Archive for December, 2012

Where I read poetry

Monday, December 31st, 2012

When I started writing poetry regularly, I also started to submit my poems. This started in the mid-1990s. At first I sent them out to mainly print publications, but a few months after doing this I started sending out poems to online publications, commonly referred to as ‘zines. It was in ‘zines that I first started to get my poems published. One of the places I was published was Stirring: A Literary Collection. I also submitted to other ‘zines at Sundress. I somehow–and to be honest, I am not sure how, but I think it started with the online poetry slams–got to know some of the editors at Sundress. I also did a little editing while there. 

Today I still read the published material at Sundress publications. I also read other online ‘zines. I read Poetry Magazine. But a lot of my poetry reading is done online and maybe that is because I don’t study poetry as I am in a composition and rhetoric program. But that is probably just an excuse.

Really, the last book of poetry I read was from the Best American Poetry series, which I have heard from my MFA friends garners a lot of flack. I have always liked these collections because of their variety of voices. I confess I don’t like to read a book of poems by a singular author in one sitting. I’ll often read a few poems, put the collection down, and read another. So If I do go to the library to get some poetry, I will grab a few collections by different authors.

The last book I recall reading by one author is Ted Kooser’s Flying at Night. Even though his poems are metaphorical and I don’t tend to write poems in a metaphorical style, I enjoyed his collection. What I liked was the rural nature of the poetry, the quiet small town feel, and the elation of being alone. If you read Kooser, you can tell he is a private person and enjoys his time in solitude. His poems demonstrate this tendency well. In that sense, I could relate to his poems. And I suppose we all want to read something we can relate to because when we read something personally familiar to us, it is almost as if we are touching or caught in an embrace with that writer. It becomes tangible, even though there is miles of space between ourselves and the writer. But that is the power of art, proximal and full. 

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Changes for Spring 2013

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

I’ve spoken a bit about what I plan for my spring semester teaching wise here a couple of times. I stated that I would be teaching English 320, which focuses on business and professional communication. I was excited to teach the class and had two sections lined up for the course, so no double preps for me. But after the semester ended, I realized one of my classes had a low enrollment. Not surprisingly, it was the class that was scheduled for later in the day. But my first section had a high enrollment and was nearly full.

I contacted the chair of my department about the low enrollment and stated I was fine with any of the options to keep my stipend and TA status, though I was most interested in the opportunity with the writing center on campus. All the same, I wasn’t sure how they felt about doctoral students there since I had previously heard that doctoral students couldn’t use writing center work in place of one of their teaching loads. Apparently, this was incorrect information since the chair stated that the writing center would be happy to have more doctoral students. So I sent off a letter of application, my CV, and in the body of the email explained my situation of the canceled class and needed an alternative. I also expressed my excitement about working in the writing center.

One of my goals for the long-term future is to work in administration. I’d be interested in working with WAC, WID or directing some type of writing program, whether first year, upper division, or both. The opportunity to work in a writing center would serve as good guiding experience in this goal.

I have also worked as a tutor before, though never worked as a writing center tutor. I have worked as a tutor for international studies at my undergraduate university where I worked with international students on work they had to do in their literature and writing classes. As a MA student, I worked with the McNair Program prior to obtaining my first TA.

I am excited for this opportunity. I also have to admit I like the fact my grading will be cut down significantly. For the graduate student, grading always feels like the biggest chore. I enjoy responding to student work, but having to give that work a grade is the thing I dislike. I always confess my dislike for grades and explain why on the second day of class and explain the difference between responding to their work and grading it. This semester will be no different.

Having only one section of a class also means, of course, that when I screw up in my first class, I can’t redeem myself for the second session. 🙂

Another benefit of having only one section is that I am now able to take a Tuesday night class I wasn’t willing to take since I was teaching that second section. Now I am free to take that class and it will work out much better for my degree anyway. The history class, while useful if I keep my dissertation topic, is only really useful if I keep my dissertation topic. 😉

I’ll know more about what is going to happen to my spring schedule when I get back to school in a couple weeks. I know that if the writing center takes me, I’ll be working there 10 hours a week. Right now I have Fridays off, but I doubt that will continue with the ten hours I would need to fulfill.

