Monday, December 11, 2006


Well, seems time for a new blog, especially since I can't actually talk. I let a cold go on for 2 weeks, and now I have laryngitis. I am also in the last week of classes.
First of all, I go nuts in the last few weeks of classes because I feel that whatever I didn't get done, whatever my students didn't learn, whatever I wanted to teach them that they didn't get or I forgot or didn't stress enough or didn't have time to show them, is all my fault, and I have failed as a teacher. I know, I know, this seems extreme. You say, "How can you possibly be responsible for all of that?" Well, in a way, I am. That is my job. Yes, they have to want to learn, do their assignments, etc. What about the ones that do?
We are on the last paper, the persuasive paper. GOD help me.
I was absent one day with illness. I didn't get to go over logical fallacies, and MLA style citation as much as I wanted to, though we did cover it. Their papers leave much to be desired. Shall I tell them they can't write about certain topics, i.e., abortion, AIDs, and other very broad topics? I feel if I tell them to focus, and at this point they should have some understanding of how to focus a paper, that they can write on any topic that they'd like, as long as they give specific examples. Now don't forget, these are the students that do want to learn, do their assignments, etc. Now as far as sources, I have told them to leave it to one or two. It's only a 3 pager. So how hard can it be? I understand, especially when I was 19 or so, I had a hard time arguing a point because I didn't really know how I felt about many things, or I knew how I felt, but didn't have the ability to speak poignantly about what I felt without slathering it with useless emotion, no fact, no ethics. So, why do I expect my students to do this? Tell me, what am I doing wrong? Suggestions? Comments? Helpful quotes? Lesson Plans? I am truly at a loss here.

I want to write about exciting things, like how I lost fifteen pounds on the Atkins diet, and now I have twelve boyfriends!! I want to write about how I climbed onto my roof and hanglided (hanglid?:) down into town for some lunch today. I want to write about how I don't have high blood pressure, like my father, and I never will, nor will I need to worry about it. I want to write about how I changed the world with a flick of my wrist and a little bit of spittle from my I made a magic potion and now all of the world's hungry have been fed! And AIDs is cured! And Cancer!!! all from the wrist flicking and spittle...
I want to write about how I am traveling to the far East to visit my friends and have learned Chinese and am totally ready for my PhD, and have been accepted into 15 programs, though I only applied to 6. I want to write about death in a bathroom and life in the toilet. I don't care, just not about teaching and being sick. Oh well, too late.

1 comment:

kamuizot said...

Critical thinking is a tough thing (perhaps impossible) for anyone to master. In today’s world of talking heads and spin-doctors we have few good examples. What your students need is the courage to allow themselves to be wrong. The insecurity we have about our core beliefs often keeps us from exploring alternative viewpoints fully. This is the key lesson that you will have to find a way to put forth to your students. Good luck with that. You asked once for examples from life where students had changed over time. This turned out to be an unusually hard question to answer. Try asking if anyone has ever changed their mind on a firm held belief. I think you will get even less feedback. It’s tough for people to write about things they can’t bring themselves to think about.
Here are some suggestions and observations on the teaching of the persuasive paper. Too much time might have been spent on the compare and contrast paper. Although it is an important part of the process I think in could be diminished to an exercise or one page homework assignment rather than a full paper. Instead of the compare and contrast paper I would assign two persuasive papers. The first one is prefaced by a writing assignment. Ask the students to write a short piece expounding on an opinion they have on a subject of known controversy, something with two obvious sides of contention. After they turn this in, tell them that the argument paper they will write is to be on the same subject only taking the opposite point of view. Moans and groans will ensue but they are likely to work harder on craft and less on propaganda that way. This will suck the passion out of most of the essays and you might end up with a great essay supporting the separation of races or some such, but the biased factor will go way down. The next argument paper that is assigned should be a topic of their choice and their opinion. This gives them two shots at the same process. Having made most of their mistakes on the first paper they will be armed with the writing tools and the their passion for the last paper.
You misled your students in a similar way with your poetry exercise at the end of the semester. Handicapping the topic selection is the best way you have to help guide the students in a certain direction. “Wax on wax off.” You did a great teaching job this semester. I have little doubt you’ll do even better on the next go round. Good Luck!