When I taught composition, all instructors were required to have one-on-one conferences with each student at least once a semester. We dreaded conferences because the process took so much time. One semester I had 90 students. At 15 minutes with each one, it took 22.5 hours to see them all.
The other problem was that conversations with that many college freshmen causes mush-brain. Every instructor had coping mechanisms to stave off the effects of mush-brain. For instance, I got really good at reading their hand-writing upside down, as I read the oddities in their essays aloud, “This sentence,” I would say pointing to the sentence, ” ‘My mother’s cooking supports many aspects,’ is not exactly what you mean.”
An office mate had an even better method. He used a typewriter to fill a sheet of paper with punctuation marks, one of commas, one of semi-colons, etc. Then he cut them into confetti, and put the little bits of paper into jars on his desk. During conferences he would say things like, “Your essays have too many run-on sentences. You need help with periods,” and then he would sprinkle them with periods. The student would sit there, with little bits of paper in his hair, and stuck to his sweatshirt, just staring at him. He stared back. Eventually, the student would leave.
I went to the Sock Yarn Tasting at Hill Country Weavers a couple of weeks ago. I got to pet a lot of sock yarn. I learned about their fibers, twist, and color. I ate sandwiches that looked like feet! But best of all, I came home with samples (tastes) of about eleven different sock yarns, each one tagged with the yarn’s name and characteristics.
I felt like my colleague’s student, just sitting there, absorbing sock yarn.