A girl can dream. Even a graduate student can dream.

End of the semester reflection

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Today I finished the final grade calculations for my two sections of Writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences. This means that I basically double checked my grades to make sure they were accurate. Overall, I am very happy with the performance of most of my students this semester. In fact, I didn’t have anyone fail, much less get a D, as long as one student did drop, as I suggested he do during midterm. But honestly, I’ve never had a semester like this one where everyone, I feel, did a competent or better job. Sure, some students lagged and didn’t work very hard, and those were the students who received grades in the C range. But a teacher gets those students every semester. It seems it isn’t until the semester’s end that those students email you asking if you accept revisions, extra credit, or whatever in exchange for a better grade. It is the last-ditch efforts of bullying and bribery.

But I only received, so far, two emails like that. I am giving them the rest of the day to send any questions or complaints they have. Tomorrow morning I’ll officially submit my final grades.

Aside from the grading issue, I want to reflect on a number of things I noticed this semester. First, I’ll start with the not so great things I noticed this semester:

  • Higher incidences of plagiarism that I could not prove. I had a one student, for example, plagiarize from her textbook. Really. And because of this I couldn’t “prove” it with the typical google search and whatnot, but I knew it was plagiarized because of the tone and writing style. I asked her to revise it and she did and received a far better grade in her revision. Usually, plagiarism has been easy for me to point out. I can find it quickly and easily. This semester, not so much. And to be honest, I never kill myself over trying to prove this. If I can’t find the information quickly and easily, I simply ask students to rewrite the paper and explain my reasoning. They get that. I seldom have had problems with this policy
  • The cover letters for their portfolios were not the strongest I have ever seen, which was disappointing since I felt I had such a fantastic group of students this semester, but their cover letters in their portfolios were kind of bleh. Granted, some were well done and articulate. Some included fantastic examples. I could see who had been listening to me in class about these and who participated fully in the activity to better understand how to write these. But it was hard to get over the not-so-fantastic cover letters. And really, I blame the final project reflections on this as well as the final projects themselves since I noticed many students who made videos and used googlesites and googledocs did work on their projects up to the last minute. I think this explains the poor cover letters, in some cases. So, in reality, I kind of blame my final assignment for this.
  • The final assignment was up and down. There are some things I need to change about this which I explained here. And I stick by those reflections right now. I think by having the previous assignment has a concrete part of this assignment will help. I do not think them writing a rubric from scratch was useful. And I think the reflection needs to be taken out since it didn’t seem necessary and they could write the same information in their portfolio cover letters.

Though there were some things that didn’t turn out so well, quite a few things did. Here is a quick list:

  • Students seemed to have a greater appreciation for the assignments. The literary analysis I felt would be the toughest sell, but I had a few students take 320 previously and many of them commented on how they learned quite a bit from that assignment. 
  • Each class was a strong class, though for their own reasons. My 11am class was quiet, but their assignments were of high quality. While my other section didn’t have such high quality work, their participation was strong in class. In fact, they seemed to enjoy class more than the assignments. (haha)
  • The job packet went very well. I have to thank Josh for that.
  • Though the final assignment needs improvements, I think the students liked the fact they could take control of that. I know some students struggled with the openness of the assignment, so that is one of the things I will work on. And I think by completing the changes I discussed in an earlier post, this will happen. I also agree it needs a bit more structure in areas.
  • I also asked for more student feedback this semester in regards to grading peer review, group work, and in class participation and I think students appreciated this, even though it was extra work, and I learned quite a bit from their responses.

So, overall, I think the positives outweigh the challenges I had this semester.

But there are still things I plan to change, of course, and many of these can apply to my upcoming 320 class in the spring. For example, I plan to spend more time in class working on the rhetorical situation. I plan to emphasize audience over genre and work to make them realize that audience is often the reason for the genre and perhaps by doing this they will understand genre better. I also want to bring more creativity into my teaching and in class activities, and I already have a number of ideas for the first few weeks of class that I am excited about. I think as I continue this blog next semester, I’ll focus less on assignments and more on how those in-class activities go. That is my goal and hope for now, anyway.

