Tuesday, December 18, 2007

P.S. I'm Failing You

I'm not sure why students back instructors into the attendance corner. Why can't they just come to class like normal people. This semester I had a student who I gave more than enough chances to remain in the class. Even after I let her back into the class after five absences she missed again. Even after she signed a contract stating that she wouldn't miss any more class she did, and lied about having a doctor's note (a note that I never saw). With the realization that I had to fail this student I felt bad, but what else could I do?

Friday, November 30, 2007

My Favorite Papers

There is a student that for her synthesis paper wrote about how oxytoxin affects the fetus' brain during delivery. I think this topic is very interesting because it's explaining something to me that I didn't know anything about. Another paper from the synthesis batch is one about how video game violence affects adolescent children and their ability to control aggression in school. With this paper I was more interested in seeing what studies were out there explaining how continual video game interaction affects children socially. The student writing this paper plays video games on a regular basis, and agrees that this is a problem.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Surprise in the Not-Revise

As others who were expressing their concern about students not revising, I too, have the same issue. Its very depressing to get final drafts back after I've thoroughly commented on them to see nothing has changed. I take a lot of joy in showing my students line edits (for clarity), in hopes that they will understand how important it is to make your sentence structures coherent and readable. Countless, times I've reminded them to read their work aloud because it's the easiest way to check for mistakes. Even when I asked about their revsion techniques, most of them explained that they make changes on the computer than prints out a copy and reads it. I really have difficulty in believing this to be true because there are so many obvious mistakes. I use this phrase a lot in my end comments, "I'm not sure you ..." When I say this, I'm trying to be as sincere as possible without letting my true feelings of "seriously, how could you turn this in?" come through in the comments I give. I believe I am a chronic reviser. Even on final drafts I still give feedback and line edits because I think maybe they will look back at my suggestions and learn something. As it is, the extra work I've given myself has seemed to be futile because we've just completed the third paper and still getting papers with very obvious mechanical and grammatical mistakes.

Woe is me, the grader. Sad face.

Friday, November 2, 2007

What Mrs. Lorenz Said To Me

I know we're suppose to reflect back to a time in college, but I honestlly cannot remember any positive or negative experience. So, I'll talk about something that happened to me in high school as a junior. I'm not sure why I immediately thought of this experience when Anne said "a bad classroom experience." Okay, it was eight years ago and I was a junior in high school, double-honors English. I had this teacher Mrs. Lorenz who was a very sarcastic, but funny lady. She had some personal problems that I knew about like her baby dying from crib death, which ended her marriage, the custody battle for her kids, and the growing tumor in her abodomen that she refused to get removed (I think she was afraid). So when she would have these random mood shifts, and be very bitchy I would like it slide and say, "Hey, this lady has some serious issues." This all changed one day I came into the class and told her about my recent submission to a playwriting contest, and she blantly told me "What for you're not going to win?" I was completely taken aback. I don't think I could close my mouth yet alone respond. I hadn't had any bad experiences with Mrs. Lorenz so I didn't know what to do. Should I talk to my advisor or division teacher? One thing I can say is that it really pissed me off because she wasn't being her sarcastic-joking self, she was dead-serious. It made me feel like rubbing in her face the fact that I won second place, and two hundred dollars, but I didn't.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thoughts on the Re-structuring of class.

I feel very strongly about wanting to incorporate the personal narrative into my section for next semester. To give students the opportunity to reflect on something in their lives (or about someone), will more than likely make the transition from high school to college writing a bit easier.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard something in a group teachers' meeting about one of the reasons students aren't as eager to participate in class that I thought was very interesting. One of the gentlemen in the group pointed out the benefit of beginning the semester with peer interviews as a way of getting the students comfortable with one another. With this exercise students will be more forthcoming in class discussions, and on assignment introductions days.

