November 13, 2010

Students, Play the Game. Follow the Rules. Please.

I hesitate to ramble about the “kids these days.” I find some people doing that, in reference to their classes, and I just find that kind of… wrong. I dunno, I was a Freshman. I did stupid-ass shit like this when I was in school. That’s why it took so long for me to graduate. I get it. It’s no less annoying to see happen, but I get it. My students are adults, and they can make their own decisions.

That said, seriously, kids these days.

The current assignment we’ve been doing all week involves two things, giving an in-class presentation of 5 to 7 minutes and turning in an MLA works cited list. I’m not grading this hard. If your presentation is long enough, you’re probably pretty good on the content. That’s half the grade. The other half is having the works cited in proper MLA format, since that’s what we were studying. Simply follow the MLA guidelines, and you’re golden.

My students aren’t doing either.

I’ve had presentations that were a minute or less. I’ve gotten tons of Works Cited lists that are wrong even at a glance, much less when I zoom in to the specifics when I actually grade them. It’s ridiculous. There are going to be so many shitty grades on this, and they’re going to be upset about it.
The worst part is that I warned them. I begged them in class, please take this seriously. The assignment was designed to be easy points to make up for harder essays. It’s supposed to be a help. But every time I assign it, I get this sort of stuff. It becomes a lesson about following the rules, which is useful, I suppose, but not my intention. I don’t want to have to give tough love in the classroom, but I guess that’s how it is.

So much of school is simple. You follow guidelines, you get a decent grade. Maybe not a great grade, without knowledge of what’s going on, but a good grade, at the very least. You just follow the rules. Students, please follow the rules. Then you’ll get a good grade. Please follow the rules.

October 9, 2010

Mine is Blue, By The Way.

My class this semester won’t talk to me.

I try, I really do, but they just won’t talk to me. Usually there’s always at least one or two people in a class like this that will bail a teacher out and respond, even when nobody wants to. I don’t have any of those students in this class. It’s a complete failure in that regard. It got so bad that I had to give a listening comprehension quiz the other day because they simply would not have any discussion about an essay in question.

I’ve had to break them up into groups with specific questions to answer in order to get them to talk. I really would prefer not to do this. I feel like they’re going to get more out of an experience which is less guided, where they are free to come to their own conclusions about the text, and then get feedback from me about how they did. It’s there they can learn that they can disagree, they can take other angles of attack, and they can pick what they feel is important. These are all lessons I wish I had figured out earlier in my college career, and I want to give that to them early. They just won’t do it, though! It’s frustrating.

Still, on Friday, I really got them to talk, due to something really stupid.

I put a list of discussion questions on the board, as I’ve been doing. Then, simply because I do things just to entertain me, I added an additional question. “What is the best artificial flavor?”

Debate ensued.
Every group had a different favorite. Cherry. Strawberry-Kiwi. Orange “drank.” Blue Raspberry. Every time a group voiced a favorite, everyone wanted to talk about it. It was amazing! The class could actually discuss things!
Of course, it then became really hard to get them back on the topic of essays. But, well, at least it’s something. Small victories.

I’ll probably attempt to refer back to this discussion when we talk about the Evaluating essay, as this is exactly the sort of topic they can write about then. That’s really one of the things I’ve found you have to do to be effective as a teacher: you have to be willing to let the random stuff work in and entwine with what you’re teaching. You have to make what people already care about relevant to what you’re doing, and not in a way that feels fake. I can do that with this. That’s good.

Still, I’d rather they have just discussed to begin with. I was spoiled last semester with a class of people who were really passionate about writing, even if they never turned anything in. Oh well.

October 3, 2010

He was saying “Vivid.” That one took me awhile to get.

I talked to one of my international students for at least an hour and a half on Friday during our ten minute conference.

It was a totally weird situation. He really wanted to talk, and we discussed all sorts of things, both about the essay in question and American education in general. It was… interesting, but surprising. Also a bit tiring. I mean, I was paying the best attention I could, but I couldn’t always understand him, and I was doing my best to respond in ways that could be easily parsed, but I’m not all that good at that, either. We kept going in circles, a bit, as he went back to things he was concerned about but maybe didn’t completely understand the first time. It was… well, as I said, interesting. Language barriers are unfortunate.

I don’t really know what his goals were. He was very worried about his grades. Was he trying to create sympathy so I’ll grade him easier? (Not going to happen.) Was he just wanting advice so he can do it the right way and write the “fantastic” essays he was talking about? We he just wanting someone to talk to about the decisions he’s making for his career? (I’m not really a good person for that, but, you know.) I’m really unsure. Looking back on it, even a day later, I honestly can’t believe we talked that long. It seems kind of… unreal.

