Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Finish Line

The finish line is in sight. I am almost done with the spring semester, and look forward to a long summer break. But before I cross the finish line, I will be doing a lot of grading.

This weekend I have been doing nothing but grading, mostly research papers for my two courses, but also some senior theses that I am either supervising or part of the faculty committee on that topic. Although many of the papers have been disappointing, especially when I pleaded with those enrolled in my classes on many occasions not to string together secondary-source quotations, to avoid switching tenses, and to be sure to include plenty of evidence in the form of primary-source quotations and specific details and examples, I have been pleasantly surprised that some of the students wrote some excellent essays.

One student wrote a dynamite comparison paper of Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams. This person managed to construct a very interesting and insightful thesis, particularly related to Franklin's form of religion, in which he suggested that Franklin's faith changed over time from deism into something similar to modern Protestant liberalism. Another student, under my supervision, wrote an incredible senior thesis on Mary Daly's contribution to feminism.

As I glanced up from grading occasionally to watch some of the Masters tournament, I was reminded of how golf is like teaching. You may hit several bad shots (at least I do when I play golf), but it only takes one good stroke to keep you playing the game. In the same way, while bad papers can be discouraging to read, especially when you spend a lot of time talking about how to write essays, it only takes one good paper by a student to encourage you as a teacher.

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