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 8, 2013, 2:54 pm
In a recent post I discussed whether it’s OK to advise students not to take a class from a specific professor who is a bad teacher. Many commenters asked how I knew that someone was good or bad in a classroom—a valid question since student opinions are based on a variety of factors.
Like Isaac Sweeney, who has elected to take a MOOC section of a course he teaches, I have actually been a student in the class of the professor whom I keep hearing about from students. I took advantage of a tuition-grant program at my college, which allows adjuncts to take four credits free each semester they are teaching.
Professor X was not a good teacher. This is coming from me, someone who has succeeded in her educational pursuits and can pretty much do her own thing to figure stuff out. The professor didn’t know I was a colleague, so I don’t think that had any bearing on how the class was run.
April 2, 2013, 12:45 pm
By now, very few people in the known universe haven’t heard what happened to the college football star Manti Te’o.
Back in December, the all-America linebacker was publicly humiliated when it was revealed that his girlfriend, whose supposed death during the season received national media attention, not only hadn’t died but had never existed.
In other words, the person with whom he thought he was communicating all those months, via cellphone and text messages and social media, wasn’t really the person with whom he was communicating. He was the victim of an elaborate hoax known as “catfishing”—which, according to UrbanDictionary.com, occurs when “internet predators … fabricate online identities in order to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships.”
But isn’t that the essential problem with all forms of interpersonal communication conducted solely via technology—you…
March 15, 2013, 2:57 pm
Last week I ran into several former students, a rare occurrence for me. It is always fun to see that they are still taking classes and pushing onward—the road to a degree is a long one when you start out in developmental courses. There was a downside to the pleasant reunions though: Uniformly, I heard complaints about a specific professor.
There are myriad complaints students can have, some valid and some just part of life. Issues with too much homework, boredom, or a monotone voice are all things I can be sympathetic to but not much more. I usually remind students that they won’t click with every instructor and that they can be successful as long as they work hard.
Before students even leave my English 100 course, I try to prepare them for 101 professors. Some are more adept at working with non-native English speakers or first-generation college students. I try not to give…
March 12, 2013, 2:23 pm
This past weekend I sold a year’s subscription to a poetry journal to a woman who introduced herself by saying she didn’t care for poetry. We were at the 2013 Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ conference, the nation’s largest such gathering, and she had stopped at my booth in the book fair because the journal’s covers caught her eye. Talking her into a subscription to something she initially thought she disliked marked a highlight of the conference, but to be honest, I think a lot of this year’s sales began in conversations with men and women who had no prior intention of buying.
The more I think about it, the more that particular sales dynamic reminds me of my work in the classroom, especially in introductory courses where many of my students are tourists in the field, some of them studying literature against their will. At times they seem to feel, like the Eskimos in the …
February 22, 2013, 2:17 pm
This past weekend saw special events surrounding the NBA’s All-Star Game. NBA All-Star Saturday Night has a Skills Challenge before the famous Three-Point Shootout and Slam Dunk Contest. In the Skills Challenge, point guards run an obstacle course in which they have to pass the ball through hoops, shoot, and dribble around faux defenders. I was thinking about classes while I was watching. I think about classes a lot.
Last week we spent a good deal of time in peer-review workshops: Students were helping one another with their essay drafts before final revisions were due. Peer reviews never seem to go as well as I envision them. I have subscribed to a little saying that I can’t get students to take to heart: Value evaluation. I know they want to write well and to get good grades and all that. Deep down, they may even want to help one another. A handful of students display that desire….
February 12, 2013, 2:31 pm
By now many of you have read Kenneth Bernstein’s “Warning to College Profs From a High School Teacher” over at The Answer Sheet, an education blog at The Washington Post. Since it went viral this past weekend, the essay has garnered a couple of thousand comments.
For those who have not yet come across it, paraphrasing Bernstein does a certain injustice to the passion underlying his argument, but the crux of his case is that ballooning class sizes and the increased importance placed on standardized testing have created a generation of students singularly ill-prepared for the critical thinking college professors rightfully expect.
While he aims most of his criticism at the policies of No Child Left Behind and an Advanced Placement testing system that effectively penalizes the framing and synthesis of arguments, he also tries to get at the culpability of teachers and administrators…
February 8, 2013, 12:26 pm
In any given semester, 60 to 90 percent of my students are women. Gender imbalance in higher education is well documented and is more pronounced among Hispanic students, who attend my college in large numbers, so my percentages don’t come as any surprise. As the mother of sons and an avid reader of books and studies about men in modern society, I worry about the “failure to launch” phenomenon.
I’m thinking about this now because I noticed something recently: Every student I have ever nominated for our college’s student-of-the-month award has been female. Every impressive student I have had has been a woman. In contrast to my undergraduate education classes, which warned against a bias in favor of males, I fear I might lean the other way.
Men and women pass my class, and I think I do a good job involving everyone in discussion. I’m kind of neurotic about equal participation in class…
February 7, 2013, 1:52 pm
So I had that conversation with my first-year composition class the other day—you know, the one about all the things you “should never do” in an essay, like use second-person pronouns (whoops) or begin a sentence with “but” or end one with a preposition.
I’ve come to expect some version of this conversation every semester. In fact, I spend a fair amount of time trying to disabuse students of such ill-conceived notions and get them to focus, instead, on what they can do in an essay. But I’m always amused at how the list of alleged cardinal sins in writing keeps growing.
One that has apparently been added in the last few years is “never use linking verbs,” or forms of “to be.” (Whoops, again.)
On one level, I understand why some of my students’ previous teachers have told them that. I agree that overreliance on linking verbs tends to weaken writing. Most sentences benefit from…
February 1, 2013, 3:22 pm
Last weekend I participated in a small conference of writers at a nearby university. My panel wasn’t scheduled until late in the afternoon, but I arrived early and sat in on a workshop led by a young poet who has recently published his first book. There were maybe 40 people attending the session, only a few of them academics. As everyone settled in, I introduced myself to the woman across the aisle and learned that she edits a popular book series. In the row in front of us I recognized the retiree and aspiring author I’d just met in the lobby. By the time the facilitator made his way to the podium, it had struck me that this was perhaps a uniquely challenging group to speak to. Some members of the audience were trying creative writing for the first time, others were pursuing undergraduate degrees in the subject, and a few were professional wordsmiths.
Of course, job candidates face so…