Friday, April 30, 2010

Wordpress down

and why is this important? well my students are submitting their portfolios today which are hosted on wordpress. I'm supposed to be grading--not that I was mucho excited about that as grading sucks and I'm not feeling so great either. still I feel I'm being held captive by wordpress. WORDPRESS GODS PLEASE FIX YOURSELF!!!

What to do, what to do???

*eat lunch--definitely

*keep reading new YA SF novel by corey doctorow about cyber hacking teens fighting a police state in SF--definitely

*worry about not grading and the state of wordpress--unfortunately

*read blogs and other sundry Internet material--I don't think so it makes my head hurt

*ride my bike--probably not as it is lightly snowing and my head is increasingly hurting

*write a thoughtful blog post on something--neh, I'm too tired

*clean the house/do some laundry etc--probably since the wife is working full-time for the census and I promised I'd pick up the slack

Nifty, innovative idea to have students post final portfolio in off-campus Internet site seems now kind of lame.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A most audacious request

This morning I was met with a request which defies belief. I blinked several times, shook my head, and then focused carefully to see if the student was actually requesting admission to my summer class. No the student was not. Next, I rubbed my eyes and checked the date and reread carefully. Sure enough the student writes:

"I know that there is only one week or so of school left in this semester but if there was anyway I could some how add your class I would be enternaly greatful."

Yes indeed this is a student wishing to add my class with actually less than one week left of classes. The student assures me that he has already purchased all the class texts, read them and is willing to spend 10 hours day everyday until the end of the semester in order to pass. How does one respond to such a request? I have no idea. In fact I'm not even sure how I should write about it in my blog.

I could approach it through questions:

Seriously you read all of the class texts? All three novels? And all 1242 pages of our anthology?

Do you think I'm stupid?

Did you really think I'd say yes?

But this starts to sound repetitive. Instead maybe I could approach this writing task with potential challenges for the student:

If you have indeed read all 1242 pages of our anthology and all three novels, please submit by tomorrow a 30 page summary and analysis of your reading. Please include detailed references to every short story in the anthology and each chapter of every novel.

Of course I won't send either of these responses to this student. In fact I don't plan on replying at all. But I will say here, if being completely honest, that I'm quite grateful to this student. I now carry with me and will retell hundreds of times the MOST audacious student request I've every received. And for this I say, thank you.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Go forth and teach

Sometimes I want to completely throw off the shackles and restraints of textbook teaching. I'm so absolutely tired of wadding through the dreary quasi-academic prose of textbook-talk--not too difficult for students yet learned enough to impress the profs; always the same chapters on the same topics; always the bulging move to cover enough of everything to placate everyone while not perfectly pleasing anyone.

Student clones reading textbook clones writing essay clones to turn into instructor clones.

I'm gripped by the desire to declutter my classes, to remove all SUPERtexts--all things extraneous to students engaging ideas and then writing. An intellectually honest proposal to students: We will read and write and talk and then we will help each other to see what we don't yet know and then we will work hard to learn something more. That's it.

But...I know there would be problems. I know there does not exist some idealized learning situation where all SUPERtexts are removed. I, the teacher, the prof, the one who knows and grades, will always and forever be the SUPERtext, the one who must be relied on even if she knows nothing and wants nothing to do with anything SUPER.

Still I dream, dream of time where professors and students can engage language and idea without a METAplan of action, without a proscribed set of outcomes which mean nothing in practice, without glazed stares from students only wanting a pass. Why pander to the middle, to the lower middle, in order to pretend we are all learning something in an organized and outcomy kind of way? Why create structure and detailed, self-important plans at the expense of meaning?

Because we must. Because even in the best case scenario of educational contexts, there would be failures and confusion and frustration. And if we must have failure, confusion, and frustration it must, the SUPERtext tells us, be orderly failure. Because orderly failure can masquerade as success, can be rejiggered and then sent out in the President's email to the college to prove our on-going success as THE PREMIER community college of America. Because orderly failure can be reduced to a system which needs tinkering with, which needs a few more outcome goals, a little more hard work, a bit more commitment from students.

Orderly microchange is the answer! Go forth and teach: mark papers, prepare syllabi, crack textbooks, shift the curriculum, form committees. At least this way we won't lose any students in any untoward upheaval and confusion. Certainly some students will fail and class, at times, may feel dull, but at least we have a big official book and a PLAN.