Update on Mr Text Messaging: he did come to meet with me about rewriting his paper. Yet he spent most of the time trying to impress me by reciting the names of some of the other profs he'd had (all men) and saying that "I think I've been pretty well educated." OK, but you still wrote a C- paper. "Well, I just have such an archaic writing style." And how do you think that will serve you? He did eventually admit that he hadn't spent much time on the paper, and that he couldn't find a thesis sentence in it either. As he was walking out the door he was quoting one of my colleagues who'd apparently said some maxim to him about writing style that this guy took as a compliment, when it really wasn't. I'd sort of suspected earlier this term that this student has some issues with having a female professor, and now it's become much clearer. Invoking the authority of my colleagues isn't going to make me back down, dude. Get a grip.
And at the complete other end of the spectrum, one of those golden moments that make it all worthwhile. A shy young man who'd also gotten a C on his paper came to see me last week about it -- obviously nervous about talking to me one on one, but I felt that by encouraging him to explain his thoughts about the text I'd made a better connection with him. He's never spoken in class. Yesterday, he did! and the passage he brought forward started off a great discussion thread. It's really wonderful when you can help a student feel empowered to participate in the conversation -- especially when it's a class with a number of strong students who talk a lot. Each time someone new joins in, you can see the other quiet students taking notice. A kind of ripple effect.
Like most English departments, I'd say our major enrolls more women than men -- but I don't know any exact figures. In one of my classes this term, I have one-third men, which is a higher ratio than I often do (although that also has to do with some of the courses I teach). I've written before about how I think my presence in the classroom is significant for many of my women students. It's harder for me to theorize /understand what I represent for the male students, since I don't usually have so many of them. Sort of an ongoing project in this particular class. Thinking about these two examples -- I think my teaching persona & pedagogy must be a novel experience for both of these men. (Does it clarify anything to point out that Mr Text Messaging is a large white guy, and Mr Shy Speaker is Hispanic?) More on this anon.