June 14, 2013, 3:27 pm
As I’ve written, I had registered to take a MOOC through Coursera. Turns out, I’m a bad student. First I got behind, then I just stopped doing anything for the class. Much has been written about MOOCs lately, but I just want to lay out a short list of reasons why I did poorly or, more accurately, why I did mostly nothing for an English Composition I MOOC.
Most U.S. citizens have some sort of high-speed Internet, but more than a hundred million still do not. I don’t have it at home. When I was doing better in class, it was when the semester was still in full swing and I could read, write, and watch videos from my high-speed office. And it’s not that I don’t want high-speed Internet at home; it’s just that I live back in the woods in an older neighborhood, and the giant Internet providers, I’m guessing, haven’t found it beneficial to offer service back there. Cable…
June 10, 2013, 12:08 pm
During the semester, I have my students do a lot of low-stakes writing, and I was thinking the other day about something a student wrote this spring. This student is interested in being a teacher, and he wrote about how some teachers don’t maintain enough control over their classrooms and therefore lose students’ respect. This writing assignment came not long after an intense class discussion that went from heated opinions about a current event to heated student-to-student personal attacks. The transition was quick, and I failed to intervene in time. (I later apologized for this, and then we talked about some possible lessons we could learn from it.)
I’m pretty sure the student’s piece of writing was referring to me and my lack of control over the classroom. I have no way of knowing for sure, but, even if it wasn’t, it did get me thinking about control in the classroom, and I thought …
May 24, 2013, 1:18 pm
I’d like to tell readers about a couple of cool things Richard Bland College is doing. This is partly because I love my institution and I want it to be a successful place, but it’s also because I think these programs are innovative and might help put Richard Bland College of the College of William & Mary on the proverbial map.
The first program is called the Language Institute. This is a partnership with Main Street Virtual Learning, and it uses an online platform that looks like one of the best I’ve seen. Students learn conversational languages, and Main Street’s parent company has a long history of working with military personnel to teach useful language skills. It’s unlike traditional language classes in that students learn how to speak the language, but they probably won’t learn so much about writing or reading the language. As the marketing material says for the Language…
April 30, 2013, 2:16 pm
I have a manuscript. It’s a memoir of sorts, chronicling my path from the newsroom, to the classroom as an adjunct, to getting fired, to unemployment, to a tenure-track job. My purpose is multifold: to encourage college administrators to look to the adjunct pool first when hiring, to help adjunct faculty members realize that there can be life in academe beyond contingency, and to present an entertaining tale of an underdog.
But there’s a problem with the manuscript. It’s short. Not incomplete, just shorter than the average nonfiction book, and much shorter than academic nonfiction. I still have some tweaking to do, but it’ll probably be 25,000 to 30,000 words. My manuscript is meant for an audience of readers who are academics, but I’m not sure it’s an “academic” book. It’s also unusual in that it is a combination of my story and previously published pieces from this blog and other…
April 24, 2013, 2:16 pm
Students think I’m an “easy” teacher. For a quick and not-so-credible example, I have a 4.5 out of 5 “easiness” rating on RateMyProfessors. I also catch bits and pieces from the rumor mill. My classes fill up quickly, in part because students have heard that class is “easy.” While this still does get to me a little, it’s beginning to bother me less.
Hearing students say my class is easy used to really bother me. I thought that I wasn’t challenging them enough. I thought that I was too lenient. I thought that maybe students should feel more pressure in my class, like they do in some other classes. They would sometimes talk about how they have an exam coming up that they spent all weekend studying for. My immediate reaction was to feel offended that they didn’t spend all weekend researching their essays or otherwise examining their topics.
I’m beginning to realize that my classes—I…
April 9, 2013, 1:20 pm
I’m writing this post on the last day for students to withdraw from a class without an academic penalty. Earlier this week I sent an e-mail to all of my students with a list of reasons they may want to withdraw. Here’s the message I sent:
Hi everyone, The last day to drop a class without academic penalty is Friday. Remember, a W (withdrawal) doesn’t hurt your GPA, but a D or F … and sometimes a C … will hurt your GPA. Here are some reasons you may want to consider dropping your English class with me:
• If you’ve missed a week or more worth of classes (that’s three), it’s most likely going to negatively affect your grade. If you’ve missed two weeks or more, I recommend dropping because it will be very hard for you to get above a 70 for the semester. See the syllabus for the attendance policy. A common mistake is that people think because I don’t always take attendance that…
April 3, 2013, 2:05 pm
I’m a little behind on my MOOC, but I can write about what it’s been like so far.
First of all, I didn’t think I’d like the video lectures, but they’re actually kind of helpful. I’m a face-to-face guy, or at least I thought I was. As a student, I’m finding that I actually love the videos because I can pause and go back as often as I want. It makes me think about being in front of the classroom, when I impart glorious wisdom onto students. How much do they miss? I miss an awful lot in a video, so I pause it, go back, and do that two or three more times. In class, the students do ask me to repeat myself or to explain further, but I wonder how often they must wish they could do it just one more time.
The downside to video lectures is just that—they are lectures on a video. The professor, Denise Comer, from Duke University, does a nice job of asking questions and trying to get us to …
March 27, 2013, 12:28 pm
I’m taking a class I normally teach … sort of. I signed up for “English Composition I: Achieving Expertise,” a Coursera-hosted MOOC taught by the Duke University professor Denise Comer. The course started on March 18.
I signed up for a number of reasons. One is pure curiosity. So much information has been going around about massive open online courses that I wanted to see what they were all about for myself. Also, not only do I want to teach online, but also I think I need to teach online if I want to remain relevant in education’s future. Unfortunately, I’ve been hard-pressed to find adequate training nearby. There’s really not a whole lot of training anywhere that I can find. Sure, I have read about teaching online and how to do it effectively, but I’d rather have a little more than that.
I had signed up for a different MOOC at first, another Coursera course called
March 11, 2013, 12:38 pm
I thought I was a pretty contemplative person when it came to the English language. In grad school, I thought a lot about the ways words work in the world. The process sharpened when I was a newspaper editor and got even more interesting when I started studying the nuances of our language in my teaching career. But nothing has made me contemplate the power of words like my 4-year-old son, Gavin. It’s almost daily that I consider in a new light something I’ve said or heard. Here are a few examples.
Before a couple of months ago, I’d never thought twice about the word “hardly.” (You might say I’d hardly thought about it.) My son has a knack for using adverbs well, something that makes me, his English-professor daddy, proud. For example, in describing Christmas lights, he would say, “They’re shining brightly.” I get chills when he does it. But “hardly” is a tough one. I can’t…
March 5, 2013, 12:58 pm
I’m a co-adviser for Mnemosyne, usually referred to by students as MAAZ, for pronunciation purposes. This is Richard Bland College’s art and literary publication, and I’m the adviser for the literary part. About 10 students told me they were interested in helping out. Last week we had our first meeting of the semester to talk about promoting the publication and getting submissions. After e-mails and conversations and students’ promises that they would be there, only one student showed up. One student.
It would be easy to put all the blame on the students. They definitely deserve some of it. But I think there’s something more, and it’s not just students. The lack of student participation at the meeting reflected a collegewide crisis at RBC: a lack of “community,” in the most abstract sense of the word. As a faculty member, I wonder what I can do about it.
Richard Bland College is a …