Students

Saving the World: One Wasted Conversation at a Time

Currently, I’m sitting in the adjunct office trying to finish up comments on papers, grades, and mentally prepare for a day of presentations. The office is busier than usual because there is a potluck in the office. Generally, I think most of the adjuncts on this campus are pretty cool. I have no beef with any of the faculty; they have been nothing but nice to me. No complaints. Really.

I do, however, hate (okay–dislike) being around them. Most of them bitch about their students. Shamefully, I will admit I participate sometimes. Oftentimes, however, they have theoretical and sociological discussions about humanity, education, politics, religion, and God knows what else.

They sit in the office trying to solve the world’s problems.

God bless them for not having any effing papers to grade.

Witnessing this on occasion, once again, leads me to question my existence and purpose in this life; why am I teacher?  I too have very strong political views. In fact, just this morning my mother and I had an in-depth political chat discussing what the impact on the planet would be if the government does decide to release photos of Osama Bin Laden. We also discussed our surprise at how much information about the operation has been released to the general public. The thing is, I keep these thoughts to myself. The only time I share my political beliefs is in my writing (and generally it’s implied, not flat-out stated), when a little hammered on wine with my best friend who lives way too far away, and at Sunday dinners or family dinners because I live to see my father enraged and shocked. I love to see his face when I share my political or ideological beliefs. I’m sure he goes to sleep wondering how it is possible that I am made from 50% of his DNA.

Of course, teachers talking politics is nothing new. I think what bothers me is how freely they discuss their ideas. I don’t know if it’s my immigrant upbringing, or possibly the heavy influence World War II played on how my parents raised us, or if it is my having read 1984 entirely too many times, but discussing beliefs so openly makes me very uncomfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to discuss controversial issues. In fact, in all of writing classes I live to watch my students dook it out. As a teacher, however, I am forced to remain neutral. Maybe what scares me about the discussions I overhear my colleagues having is that they discuss their students and their political beliefs. They are clearly judging their students and what they believe. They are not being neutral in their classrooms. It also seems they are forgetting what it’s like to be a nineteen year old. Most teenagers (and young college students) often share the same (often Conservative) beliefs their parents spout off at the dinner table. It isn’t until these young adults realize their parents are not infallible, that they can finally determine and understand their own ideologies. So why are these teachers judging them?

Shouldn’t they be trying to open up their minds with questioning and information?

Also, don’t my colleagues have to get ready for the end of the semester? Do they not have papers to grade?

Advertisements

The Whites of Your Eyes

I’ve been trying really hard not vent about my students because I don’t want to let their idiocy get to me. However, I cannot contain these thoughts for much longer and so I present an open letter.

Dearest Students Who-sit-in-the-front-then-don’t-pay-attention-and/or-roll-their-eyes-while-I-give-instruction,

Oh what’s that, you didn’t think I noticed? I notice every movement. I notice how you don’t sit up straight or take notes, how you text during my instruction. I also notice when you roll your eyes when I speak.. That’s right, I can see the whites of your eyes. It is quite unbecoming.

I should mention your not paying attention and your constant questioning of my teaching methods is getting old. I understand that you’ve repeated this class and that your previous teacher taught this content differently, and according to you was much better than me. The thing is, I don’t care. You are in my class, and I’m asking for something different. By the way the withdrawal period hasn’t passed, you can still opt out. But if you decided to stick out with me, how about to avoid taking this class again you humor me? Higher education is simply lessons in jumping through hoops. Get over yourself.  Also, you’re in this class again for a reason.

Think about it.

Also, when you question what I’m looking for, or ignore me and then your writing does not contain it, how do you think you’re going to do in this class? Do you actually expect to pass? Suggesting and confronting me by telling me you write all the time, and are a “good” writer is not enough to get the grade. You actually have to be a good writer.

Just in case you weren’t sure, that’s what I effing teach!

So, as I grade your essay that is spiteful and terrible, frankly, I want you to think about the less that stellar grade you’ve earned.

Since you have one more paper to redeem yourself, how about you check you G-D attitude and ego out the door.

I’m teaching this class (partly because the department didn’t have any literature or creative writing sections to give me) because I have the specialization and nearly a decade of education.

Shut your freakin’ trap, open your ears, and for God’s sake stop rolling your eyes.

Thanks.

Sincerely,

One MEAN (and angry)  M.F.A.

Missing the Classroom

Today I have a job interview. Praise Jesus. I’m now registered to be a substitute teacher, but as my mother pointed out to me on the phone, “You’re a leader. You like to see results. You’re not the babysitting kind.” I of course took the praise and am glad I called  my mother. It’s always good to feel confident in an interview, especially when I’m sure I’m going to hear at least once, “You’re quite young.”

