Dealing with Failure

0 5 128
I've just finished grading for my summer course (woo-hoo) but I find myself dealing with some emotional aftermath. The papers were fine but really just fine. I have to admit I felt a little disappointed--not in the students, but in me. I can't help but feel I failed them in some way. I don't think we talk a lot about the emotional dimensions of teaching but I am hoping I am not alone here. Still, I never just sit in an emotion; instead, I'm thinking about what happened and what I can do next time. For one thing, I think there are aspects of the course I need to change. After all, I kept seeing the same shortfalls in the papers, and that tells me there's something I thought they were getting which they just didn't. I'll take a different tack on teaching academic argument, I'll do more sample work of successful papers, and I'll make sure they submit statements of their argument to me for feedback. Next, I'm cutting myself some slack. It's important for me to remind myself that while they didn't nail X, Y, or Z they have A, B, and C so down pat that I didn't even think to pay attention to those issues. So, while I might feel like a failure I also have to acknowledge what was successful about the class. They had good, focused topics. They did good, solid research. They paid attention to issues of citation. These were, after all, some of the primary goals of the class. Finally, I am also keeping in mind that we just squeezed a 14 week class into 6 weeks. For that, I need to cut both me and my students some slack. In the end, the class was a success. But I am wondering if I am the only one who experiences a kind of emotional entanglement. If so, FAU does have a decent mental health benefit so maybe it's time to address this odd pedaogical codependence.
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.