Conferences & Presentations

I have a week of student conferences coming up. This is the part of the semester I really like, when we're working on the last paper of the semester--the document study--my student's come in for one-on-one conferences, and they give their presentations, which start next week. Since we only have three and a half weeks until the final, everything's really coming down to the wire, tensions are running high, everyone's mentally exhausted, but it's also almost over and they can see the blessed light at the end of the tunnel.

Conferences are usually a pretty informal and easy going. Students come in, we talk about their progress, their attendance, their current paper, and I answer any questions they may have at this point. I'll also give them the grading rubric for the presentations, something I've not used before, but that I think might help to facilitate the whole presentation process, which students don't much seem to enjoy. Heck, when I was an undergraduate I didn't enjoy it either, but in the intervening years and through my experiences in grad school and teaching, I've begun to see that it's a significant way for students to engage in process of sharing scholarship that's so much a part of the academic experience.

What I really like most about conferences and presentations, though, is that I get to learn more about my students. In previous semesters, I've allowed my students to chose any topic for which they could formulate a viable research question. All the had to do was narrow their subject down to a sufficiently workable topic and show me how their chosen topic was research-worthy. However, I've learned through that experience that freshman comp students have trouble pulling a research-worthy topic from the immense aether. So with that in mind, I approached the research paper this semester in such a way that students had a built-in framework for topic selection: their majors. Their papers had to pertain to their majors, or to college life if they were undecided. So I'm looking particularly forward to the conferences and presentations this semester because I really will get to learn about something that interests my students.

I really expect that the next few weeks will be great, particularly with my grading all (or almost) caught up. I just get to visit with students and be a spectator as they present. It's doubly fantastic because, in addition to being caught up on my grading, I'm all caught up on my own homework. It really is the calm before the storm since I'll have research papers and finals to grade while trying to navigate my own finals. So yeah, it should be a nice few weeks before the mayhem strikes. :)

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