While I don’t mind substitute teaching, it is a paycheck afterall, that is all it is. I have never been good at jobs that just pay the bills. I was the WORST waitress ever. In the history of  waitresses. When I’m teaching, although it is hard work, I do love nearly every moment of it. I will admit when I taught high school I didn’t love all the in-service meetings, I didn’t love pushy students and parents, and I didn’t love turning in lesson plans once a week. I wasn’t a huge fan of grading papers, but there are worse things about teaching, to be frank.

Since I recently moved and am working on my thesis hours I’ve been job hunting like a maniac and you know what? I miss being in the classroom as both teacher and student. I miss not having a list of books to buy that I know I’ll get to discuss with my classmates. I miss my smart professors who find ways to shed light on concepts and themes so dark. But I also really miss being the teacher.

I was telling my boyfriend the other day how much I miss being in the classroom. I should mention this was during winter break, maybe a week and half after the semester ended. I’m an addict. I love my students, even the annoying ones. I don’t miss the annoying ones a lot, but usually they are the students that provide the best conversation starters.

The interview is to teach at a high school and last night I was prepping, by looking at some commonly asked interview questions; I noticed that one of the questions was about my teaching portfolio.

I freaked. Stephan Colbert was almost over, I was tired. I scrambled for another two hours getting together the documents that I now need to take to Staples to get put into a nice folder with tabs. While gathering these documents I thought it would be a nice touch to add some of the essays my high school students wrote my first year teaching. I asked them the question, “What will you miss most about this class?” And while there were a lot of answers that felt fake, I did make the assignment a completion grade, and told them that they could say they hated the class, didn’t learn anything, and thought I was a poo poo head, if of course they backed it up with evidence.

Some of them did say mean things, but it’s a free country and I was grateful they felt comfortable and confident enough to be honest.

A good portion of them wrote some of the most lovely things and I would like to share this one quote with you.

“I will miss the teacher and hearing her crazy jokes. I really never met a real geek until I got in this class. No offense but you was mean sometimes when we talked over you.”

How can you not love teaching when students say things like this?

I hope this afternoon I get the opportunity to get back in there with the kids. Lord knows I miss them and I haven’t even met them yet.

So you want to be a racist?

So, I was grading papers this evening, and for the first time in my teaching life I came across a paper that I’m going to label as “racist.” It is important to note that the students had to read an article suggesting that American colleges and universities have issues with diversity and community. The students were asked to propose a solution to this or prove that the author was incorrect and that there was no issue. Overall the papers were not that great, but when I came across the “racist” one I was forced to stop in my tracks.

First of all, the paper was not a good one. The quality of writing was not up to the level that I expect my students to write at. It was choppy and needed a lot of work with argument, thesis, and organization. That being said, the student then had a paragraph that had some pretty racist comments. The student was discussing segregation and how it wasn’t something society accepted, but it made sense for people to stick with their own kind. This was always qualified by the student suggesting that some groups made white people uncomfortable because of how they were different.  The student also wrote how people in one race only exposed to their own race would be uncomfortable around people different from them and would only communicate with their own race because of their comfort level. I’m paraphrasing of course but I think you get the picture. I would love to post the paragraph up here but I like my job, and would like to keep it.

I do not by any means want to make excuses for this student, but is it possible that maybe this student trying to say that people mingle with people they feel they already have a connection to, a similar background? Is it possible that the student is just using this paragraph as an example of that? 

To be honest, I don’t think the student realizes what they are doing. Or maybe I want to believe they don’t realize it. Think about it. This is this student’s first college English paper. If this student isn’t the great communicator, isn’t it possible that this is a mistake or should I say miscommunication, that happened late at night after trying to pump pages out?  

I’m trying to decide if I should use this paragraph as example when I’m teaching. I’m concerned, first and foremost, the student will be highly offended. I’m also worried that it will lead to a blowout in the classroom where students start spouting off and possibly over reacting.

Currently, I’m at quite a loss for words. Paper grading really takes it out of me.

You call this a Break? HA!

So the spring semester has come to its end and in a week summer classes will commence. In. One. Week.

I’m fine with having only seven days to rejuvenate and refresh, what I have a problem with is professors who assign readings before class has even started.

W.

T.

F.

All semester we have to read and write and do work. Can’t we have a week to not think and just be? I mean really. Isn’t it bad enough we don’t get a spring break because we’re catching up on the semesters work on top of having work assigned over spring break.

I’ve been teaching now for two years and when I started I was teaching high school. While spring break doesn’t carry the same weight with high school students as it does with college students, it still is a well deserved break. I will sadly admit I nearly gave into the temptation to assign a book to read, but I decided against it. It was their break, their time to refresh, hit restart. Assigning work would have just pushed them towards burning out. I also didn’t assign work to my college students during their spring break, since it felt like a cruel punishment.

