The impulses of inactivity and activity are curiously similar, at least in my case. Both are compelling and easy to ignore, depending on my mood. Right now, the inactive impulse is the one I’m most interested in entertaining. I don’t know if it’s because I received a 12 out of 15 on a paper and was told not to worry about the grade and not to make it into a percentage (80%) or if it’s because it’s Thursday and I’m just exhausted. Though the latter is most often the reason for my lethargy on Thursday evenings, I know a lot of it has to do with the former. And not because I can’t handle a non-A, but because he provided almost no concrete guidance for the paper. Instead, he enveloped it in obscurity and vagueness and abstraction and even told us he expected none of us to get it right. If that’s the expectation, then perhaps there is a problem with the explanation of the assignment, unless it was intended to make us fail to understand it. That kind of teaching to me isn’t the kind that stretches students but rather alienates them through frustration and confusion. And when you ask a question and receive a completely unrelated answer time and time again, it’s hard to be oriented in the class.
But most curiously, up until today, I haven’t allowed this disparity between expectations and explanations to bother me because I realize that this will often happen in life. But it’s disheartening when you’ve gone above and beyond to try to produce a paper that at least thoroughly attempts to make sense of the complicated and unclear topic and still do worse than seems necessary, especially when the comments on the paper do not imply a 12 out of 15 grade. Perhaps he is simply trying to push me and the other graduate students and feels that if we all got A’s, we wouldn’t try harder for the longer essay which is to be an extension of the first. Either way, this course is about the pleasures in reading and for some time now, any pleasures have been obscured by the obscurity of the assignment instructions. And of course, I could never voice these concerns to the professor because I’m sure I would be told that I’m supposed to be thinking out of the box and that alternative ways of thinking are always difficult. But that’s not what’s happening. Expectations must be in line with a teacher’s preparation for such expectations to be met.