Students who want to go to graduate school

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Confession: During an activity regarding the job packet this semester, I asked students about their plans after graduation. One student said, “I plan to go to graduate school.” Out of my mouth and without thinking about it, I said, “I don’t recommend that to my students” and then added at the end, “right after graduation. Take some time and work or do something else before you apply. That is my advice. But ultimately you need to do what feels best for you.”

Smooth move, Jessica. And no, I never take my own advice.

But I did help another student with her statement of purpose later this semester. I kind of redeemed myself there.

http://wheninacademia.tumblr.com/post/37351137168/when-undergrads-mention-applying-to-grad-programs

 

I just had to share that as soon as I saw that post. It was necessary.

In other news, my grades are finished. I plan to turn them in either later tomorrow or Tuesday morning. Probably Tuesday morning, pending any emails I receive. And I have received no emails yet. Hope.

Update on the revised final project for English 358

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

I may say more about this later, but after grading about half of the final projects for one of my English 358 sections, I just wanted to share a couple observations.

  1. The reflection is not necessary. Most people, if they did this at all, didn’t do a very good job. A lot of people just added this to their cover letter. Some didn’t do it at all, and I really didn’t punish them grade-wise for not doing it. I think the project itself, with the proposal and rubric, was probably tough enough, especially at the end of the semester.
  2. The rubric was still problematic, which makes me realize I do need to create a template for them or that I need to cut down on the types of assignments they can do and create one that can be used in a broader way. I don’t know why I didn’t do this the first time. What happened was I had the following: a couple people didn’t have very clear rubrics, so it was hard for me to grade them, and so I ended up revising their rubrics anyway and one person didn’t have a rubric at all. It just creates more work for me. So next time I will either create a template for them to follow or grade this using my own version and cut back the types of assignments they can do. I did, however, deduct points for incomplete, unclear or absent rubrics since I feel we did spend a fair amount of time talking about them, and even conferenced one-on-one on these documents.

Did any of that surprise me terribly? Not really. I was anticipating a fair amount of that, and so I was prepared. The the projects and portfolios overall, for what they aim to achieve, are relatively good.

I have not yet gotten to my other section, which this semester seemed like the “stronger” section for the course I was teaching. I am curious as to how their projects turned out. And I am looking forward to reading the remainder of the projects. The good news is that I can say the students actually cared about these final projects. I could tell because of the amount of work they put into them and the discussion they had about them in their cover letters. I just need to go about teaching it differently next time.

The end of the semester, graduate student style

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Well, it is that time again. It is the second day of a five day week of finals. This morning I turned in a seminar paper for my Creativity class about the generative workshop, poetics and OOO. Before that, I turned in a course portfolio for English 320 Business and Professional Communication and English 321 Writing in the Technical Professions. During the remainder of this week, I will be continuing my work on a research proposal for my Communication Research class, which is going ok, though it is quantitative research, y’all. Good news is that the research proposal is not due until Friday at five, though I am planning to turn it in by noon on Friday. I also have to peer review three other research proposals by the end of the day on Wednesday for my Communication class as well.

But I am close to be done. By the time I am done, I would have had two weeks of hardcore writing, reading, and research. I took 9 credits this semester and yeah, I am feeling that. For my TA, I only need six credits, so this nine thing. Yeah. But I did a similar thing last spring semester when I was finishing up my language requirement.

After I finish, I’ll worry about my stack of grading, which this semester is an electronic stack of grading. Earlier this morning, I sent out the final reminder for my 12pm writing intensive class reminding them the portfolio is due by three tomorrow and how I will be in my office if there are any huge problems. I am hoping there will be no huge problems, but I can easily imagine a couple from this class having some kind of problem and needing to find me or sending me panicky emails about some crazy, made up story. No offense to them. I was not always a stellar student, though I never lied about my lazy.