Here’s the thing, I get it, it’s a summer class there are only 6 weeks to do 18 weeks of work, but it’s SUMMER. Come ON!  Students enrolled in summer classes have most likely gone through fall and spring classess as well. This is our week to recover. I don’t for see much recovery for myself. In the short time I have off these are the few assignments I must have done by next week. Part of this work load stems from my having to have complete draft of my thesis by December, but still.

1) Read about 80pgs for one class

2) Read another 30 something pages for another class

Let me stress reading 150 pages isn’t that big of a deal. I promise I’m not that much a lame ass complainer. What I have a problem with is:

3) Having to write about 60-80 pages of my novel for my thesis chair.

I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get number three done. I’m being a realist and have also decided that refreshing is more important than writing. I know I know, what kind of writer am I?

Oh let’s not forget number four.

4) Read Dante’s Inferno to help my little sister in high school with a ridiculous paper she has to write. Have I mentioned I’ve never read Dante before? Well I haven’t, this should be some great light reading to do while I’m on vacation…

I feel like a giant complainer, but you know what? It’s my blog and if I want to complain and be a baby I will be. Actually, after I wrote out what I needed to get to done I realized, it’s actually not that much. I’ve already finished the first 150 pgs of reading today. So, I’m doing pretty awesome. I don’t officially leave for vacation until Wednesday, I wonder if I could bang out twenty pages of writing by tomorrow night?

Your thoughts on assigning work during summer and spring break? I’d love to hear from the teachers and professors out there.

The Final Paper

My students have handed in their final paper for the semester yesterday and you know what? They stink.


It’s quite upsetting since they should be improving. What is even more upsetting is that they had TWO WEEKS to complete it. It’s no different of a paper assignment in comparison to the other writing they’ve done this semester.  It’s very clear that they don’t care. The mistakes they are making are errors I’ve been commenting on all semester. These papers aren’t proofread and not well thought out.


At first, I thought I would inflate the grades. Maybe it’s me? I thought. But NO! I’m not going to compromise on my standards when I’ve seen my students write well. While it will lower the average grades for the class, I don’t want my students to get away with writing trash and be rewarded for it.


The mistakes they are making on these final papers are errors in formatting, lack of thesis, and organization, as well as an obvious neglect in proofreading. I’m sorry, but I’m frustrated.


While I still love teaching. I am convinced I have chromosome or something that makes me a teacher. I’m just wired that way. It’s just seeing college level students not give a F*&! is sad. Shouldn’t you be self motivated in college? I’m not saying, I want  my students to all strive for A’s. I know that is not going to happen because sometimes you just want to get by, but not caring when you’re going to get a D or F is ridiculous. I am tempted sometimes to tell them “you don’t deserve to be in college,” but that would be mean and the wrong thing for a teacher to say. 


I need some motivation to teach this summer. I don’t know where I’m going to get it. Do they sell motivation at Target?


Advice? Comments?


Copyright www.onemeanmfa.wordpress.com

The Writing Experiment: The Results

Before I go into the results of this experiment, I would like to apologize for not writing as often as I intended. I found myself looking for excuses to not write everyday and this scared me. I don’t want to fall into a well of excuses and not be writing. It is my career choice after all. Please forgive me and thanks for continuing to stop by and read. Okay, enough of that, and on to the results.

  To review, the students were complaining about the prompt that had been assigned and so I suggested we write a prompt as a class. This excited the students and it forced them to have the reading complete in order to participate in the discussion.

I first provided them with the original prompt assigned for the reading. Then as a class we discussed what the goals were for this prompt. What major issues should the paper discuss if using this prompt, issues like ethics, social concerns, and government control (just as an example). We then took the original prompt, the goals for writing the papers, and created another prompt that encompassed the same goals. The prompt that students ended up writing was very close to the departmental prompt, but they claimed they understood it better.

Finally, they had to actually write the paper. I will admit I was quite concerned with what the outcome would be. I was so concerned I allowed the students to choose from either prompt. While the papers would undeniably be very similar as far as the big picture, letting the students decide allowed them to feel in control.

So what happened? Well, the papers were great! I was so pleasantly surprised. In the past, using the prompt style of teaching writing I found that students end up writing about the same general topics; inevitably topics discussed in class. This time, however, I read about so many different topics. I am so sure this is because in writing the prompt themselves the students were able to think of topics that they were excited about. Instead of reading 40 some odd papers about abortion and illegal immigration, I was reading about different cultures, fascinating ethical issues, technologies, and so many other unique topics. I was thrilled.

While I’ll be teaching again this summer and next fall, I will not be using the department’s reading choices and prompts, instead, I’m choosing to write my own prompts, and decide on whatever readings I please. I still think I will allow the students to attempt writing the prompt again. This will not only provide them with a better understanding of the reading but it will also provide me with more prompts to use in the future.

I would love to hear some feedback on what you think about this experiment and if you teachers out there have done anything similar.