This idea of beginning the semester with this sort of personal look into the students' lives seems to be very interesting. As an undergraduate, I participated in numerous of group projects. One of the reasons these assignments worked is because I knew the people in my group, and trusted them. So as for next semester, I want to begin with the personal narrative as a way of easing the students into this new experience.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

When I Say "Synthesis" All They Hear Is "Blah, Blah, Blah"

Yesterday, I introduced the Explanatory Synthesis, and a left class feeling as if it could have went better. On last Friday, I told the students to pick one of the three candy bars we decided we would use, and eat them for homework and jot down some initial impressions. When I gave them this assignment, all seemed very enthusiastic, but of course on yesterday nobody wanted to talk. After some teeth-pulling, I got them to start telling me things to jot down on the board, but then everyone kept giving the same information about how the candy was chocolatety, or just plain good.

So, I abandoned this topic and switched to some discussion on cafeteria food.

This topic produced a few more sparks than the candy bar one. Even though I was able to get a fair amount of input, it seemed as though I was losing them when we started to combine the sources. At first, I simply thought I had failed in the delivery of the exercise, but after talking to a somewhat veteran of comp 101, I learned that when you say the word "synthesis" to the students all they hear is "Blah, Blah, Blah," like what the children heard when the adults would talk on that Charlie Brown Show.

With that, I've decided to take a slower approach to this assignment and ease the students in.

Below is an e-mail I sent out today with some general reactions about yesterday's class, and some examples of topics.


Tomorrow I will hand out the assignment sheet for the junk draft. I've decided to wait and give you the official assignment sheet for the Explanatory Synthesis until the week before the rough draft is due.

My thinking behind this decision—I don’t want you all to feel overwhelmed by this assignment. With that said, we are going to take a more process approach toward this paper to make the transition from just simply writing a summary, knowing how to paraphrase, and incorporate some quotes to actually: narrowing down a topic, researching, and finding ways to combine your sources into a cohesive whole that will explain your topic.

It is important for you all to let me know when things are not working. If telepathic abilities were apart of my genetic makeup I would be a very happy person, but they are not. A large part of what you all will get out of this class is what you put into it. So if at any time, the introductory exercises we do in class are confusing or just not helpful don’t hesitate to let me know.

Below are some working topics. Don’t feel obligated to any of them if you don’t want to. The purpose here is just to exhibit the possibilities you have with this assignment. With any topic you choose, it’s beneficial to perform a Google search or topic search at http://www.dmoz.org/.

How color determines mood in Tim Burton’s films
How the song “Fight the Power” is a motif in Spike Lee’s film Do The Right Thing

How Bob Marley’s music can be considered “Rebel” music
How sound effects the ways humans’ process information OR How classical music effects the developmental growth in infants

Explain how Salvador Dali’s art is considered surrealism
Explain how Romare Bearden’s art of collage imitates everyday life
Explain how Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” can be categorized to be Black Classicism

How the brain processes elements of sound or smell, and allows humans the ability to connect that to memory
Explain the phenomena surrounding Stone Babies

The Long and Winding Road

That leads back to a class session of deep-review. Last Thursday, I read through the summary rough drafts for class, and to my surprise a fair amount of students were just not getting the process of reading their articles and extracting the author's main points. So instead of introducing the Explanatory Synthesis assignment, as I had planned, Friday we all drowned-deep in heavy review of how to read and identify the main and sub points, and how to paraphrase without plagiarizing...

Last Thursday afternoon, I had sent out a very long and detailed message about my reactions to their rough drafts and a way we were going to work through the process of how to improve their drafts.

It was very cute on Friday morning how one of the students looked at me and said, "Were our papers that bad." In which I replied, "No, it wasn't that they were that bad, I just think some of you blew-off this assignment and didn't give it as much time as it needed." So with that, I broke the first and second plagiarizing paragraphs (on pg. 50 in the book), on the board and had students go up and paraphrase them. After the first student volunteered and wrote her paraphrase, I showed another way to paraphrase the same sentence and abandon the original language all together. It was like 18 to 23 little light bulbs had been flicked on as I explained my example of the same paraphrase. My initial thought of the plagiarism I saw in the rough drafts being unintentional was affirmed. For some reason, the students thought paraphrasing just meant switching the original source words around to make the sentence appear different.