Today I plan to spend a lot of time at the office working on that proposal and those peer review drafts. Tonight I’ll have a couple beers with friends and see an interesting Science Cafe talk. It should be a good time. By the end of the week, however, I’ll really need to de-stress before I start the long trek of grading.

The extrovert and introvert in the collaborative classroom

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

I’ve been reading The Introverts Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World by Sophia Demblingwhose blog “The Introvert’s Corner” I have been reading for a couple of years now. I like the blog she writes, even when there are things I disagree with, like her article on how Halloween is an extroverted holiday. I, for one, am an extreme introvert (clinically) who adores Halloween, mainly because I love hearing and telling scary stories. But, for the most part, I can relate to the majority of what she discusses.

As I was reading her book, I started thinking about how we often educate our students. For instance, in the classroom, collaborative learning is all the rage. We want assignments to be collaborative, not only because it cuts down on our amount of grading as writing teachers (an added bonus, we must admit), but because so much of what one does in the “real world” is indeed collaborative. And I usually do have one assignment each semester that can be done collaboratively, or one that I purposely created to be collaborative, like the group marketing project for my English 320 class. I don’t think doing any of these things is problematic since it is important we teach students how to effectively work together in groups. What I do wonder about, however, is how much we push collaborative learning in the classroom. Are we leaving out the introverts? Are we stressing them out further? Are we causing them unnecessary anxiety?

I think back on how I used to, and still occasionally do, react to group work in the classroom. While I don’t mind it, I do dislike it when it becomes overdone. This happens if I come to a class and every class period involves a heavy dose of group work. When this happens, I begin to yearn for a lecture where I can sit quietly and take notes and think. I start to romanticize the lengthy lecture professors sometimes give, even though they typically do not constitute what many of us consider good pedagogy today. The point is, after too much group work, I become exhausted, slightly angry, and rarely, but occasionally, apathetic toward that specific classroom environment.

The problem with my feelings, however, is that I am guilty of doing similar things as a teacher. I have students do what I consider is quite a bit of small group work in my classroom. Sure, I often break this up with mini lectures and individual activities. I even often allow students to choose their own group members, and they usually have no problem with this, being juniors and seniors. They easily group themselves together. And I have noticed that when they get to choose their group members, they often are more engaged than when I choose their group members for them. But all the same, I can’t help but wonder if the quieter students are getting frustrated with the levels of group work, even though I do try to break it up with other activities. I know as a student I would feel this way from time to time, even in the way I structure my own classroom.

So as I was thinking of this I grew concerned that our present learning environment is problematic for introverts. I did some surface level research on this and found out the way we teach isn’t necessarily fantastic for extroverts, either. For example, most of our assignments are individual assignments. We also tell students they need to study, which is often a solitary activity, or  at least traditionally speaking it is a solitary activity. We also ask students to be quiet and work independently a fair amount of the time, even if our current pedagogy is collaborative in the classroom. Like I said, they still have to create most of those assignments alone and they still take tests independently.

To be fair, I did try to change a lot of my pedagogy this semester in consideration of the quiet kids. For example, I often emailed discussion questions for class a couple days before they were to be discussed. I had a couple of my introverted students tell me they appreciated me doing that for them, since they know they take more time to think than other students do. And this isn’t because they aren’t as smart, but there really is a biological difference in the brains of introverts and extroverts.  I also asked students to send me a professional email where they discussed how they participated in class, with a few examples, and articulate to me the grade they felt they earned because of that. Of course, most students claimed they earned an A, but from these emails I did learn a lot about my students and how they felt they had participated. The quieter students talked about writing a lot during free write activities or talking more in small groups or coming up with ideas during group work that were instrumental in the completion of the activity. They also talked about how they helped other classmates solve problems. These two changes I made, I feel, really did help the quieter students. It also allowed the introverted students to speak up more, so I wasn’t constantly hearing from the 3-5 overly social extroverts in the class.