Still, I suppose it’s good he’s taking an interest in doing well in the subject, unlike a lot of people in my class this semester. It’s completely an experience, most definitely. All part of that “teaching” thing I do, I suppose.

August 27, 2010

Return of the Attack of the Morning Person

You know what sucks?

Getting up early sucks.

It really does! Getting up at 6:15 this week to get to school, after my whole summer, has been a huge, huge pain. Really, really frustrating. Especially on top of everything else depressing that’s going on.

But you know what? I get up so early because it helps me get things done, and I have gotten shit done. Lesson plans, grading, homework, shit gets done when I get my ass out of bed. I keep it up because of that, doing it again and again. It was really hard to get out of bed this morning, but in this time I’ve filled out paperwork, answered e-mail questions from my students, took an online quiz, and wrote this blog. It’s still two hours before I really have to be up to do anything, and I have plenty more I’m going to get done in that time.

I don’t know why mornings work so well for me, but they do. They feel like time I wouldn’t have otherwise, so it doesn’t feel like I’m burning any free time. It’s partially that, and partially the fact that, since I did this to myself, I might as well get some reward from it. I’m already out of bed. I might as well do something.

But yeah, mornings. Hi. Been awhile. Let’s work together this semester, shall we?

February 5, 2010

The heavens opened up, and there was discussion.

My class this semester talks to me.

This, honestly, really caught me off-guard. Last semester, it required some teeth-pulling to get my students to actually discuss anything I put before them, and as such I had planned around the fact that I would have to pre-prepare them with things to say in order to get them to talk. There would always be group work and pre-discussion before discussion.

This semester is different. I have a much, much larger group of people who offer up thoughts and comments without hesitation. I’ve ran out of time twice already because I didn’t want to stop the awesome talking that was going on in class. It’s so awesome.

There are plenty of theories I could throw out as to why this is happening. For one, it’s the second semester, so maybe these students have broken out of the “high school” mode a lot of them were in their first semester. Also, my class is an hour later, which probably is helping my students to be much more awake when they come into class. Or maybe it’s just a much better group of people, I don’t know.

All I know is I feel like I am accomplishing a lot more already, and I feel like, for the most part, they’re getting it. I’m unsure what this means for my students. Hopefully they’re getting more out of it too. But for me, as teacher, this is the very best thing.
We are going to have so many discussions. Yes we are.

December 17, 2009

And in the end…

Hey, my first semester of teaching is over as of 2 PM today.

Yay for me?

Seriously, though, I think this semester went almost shockingly well. My class did not necessarily do great. I gave out, what, at least five F’s? But those were mostly to people who decided it was not in their best interest to show up and turn in papers, so I have little remorse for them. I managed to avoid completely falling apart or getting behind. I even forced myself to become a morning person, and worked every morning on all my shit.

What’s better, my final was pretty good for my ego. I swear it wasn’t actually my intent when I assigned it. I had to give some sort of final, and it just seemed easiest to assign a little no-stress essay. “How have I changed as a writer this semester?” was the topic. And yet, a vast majority of the essays ended up being about what the class did well and what it did badly. I had a few people who were kind of down on it. One in particular said the whole class was confusing and that they’re just going to go back to “writing like they did in high school.” But the vast majority cited various activities that I thought had fallen completely and utterly flat as being extremely useful. Apparently my whole class is just too shy to talk in class, but at least they’re getting a little out of it. Or at least they know how to flatter me really well, not that it affected their grades any.

Anyway, yeah, I am just really happy with how the semester went. Happy with all this teaching stuff. I feel legit and important, and I feel like I have my life together. Well, sort of, anyway. That’s a good feeling. Possibly even worth all the running myself ragged I was doing, hm?

Let me tell you, though, I am very much looking forward to the ability to sleep in and not have to do any of that stuff for awhile. I’m sure Christmas break won’t feel like near enough. I’ll try though, dammit. I’ll try.

November 13, 2009


By the time you read this (Well, okay, as long as you’re reading this after, say, 11 AM) I will be on my way to beautiful (I assume) Arkadelphia, Arkansas to present my silly paper at the 2009 Arkansas Conference on Literature, Rhetoric, and Composition. This is like… a professional event and shit. It is the exciting times.