I realized that allowing the students to look at my comments and ask me questions about them proved to be beneficial.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Topics I Can Stand Reading Explanatory Synthesis Papers About

Friday, Sept. 14th - This is my list

  • Explain how Romare Bearden used his art of collage to imitate everyday life.

  • Explain how Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man, can be categorized as Black classicism.

  • Explain the research surrounding the study of Stone Babies.

  • Anything that explains how sonic qualities effect the way individuals process information.

  • Music

  • Film

  • Black Literati
  • Anything on how the brain works

Friday, September 7, 2007

My Expectations for Essay 1

I would like the students to show that they fully understand how (and when) to summarize, paraphrase, and quote in their essays. I expect the drafts I will receive on Wednesday, Sept. 12th will be better than the average rough draft because today we work shopped their junk/discovery drafts. This exercise actually proved beneficial to the students because it allowed them to discuss writing with one another in a relaxed environment. They also shared with me how much they enjoyed being able to have the junk/discovery drafts first.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Learning Pains

Yesterday, I planned for the class to distribute their junk/discovery drafts for workshop on Friday. (Sidebar, up to this point I have been pretty organized w/this class, which is a blessing for me because I, sometimes, live for chaos and havoc). So about an hour into class, I asked the students if they wanted to assemble their own groups, which I thought would be a piece of pie because most of them seemed to know one another. WRONG, big time. They all looked up at me when I said, "Hey, I was wondering if you all wanted to form your own groups for workshop," and said "No, we think you should do it." At that moment, I wished for a sheet of paper with their names divided into groups, but I didn't have that paper because I didn't follow my first-mind the night before and create the groups.

So okay, I had to create the groups. While I was doing that I told the students to start printing their papers. Of course, there had to have been someone who couldn't print, didn't have their draft saved (even though I sent around like thirteen e-mails saying, "Make sure you have your papers saved on yr MavDisk or some portable storage device for Wednesday's class), or needed more staples for the stapler.

Very quickly I formed three of the five groups, before running down to the English office to inquire about the printer (mysteriously) not printing anymore, and to grab more staples. While downstairs, I made more copies for one student who didn't have her draft saved, out of my own dinero, which I will never do again. When I got back upstairs I was so hot. About fifteen minutes before class was over I started announcing groups for the paper exchange. I'm not sure why I just didn't make all the groups even, but I didn't and somehow we had a slight problem with the last two groups. After numerous of e-mails, uploads to D2L, more e-mails of papers to respective groups I think everything is under control.

This will be one of my learning pains about teaching, "Never assume anything because it makes an ass out of me, out of me."

Friday, August 31, 2007

My First Day

On Wednesday, August 29th was the first day of class. I arrived about twenty minutes early to write an outline of the class session on the board. When the students started to arrive, I tried to make myself look busy by reviewing something in my journal. All the while, I was saying internally, "When should I say something--when do I break the ice and speak." My memory fails me now as to what I actually said to get the class going, (it probably was something like "So, who likes 8 o'clock classes). Come to think of it that's what I said, "So, who likes 8 o'clock classes" and some students begin to smile.

The night before I struggled with the idea of what to do for an introduction activity. Finally, I decided to read the class a piece of flash fiction by author Sandra Cisneros, from her collection "The House on Mango Street." The idea behind the activity was solid, I would read the story and explain the changes the main character Esperanza encountered as she both hated and loved the house she spent most of her childhood. This would lead into the introductions of the class, we would each state one thing we loved and hated about where we came from being with me. The purpose of this was to get to know the students and for them to get to kow each other. One problem that I encountered was as the students were talking I was too busy writing down their names, and really didn't get to learn their names.

Monday, August 6, 2007

First Day of Blogging N'Stuff

This is my blog. This is me. Goodbye :)
This is going to be so much fun--can't you feel it? I can.
Ok, let's go.

Something about the reading ...

In the Teacher's Assistant Handbook, I found the discussion on the conflicting roles TAs generally face very interesting, because as a first-year teaching assistant separating the two can be challenging. It's also encouraging to know that there is literature out there about this concern most newbies fixate on, so the feeling of "going at it alone" transforms into "going at it together" with the help of mentors and other departmental staff.