Still, I feel there is more I could do. I still feel guilty about how we push collaboration so much in the classroom and in ways that are so directly collaborative. What I want to start thinking about are more ways we can be collaborative, and yet be a little more subtle about it or quieter about it. Perhaps doing some online discussion boards or using other forms of social media for discussion will help. That way, the quiet students can participate more freely and without having to speak up in a classroom of 22 students. They will still be doing this, only on their own terms and from the comfort of their laptop. I understand it is important to push collaborative work, but I think collaborative work is a more loaded term than we immediately consider.

So, here are some solutions that I thought of during this post:

  1. Simply ask students how they feel they learn, and politely ask them to forget what they know about learning. Make them think of a time where they had to learn something new. How did they do it? Why did it work for them?
  2. Ask students what they value in collaboration. Work from this and build a discussion from the responses. Incorporate the findings into pedagogy.
  3. Ask students for feedback during the course and collaborative work. Check in. Maybe this will help us with what I discuss above, for both personality types.
  4. Have some individual work included in the group work. As a teacher, we could make this information clearer and help with assigning certain tasks and have students give us some feedback regarding this. A big problem here would be making it seem as if we are micromanaging them in their group work, though.
  5. Have students work on something individually and then create something collaboratively from the individual work. This might be a really good exercise for everyone.

Poetry and Object Oriented Ontology

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I’m working on a paper on how one can perform an object-oriented ontology on poetry. While I won’t say much more about it than that, I’ll share one of the poems I am analyzing through OOO and give you a little information on how I did that from the paper I am working on.

THE CRATE by Francis Ponge 

Midway between cage and cachot, or cell, the French has cageot, a simple little open-slatted crate devoted to the transport of fruit that is sure to sicken at the slightest hint of suffocation. Devised in such a way that after use it can easily be broken down, it never serves twice. Thus its life-span is shorter even than that of the perishables it encloses.

So, at the corners of every street leading to the market, it gleams with the unassuming lustre of slivered pine. Still brand new and somewhat aghast at the awkward situation, dumped irretrievably on the public thoroughfare, this object is most appealing, on the whole — yet one whose fate doesn’t warrant our overlong attention.

In this object prose poem of Ponge’s, human perspective does not exist. Instead, the reader only knows the experience of the crate as a crate, which makes it open to an object oriented ontological reading. In this poem, the object laments how it is only used once, for the purpose of containing and transporting fruit. The crate in the poem can be read through OOO as Bogost writes that this type of reading, “illustrate[s] the perspective of objects” and the poem focuses solely on the perspective of the crate (Bogost 109). In other words, the reader of this poem never learns of any human perspective regarding the crate. In this poem, the crate carries its own perspective, which it shares within the poem.

The object is also related to its purposes and other objects around it, which is what invites an OOO reading of the poem. After all, much of Bogost’s descriptions of what OOO is relates to the experience of objects in regards to purposes and how that object relates to other objects around it. Part of the idea of flat ontology is that “all objects equally exist, but the do not exist equally” (Bogost 11). In Ponce’s poem, the crate and the fruit equally exist. Each is an object and so each exists in a similar way. But in the poem the crate laments the fact that it will not outlast the fruit it carries, which will eventually spoil. The lines “[d]evised in such a way that after use it can easily be broken down, it never serves twice. Thus its life-span is shorter even than that of the perishables it encloses” remind the reader that the crate is simply a secondary object in comparison to the fruit it holds.  In this sense, the fruit seems more important than the crate. The crate is simply the mode of transport for the fruit and that is all that there is to it.

In this sense, the poem “The Crate” is a perfect example of how the universe is organized. While both the fruit and the crate exist, they do not exist equally. The fruit serves a greater purpose since humans rely on it for nourishment. The crate is simply the object the fruit arrives in. With this, object-oriented ontology demonstrates to readers how perspective is gained. If one examines the role of objects in comparison to other objects, one can better uncover preconceived notions, values and ideals that human beings hold. In other words, we order the world according to the objects around us and how we use and understand those objects and how those objects relate to other objects. But only through disseminating this information can we begin to articulate what Bogost means when he states, “all objects exist, but do not exist equally” (11).