Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Student Objects to 'Sicko' Final Exam | The FOX Nation

Student Objects to 'Sicko' Final Exam | The FOX Nation

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Sorry -- I know this link is for a Fox article but the comments following the article are quite interesting. The Francis Howell School District is in West County, here in the St Louis area. It's absolutely depressing to me to think that students aren't being asked to think outside their own value system. So when those students make it to college, they go ape crazy -- "What? I can't read that novel! It talks about polygamy and that is against my religion!" Certainly, my job is not to tell students how to think but to carefully introduce them to alternative perspectives so that they can better "attack" the world once they are professionals. The comments following Fox's version of the story are generally speaking "depressing."

Friday, May 7, 2010

"I Hate Dianna"

So I got another "I hate Dianna" essay today. A student in the MWF class sort of made me (and the way I set up the class) the focus of her essay. Instead of responding to one person in the other class (the actual assignment), she decided to respond to the whole class saying (basically) that they can't think (she thought all of their comments were too general and reflected little critical thinking). [and, yes, I feel defensive on behalf of the folks in the other class] But as part of her evidence she pointed how I have failed the class. First, I am forcing my students to only write about race even though I say that they can write about other topics:

"[Our teacher] ... did give us the option of writing about other topics of inequality such as sexism, ethnocentrism, materialism, etc. But due to limited resources presented to us on these other topics, writing such essays proved to be overly difficult in comparison to the racism topic which had an abundance of resources ... it is simply inconvenient to write about anything else."

I find this comment interesting since so many of the last group of essays were not about race ... and so many of them were good. The student who wrote this essay, by the way, is probably the best writer in the class but she has made it clear that she has no respect for me and there is nothing I can teach her. And this hatred she has towards me bothers me. I have felt it all semester and have not figured out how to show her that maybe I can teach her something. I have never really had a student who hated me so much. And I can't believe how bothered I am by it.

She goes on to say that I am using a themed-based 101 class and the writing is better "because we are being told what to do instead of thinking for ourselves." I actually never told the students this. I said early on in the semester that I was conducting research to see how a themed-based course effects writing. And I am beginning to see more and more that maybe it doesn't work.

I could go on. But honestly right now I am frustrated and tired. I don't think I have ever wanted to quit my job more than I have this semester. I know that part of me is taking her words personally and I do think that I need to consider how I respond to students who think differently. Are my end comments harsher? Am I "nicer" when the student expresses an opinion that is closer to my own thinking? I think I am pretty fair. Heck, this student is always trashing my teaching methods but she is still pulling an "A" out of the class.

But, seriously, I am tired. And to top it off I am on some new medication that requires me not to drink alcohol. I'm not sure how things could be any worse right now. I have a heavy weekend of grading and then some family stuff on Sunday. And then more grading after that.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Almost Friday!

I should be getting essay 4 from the students in both ENG 101 classes tomorrow. I am actually looking forward to reading through the essays (which I need to be sure to get done by Monday; a tight squeeze but possible!). So in celebration of the fun weekend ahead of me, here is the funniest video I have ever seen about three of my absolute favorite writers -- Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Bronte. And keep in mind this won't be funny if you don't know what they are all about -- but if you do, hang on! [Keep in mind that I once spent a week in Haworth (Yorkshire), their hometown in England, fascinated by every little Bronte tibit -- and, yes, I know I am a geek!]

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"I'm Not Racist At All ...."

In both of the ENG 101 classes this week, we have been peer workshopping drafts by students and the conversations have been ... well, interesting! The assignment asked students to respond to a comment from someone in the other section (so the MWF students have to respond to a Monday evening student, and the Monday evening students have to respond to someone in the MWF class). During the previous week, students left comments on our shared Wiki about specific "texts" such as Jane Elliott's Blue Eye/ Brown Eye experiment and the Harvard Implicit Test (which asks people questions to figure out if we "walk the walk" after saying that we "talk the talk" in terms of racial comments).

I was hoping, as we came into the workshops, that students would be able to identify the major problems with any essay -- is there a specific purpose/ argument? Is there proof/ evidence to back that idea up? Is there a sense of audience? Any stigmatizing errors in terms of sentence-structure or word choice? Instead of leading the discussion, I asked students to lead themselves. I sat on the side of the room and kept my mouth shut for 15 minutes.

And it worked. In both classes, the students engaged in a useful conversation about all the things we have talked about this semester. There were times where the conversation got a little sidetracked by differences in racial opinions (and with the Arizona thing going on, there is certainly a difference in opinions on this one). But the conversation was pretty rhetorically flocused and that made me pretty happy!

Side Note: I was struck by how often students, when responding to their colleagues' papers, would say "I'm not racist at all but ...."