Friday, July 1, 2011

Week 4 - The Winds of Change

Do students have to read my mind? I don’t know if you guys do this, but I, ehrrrrrm, have a tendency to project myself and my professional (or academic) experiences every time I read something for our class. Fulkerson was no exception. Yes, I quite enjoyed the discussion of all things expressive / mimetic / rhetorical / formalist, as well as Hirsch’s ‘relative readability,’ but by the time I reached the end of the article, I had two thoughts.

#1. Zoinks, Shaggy, it’s quite amazing that students learn ANYTHING at all. (Steve’s theory as mentioned in our last class was that students don’t learn so much as discover ways to navigate through academia. Depressing.)

#2. How often do students have to read MY mind? In reference to the final paragraph: “The assignment seemed to call for writing that would be judged expressively, but the teacher’s brief comment was not written from an expressivist point of view.” Sigh. How often do I project unholy expectations on my poor little lambs? How often do I traumatize them with ambiguous assignments that torment their very souls? Inshallah (Lord willing), not often. Surely it happens, for every once in a while I catch myself and immediately clarify…so how often?

Wouldn’t it be nice to be perfect?

According to Hairston, a change is a-comin’. An all-out paradigm shift. Our class readings and discussions point to the very same idea. I suppose the correct question to ask in this regard is, “How will we instructors prepare for this change?” I try to remain fairly adept in technology, hard news, and pop culture, with a slice of methodologies explored at whatever most recent conferences I’ve attended. (Forget Athens though. I was too busy eating, drinking, and being merry in post-presentation bliss. I mean come on, it was ATHENS….) It’s my belief that these four can be our allies in morphing into that professor that we know and love. (My guy is Robin Williams from ‘Dead Poets Society.’ Carpe Diem!) Technology can be a useful tool to carry out whatever message we want to deliver loud and clear to kids half of my age. Hard news is current events, which can often affect what we’re doing and when we’re doing it. (Here in Qatar my Egyptian students created a proposal for a cultural exchange to promote the recent Arabian Spring. VERY relevant.) Pop culture? Trivial, yes, but it normally grabs my students’ attention if I bring up Tinie Tempeh or Green Lantern as a class discussion. Methodology? Yes, one has to wade through a slew of drivel, but every once in a while there is a golden nugget out there that contributes a magical dynamic to the classroom. One 5060 colleague last week suggested that I empower my film students for Fall 2011 by actually letting them offer what we should study in the class; even if it’s just a portion of classroom dynamics, methinks that those are words of wisdom.


  1. Joe, I think to make the reading relevant, we ALL (nearly all? Help me out, "all") relate it to our own experiences. I can't help myself. It's funny: I think in the first or second class, Fred mentioned how students don't care about something unless it relates to their lives. A little self-reflection would say that's true for us students, too. :)

    As for reading your mind: how often do you put together grading rubrics? Mine are ridiculously detailed. As I tell my students, “I’m not one of those teachers who makes you guess. This is what you’ll be graded on.” I give the rubrics to my students before they even start writing their assignments, and the next class session, the students are required to bring questions about the rubrics to discuss with the rest of the class. I find it enlightening to hear where my rubric is unclear, and I’m grateful for it.

    And then, of course, I actually use the rubric to grade. I’d be happy to email you an example, if you want it.

    And as for pop culture, I think it’s completely opposite of “trivial.” I did a paper that showed how “The Lorax” (cartoon) perpetuated Platonic ideas to small children. A lot of our popular culture reveals our underlying Western philosophies and how we perpetuate them as a society.

  2. Joe
    You, my friend, are a visionary. I found myself day dreaming of perfection, academic and beyond, while reading your post. If I may, you are being hard on yourself. Learning is based on past experiences, as many of this semester's authors have pointed out (Bruffee, Shaughnessy, etc) so your "tendency to project" is normal. Both you and Chalice (see her above comment) are light years ahead of the curve because you recognize, and admit to, the possibility of teacher error and improvement. I think Fred is also a visionary to offer more creative options for our final project. Like your film class, various forms of intelligence and creativity can be appreciated and expressed. _RB