Honestly, I’m kind of excited about it. Mostly because I haven’t like… taken a trip in forever in general. Granted, I’m not going to the most amazing place, but it already feels like a breath of fresh air when I’m writing this and I haven’t even left yet. It is all kind of silly, though, as it might even border on boring. I’m going to be sitting about listening to people read papers! Maybe they’ll be interesting. I hope so. But it’s mostly going to be a few nights by myself having nothing to do and days listening to papers. I’ll have to find things to do! I already plan on seeing Fantastic Mr. Fox while I’m down there, (and I would expect me to write a review of it on here while I’m bored) but otherwise, I dunno. Are there interesting things to do around Little Rock? I’ve no idea.

But yeah, that’s what I’m doing this weekend! Woo! Expect updates about it! Or maybe I’ll be having such an INTENSE time I won’t write anything about it until afterwards! YOU NEVER KNOW!

Yeah, I probably will write about it, though. You know. Probably.

October 20, 2009

The Emo Dilemma

So, I have this kid in my class. He is like… the sort of person you would put next to the term “Emo kid” in the dictionary in look. Wears all the clothes, has bangs that cover his eyes, stays in the corner, never says anything, you know. Stereotype, through and through.At the same time, he’s a nice kid. Turns things in on time. Never an issue. It’s not like I hate him. It’s not like I have anything against him wanting to play that emo role, either. If it makes him happy, more power to him. It’s fine with me.

At the same time, I do things like, say, play Forumwarz, which is awesome. But I play an Emo Kid, and so I’ve sort of gotten myself used to laughing my ass off at these ridiculous emo things. I mean, they are funny! That’s why I laugh. It’s motivated by some of the same reasons I would, say, laugh at more ridiculous aspects of the furry subculture, or the gamer subculture. Any group is likely to have aspects of it that are ridiculous, you know?

Still, I get his papers from class, and I read them, and I’m met with a problem. This is exactly the sort of text that is displayed in Forumwarz when I make an emo attack. Exactly. Like, I could cut and paste parts of it and put it into the game, and nobody would know it wasn’t parody.

This puts me in a spot. I just don’t know how to react to this genuine, heartfelt text that is, at the same time, hilariously an emo stereotype. I know this guy takes his writing seriously, and is wanting to write something good. Though his style is so painfully, painfully emo, he is trying to cultivate a style, and I should encourage that. It feels very wrong to laugh at him. I don’t want to do that, just like I don’t want people to laugh at me for my oddities, or at the very least laugh with me, you know? But damn, separated from him, in my office, grading these papers, it is really hard to remember there’s a person behind it that I shouldn’t make fun of. Incredibly hard.
So I almost always have to take these long breaks before I write comments on his paper so I don’t write anything weird. But it’s hard.

It just goes to show you how dangerous stereotypes can be, I guess. I mean, I feel like I’m pretty good about such things? But then here’s this clear situation where I’m fighting with it? I don’t know. I guess it’s, to some extent, inescapable.

October 15, 2009

The Breaking Times.

It’s fall break!

Sort of!

Last week was so shitty, oh yes it was. I was so busy. I was so looking forward to this break. I’d get to sit back, relax, and play Brutal Legend. What more could you ask for? I even started it off on a good foot this past day, with a monster Beatles: Rock Band session where we actually took time out for Vocal practice to hit the harmonies. It was so sweet and so fun.

Now, I’m thinking about what I have to do this weekend, and I pretty well have work to do every day. I have a midterm I have to take, papers to grade, a teaching journal I should probably catch up on… suddenly, my break has disappeared.

Man, is this what it’s like to grow up? Fuck that shit. I dunno. Bleh blarg.

I mean, it’s not really as bad as it looks. The vague plan is to finish it all today, but I kind of doubt that will happen? So probably the midterm today and the grading Friday or something. It really won’t be that bad, and I’ll have plenty of time to take ample breaks. I just…
Man, I’ve really got myself into a fuck-ton of work, you know? I really have.
I’m making it. I’m surviving. But I really have.

October 9, 2009

It’s like 5 hours away or something? I have to rent a car.

Remember that paper I submitted?

Well, uh, it got accepted.

So now I’m going to be going to beautiful Arkadelphia, Arkansas in November to read this paper, which doesn’t QUITE exist yet but I’m working on it, in front of other people who are doing the same thing and who may or may not be more qualified than I am.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled. Thrilled-ish.

Granted, I still have a ton of paperwork to fill out. Paperwork is fun! But that should, you know, pay for the whole thing, which will be cool.
I’ve never been in an hotel room by myself, though. That’ll certainly be an interesting experience. But I made sure my room had Internet and I’ll bring the lappy, so I will be entertained! That, and I’ll have papers to grade. So, you know. Fun times.

I guess I’m kind of legit, huh?
Oh well.