions, only four of which included some sort of request for written feedback — and then I’ll only have calculations and stuff left to do.

One lesson I’ve learned is that, no matter how much disorganized students beg you, it’s better not to adjust the due date for their final essay/project/whatever to the end of exam week.

This is not just because one only has a week after the end of the exam period during which to grade, calculate, and submit grades into the system — it’s also because of the fact that too many students will simply procrastinate till the last minute anyway. If you let them procrastinate until the end of exam week, fewer students will manage to complete the project, and of those who do, a surprising amount will be of lower quality than it otherwise might have been. Which is not to say the essays are all horrible: I’ve genuinely enjoyed some, but I could see the strain of last-minute-itis clearly in many, combined with post-exam-zombie-itis.

But I also have at least four, and possibly five, students who failed to submit a final essay. After a semester of showing up to class — some of them participating quite well, I should add — I was baffled to hear that they’d decided not to submit any kind of final essay at all. (Scratch that: one student was going to fail anyway, and probably realized it. The other three, though, could easily have passed the class or even done well, but opted not to submit a final essay. Ah well… I told them about two months before the due date to get to work researching their next essay; I can only assume that they didn’t.)

That said, it seems to me wiser to have a hard-and-fast deadline for the final research project, at least a week, maybe ten days or even two weeks, before the final exam week begins. I get the feeling the earlier the deadline (within reason) the better the work I’ll be receiving.

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