My Chaucer classes seem to expect the worst. I assigned each of them a pilgrim, in the General Prologue, to read particularly carefully, get to know, report on, write a paper about, what-have-you. This is, I believe, a not-uncommon approach to teaching the Canterbury Tales.

Both sections (even though after the first I re-organized the way I presented the assignment to try to avoid this), both sections I say, seemed to believe I was assigning them to go off and read the pilgrim’s tale. On their own. In Middle English. By next week.

Here I’ve been bending over backwards to introduce Middle English slowly, gradually, with lots of help and scaffolding, with little bites of text carefully analyzed to show them how it works. Why, why would I suddenly throw them into . . . not just the deep end, but the cold salt storm-whipped sea?

I doubt it’s that they feel ready for scuba diving. They were worried about the quiz they had just taken. The quiz that was entirely based on the practice quizzes from class, which were posted to Blackboard, and which I had suggested they might want to review before the real quiz. I guess anxiety feeds on itself.

But should I keep trying to reassure them, or should I just revel in this apparent carte blanche to be the Mean Prof?

3 thoughts on “How mean am I?

  1. I don't know, but I am relieved to see that I'm not the only one whose students totally screw up the directions for this particular assignment. I wonder what it is about those pilgrims that makes them so confusing?

  2. Interesting. This relieves my feelings, as well. So it's not just that we don't explain it well, or so I hope, but that there may be something else going on. Maybe at some point I'll get some insight into what that might be.

  3. And IN SPITE of my big song and dance and careful explanation, someone came to class yesterday having read the prologue to his character's tale, not the description in the GP. A friend of his was busy assuring him that that was not what was required, at least, so I got through to some. But srsly, WTF?

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