“Don’t be stupid.”

“That’s such a good rule!” She might be the only one of my students who thinks so (?) but she did say it out loud after I passed out the daily lesson plan in yesterday’s class (having just discussed the grading policies). ­čÖé We had several different activities as I try to move us on several elements simultaneously. The first was a debriefing of the process of generating two-to-three pages based on their viewing of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
I don’t know if they were so open and comprehensive with their comments because they read the essays critiquing writing on the Junior Writing Class wiki or if all of this would have come out anyway, but I could barely keep up with the first outburst:

It was painful.
Hard to figure out what to write about.
Hard to figure out a structure.
Hard to make connections.

Several students spoke of the challenge of staying focused. For instance, they wanted to add other things, found themselves getting sidetracked, and had to limit themselves &emdash; not just rant about what was in their heads, all those random ideas.
It was hard to make the paper flow. Someone said their paper was written in the style of Jack Kerouac (“no outline”), and others agreed it was difficult to make transitions and also to make connections between the movie and their own lives. One student (mirroring the exact problem my pal Just-In-Time foresaw by appearing to limit the analysis to college) said, “The first few days of my life here at UMass haven’t been so bad.” This foreshadowed some insightful comments later about the differences between the generations (or audiences?) being so extreme that there is really no basis for comparison. Additionally, some students found it hard to find their own meaning in The Wall.
The movie itself “is hard to understand,” announced one student to much agreement. Someone doubted their own analysis and referred to wikipedia for confirmation that what they wrote matched what others said is “supposed to be” the plot. A few were not sure how I wanted them to write the paper. Others said they had to think in a different way than usual, about a different subject than they usually consider.
The assignment made one student nervous because she had so many ideas and had to make a selection, she had to actually pick which idea to use since she had only a short space in which to write. A different student provided the example of writing about one idea and “beating it to death.” Someone else said she lost momentum from having so many ideas and then becoming tired.
The whole list was then succinctly summarized (which I recognized as a natural stopping point):
”It was just hard to sit and write.”

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