Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Procrastination Excitement!!!!

Aha! I am in the magic space --- I am done with classes, yet do not have any grading to do yet. It is a magic space full of joy and wonderfulness, and I also have a new course to plan for next semester, which is similarly in a magic space of possibility and rosy hues. Mmm! So naturally I am getting all excited and starting preliminary planning for this new course, which is the best kind of planning ---- planning stuff that goes perfectly well in your head and does not have to run up against the limitations of your actual students and their levels of grumpiness and unpreparedness, or have to throw something together in the next hour before class actually starts. And furthermore, while the random class I was given (Stripey Class) had nothing to do with my academic specialty, I am more familiar with this one: Introduction to Fruit Studies.*

Now, introducing students to Fruit Studies is actually rather difficult, because everyone thinks they already know about fruit and want to talk about what fruit means to them, or why it is so delicious. They are much less interested in discussing why pineapples are an oppressed group. In fact, because pineapples, like other fruit, are usually not separated off in their own specific community but form connections with many other aspects of dinner, it is much harder to recognize that they are in fact on the bottom of a hierarchy and systematically discriminated against. And just as students tend to see fruit in the context of individual dinners, so too do they have difficulties recognizing the similarities between, say, apples, and papayas, and lychees, and pomegranates, and kiwi fruit, in a way that does not erase the very real differences in habitat between them. They are both similar and different, and no, I am not going to accept that as your thesis for your essays.

Starting an Introduction to Fruit Studies class also reminds me of the difficulties in starting freshman composition, because all the parts of an essay are stuck together and what do you teach first? Do you start with classification? Deconstructing the very idea of fruit? Rinds? Muddling and Fruit Salad, aka Intersectional Fruit Analysis? Representations of Fruit? Theories of Difference, as in vs. Vegetables? Global Fruit Systems? Grafting and Reproduction? Why oranges are not the only fruit? The trouble is that each of these areas of study has some essential tools and concepts that we need for the other areas of study, and whatever I start with will be frustrating because I will want to use some term that I haven't explained yet. Sigh. And yet it is so fun at the preliminary stages!

And I have tons of ideas for films!!!! I love Fruit Studies films --- they can be very accessible for students and really create an "aha" moment about fruit experience in a way that readings and statistics often don't. Should I have some sort of film analysis assignment, or presentations on films? I can't decide! It doesn't help that I know of a lot of great fruity films and am sorely tempted to just show the films in all of the class sessions. That would make prep easy and fun! But, probably not what is expected of me. So I'll have to do the hard work of pairing films with the readings and selecting only a few, the most exciting and important.

I haven't done anything besides lay out the dates of the next semester. Oh, and finally track down a copy of the book, which still has not even been ordered for me. Luckily my officemate is teaching Intro to Fruit Studies this semester, and now that she is done with the book I have borrowed it for the day. (I won't get in to all of her frustrations with students being horrible people and/or not doing the reading, but I was taking note all semester and I hope I remember how to get around this stuff in my own class.)

So, how to set up the course? Easy first, or hard? The "accessible" fruity desserts first, or start with the less tasty yet antioxidant-rich dishes? Do I alternate between the fun and the depressing issues, or group them to end the course on either a saddening or uplifting note? How to balance all of the important concepts and histories of the discipline, mentioned above, with being inclusive of all the different fruit varieties? I wouldn't want to slight the berries, or the stone fruit, but really, you could have an entire class on the intricacies of each! And what sort of assignments do I want to include? The course is designed to be a writing-intensive class in the course catalog, but I love the fun and creativity of alternative-type assignments traditional to Fruit Studies. And clearly I need to put quizzes into the syllabus and really hammer students with them regularly, as I saw with my officemate's class. I'm not really big on reading journals, and I like the idea of some sort of big activist project or proposal, though I don't have any experience in setting those up. Really, though, I think one of the best ways to get students excited about Fruit Studies is through wacky and off-beat assignments that really push students to explore their creativity and originality.

Kind of like this post.

* clearly, a pseudonym.


Dr. Koshary said...

I cannot express how much I would like to watch a Fruit Studies film with you as my instructor. As the young'uns might say:

ROFLMAO intricacies of stone fruit!

Sisyphus said...

oh, fruit and Area Studies work well together as an intro too. (Though sometimes I fear that Area Studies courses don't do enough to problematize the entire concept of fruitiness, they are so busy cramming Area content into students' heads.)

harrietsdaughter said...

I teach Fruit Studies every fall .... I like to let them start of talking about themselves... then in a couple of weeks deconstruct the notion of fruit. I always wonder if that's the right way to go. Re the reading - keeping them honest is hard. This is always a big class (required for one of our majors) and I find that journals and quizzes are too much work for me for the amount of payoff I get. This fall I did more in-class simulation stuff.

Have fun planning!

Susan said...

I've taught introduction to Fruit Studies too. I try to stop people talking about themselves and assuming that because they are apples, everyone else is too. It's pretty hard to get away from the depressing stuff. And I'd ramp up the challenge of the assignments over the term.

But that may be because I'm a grapefruit and sour.

Belle said...

Oh, I love your approach to the problems of fruit studies! I long for the day when my Fruit Studies course actually gets enough students to make. I shall print out this post, and use it to inspire me when that day comes 'round again!

Bardiac said...

My undergrad university had a pomology department. So, it wasn't all fruit (not berries, for instance), but... I sort of laughed, because I remember having to look up the word after passing the building and realizing I had no clue what it was.

undine said...

"They are both similar and different, and no, I am not going to accept that as your thesis for your essays." Heh.

Fruit Studies sounds like a good course!

lostinacademe said...

I want to take Fruit Studies!