Catching up with a friend last night whilst enjoying some delicious fare from Taco Truck, I complained about burn out. It’s that point in the semester when we all feel drained: papers keep coming in and lesson plans still need to be made; we grade paper two with one hand and plan module three with another. Ah the joys of mid-term! Most of us probably haven’t had a real day off since September.
An article popped up in my Facebook newsfeed last night (shout out to Nikki Bosca) reminding me of the reason for such fatigue—as if I need reminding: “A study…from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that…across all education staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, playground staff, cleaners and caretakers, 37.6 per cent worked unpaid overtime – a figure higher than that for any other sector” (Wiggins). Although this study isn’t directly related to higher ed, the overtime required of teaching isn’t news to any of us. Continue reading
A message from Mike Laser:
“I put together this list of essays from the textbook for my students, for Module 3. I figured they have enough to do for their other subjects without having to skim every piece in the book. I didn’t summarize every piece in the book — only the ones I thought might be good starting points for Module 3 projects. Other teachers may have different choices, and they could post their suggestions in the Comments section.”
Hope this is helpful for some people.
Essays from Everyone’s an Author:
At the beginning of the semester, in my 105 classes (and sometimes, to a lesser degree, in 106), I make sure to emphasize that the writing expected from students at university level will be substantially different from what they likely were asked to produce in high school. Rather than giving them a long list, I usually introduce the differences piecemeal, in a hopefully organic manner that arises from the subject matter that we are dealing with in class.
However, I have been looking for such a list, to bolster what I mention in class and to serve as a handy reminder. I just came across one on the University of Toronto website here, which hits on virtually everything that I would want it to. It’s also available as a printable PDF and free to print and distribute, according to their Fair-Use policy.
Hopefully other people will find it useful too.
Michael Laser recently emailed me the following:
“A student pointed out to me that “they” is now considered acceptable as a singular pronoun. (“Someone left their glove in my car.”) I was skeptical, so I checked it out, and found the attached article. My guess is, my generation will have to die off before this is universally accepted.
If you think people would benefit from reading the article, please either email to FYW teachers or post via the blog.
“Sorry, grammar nerds. The singular ‘they’ has been declared Word of the Year.” – The Washington Post”
So, here’s the question – do you allow students to use the singular “they” in your classes?
Personally, I do, primarily because it is more gender-inclusive and provides more options. Plus I’m just not that picky and have a lot of larger issues to focus on.
By Kathy Curto
It’s the morning rush hour and I’m on the 6 train heading to Union Square. A young woman pushes her way through the doors of the subway car and plops into the seat across from me. I’m charmed instantly—gold metallic eye shadow, velvet burgundy bellbottoms and a black wool beret that has not one speck of lint on it. She takes out a little book with turquoise swirls and stars that speckle the outside cover which is also gold and shiny. I think it’s Rumi but I’m not sure. Either Rumi or Neruda.
I smile and my thoughts move in two distinct but parallel directions: to the power of patience as a tool for learning and to Kate, a classmate of mine back in graduate school.
Kate was also someone who could pull off metallic eye shadow and who I could count on to walk into class wearing outfits that sang songs of freedom, risk and liveliness, somehow making me feel nostalgic, refreshed and proud to have grown up in the 70s all at the same time. I suppose this is what happens when you go back to earn an MFA at forty- three years old while holding down a teaching job and answering to four people who call you Mom. I was exhausted and my “Small Coffee: Black” habit and drinking in of Kate’s whimsical combinations of textures, prints and solids was all I had to stay afloat on some days.
Kate’s creativity, her charisma and her good instincts extended way beyond mustard-colored cardigans and matte lipstick that might make Bardot jealous. She was a gifted writer and a classmate who took her time: in her writing, her speaking and her critical analysis. Her style and approach to the work were mature beyond her years and I marveled at what her smooth, unaccelerated pace seemed to produce: clear, deep, searing feedback about the readings. Continue reading
by Carrie Lee O’Dell
Every Wednesday night for the past seven weeks, I’ve gone to a small studio space in a repurposed warehouse close to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for group violin lessons. Along with eight other people, I try to coax sounds out of my instrument without calling to mind the sound of a disgruntled cat. Sometimes, I’m successful. Often I’m not. This is, of course, frustrating. It’s also fun and challenging. It makes me use parts of my brain that haven’t gotten much exercise in recent years. When I manage to drag my bow across a string with just the right pressure, it sounds beautiful, which is immensely satisfying. I’ve learned more than just some scales and a short simple song in this class, though. It’s reminded me of the experience of being a student, of learning something from scratch. When you teach something you’ve always been fairly confident doing, it’s important to have the occasional reminder of what it’s like to not know.
Of course, my experience of choosing to take a group music class is hardly a perfect allegory for my students’ experiences in college writing. I sought this class out; many college students look for ways to avoid freshman comp. The stakes are low if I don’t do well—failure to master an instrument that by all accounts I’m picking up nearly forty years too late will not keep me from getting into my desired course of study or prevent me from graduating. I’m not being presented with new rules and restrictions on something I thought I’d already learned. The worst thing that can happen to me is public embarrassment at the recital. The recital that’s open to the public, is a few days away, and will be filmed for Bantam Studios archives. The recital that I’ve invited friends, some of them audio professionals, to attend.
Just a moment. I have to take some really deep breaths. Continue reading
by Patricia Haefeli
It’s a peculiar time to be a public school teacher. I have just spent the better part of the last ten months “teaching to the test” as they say (all the while encouraging us not to say it) because I had no other sane choice.
In April, I paced fretfully as my ELA classes sat for the LAL section of the Big, Bad NJ ASK state test. My colleagues and I feel enormous pressure to ensure that our (read: our student’s) scores make AYP so that the DOE lifts the “Focus School” designation, which will force a hasty retreat by the ever-present RAC team.
Then, just as we all heaved a sigh of relief at having that behind us, we were reminded that our students still had to take a combination of four MCU tests; one covering the final unit, and the other three representing a “post-test” administered to see if we (teachers) met our SGO’s this year. Tiered with a variety of growth percentages associated with the myriad ability levels in a single classroom (thank you, NCLB), the final Excel spreadsheet analysis requires a level of mathematical wizardry that make my English teacher’s eyes twitch with anxiety. The final numbers will inform our SGPs, which are linked to our educator codes, which become part of our final evaluations, which tie directly to our continued enjoyment of gainful employment.