Sunday, February 27, 2011

Confused, but I think I'm not the only one

So this morning I went to *$ and got a nice big fat mocha and graded the rest of those stripey midterms. It had three parts, and part three was just like last semester's midterm, with passages from our readings that they had to identify and explain the significance to the larger work and to our class. There were 5.

One student wrote on 6 passages.

I don' t even know what the student could have been responding to. And I couldn't tell you what that student was talking about in the other passages either.

If the handwriting hadn't looked pretty normal, I would say I have now received my first midterm written in Klingon.

It would have been better for the student if the student had done so. Alas.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Not a finisher

This is just a quick post to say, "arrrrgh!"

Yesterday I graded Fruit Studies stuff and started grading Stripey midterms (you'll remember my frustrations with it last semester) and today I continued grading the same projects.

But I am not done! I only made it through the first two parts of the midterms and still have part 3 to go, and I still have to norm and enter grades for the Fruit Studies stuff ---- and, I know there's a late copy in my email inbox that I haven't opened yet, and and, I'm pretty sure that I have misplaced one copy and figure it is at the office!

So once again, I say, "arrrrgh!" I am still not done!

I hate it when I have actually been working but I haven't finished anything. It makes me feel like I've accomplished nothing if I haven't crossed anything off my to-do list yet.

There's still Sunday, you may say, but I have to skim through comp drafts for our group conferences next week, so --- yay for me! I get to do more grading and still feel like I have accomplished nothing all weekend!

I'm going back to those midterms in just a second, but I'm going to "reward" myself with a break by cleaning up the kitchen first. Happy, happy, joy joy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fresh and Processed Fruit

So I've been promising a Fruit Studies update for a while now. They are excited (well, mildly interested is as about as excited as they get) for some topics that are much further along in the syllabus, and have all fought to sign up for student presentations for that week or so. "When can we talk about _____, Mrs Cog?" they whine. "This stuff's so depressing."

"________ is not Fruit Studies." I say. "That's useless entertainment shit."

"No, no, it's Fruit. It's the essence of Fruit. And so fun." My students respond. Any other group of students would be using exclamation points, but these are remarkably passive about everything. That and I don't think they recognize what an exclamation point is. Seriously. I had one not look abashed, but surprised, when I mentioned that zie needed to capitalize the letter "i" when talking about hirzelf. "Like, even in the middle of a sentence?" Yes. And you should get in the habit of including verbs in every one of your sentences, too.

Anyway, ______. Back to the conversation. I think about it for a second ---- it is possibly, potentially related to Fruit Studies, in a debased, commercialized, co-opted kind of way. It's like those Fruit Roll-Ups that have maybe two drops of fruit juice and the rest is high fructose corn syrup and zantham gum. There are more important topics, real topics, topics that are more like an actual fruit than this one.

So do you start with the sweetener or the bitter, unadulterated, unprocessed piece of fruit? I can see drawbacks either way. And my officemate seems to be having a much better time of the class this time around, so maybe I will tweak the syllabus and things will be better in the fall. Syllabus order is always a big sticking point --- when everything's holistically connected, where do you start? Everything is a prerequisite for something else. And right now they are raw little recruits --- one joked that zie was raised by wolves when I was trying to get them to discuss how outside forces might shape childrearing, and I kinda feel like in a way that is true for this class --- and don't see the point of this class or the point of studying Fruit, except for light entertainment.

So whatever goes at the end, when I have built up the slightest framework of a critical apparatus within them, will be the most successful of our discussions. And yet I feared that putting the Fruit Entertainment at the beginning might set a precedent of enjoying without thinking, so I put all that stuff at the end as a reward and started with some blatant, obvious examples of violence and oppression. And made everybody cry in one class period. Sorry! I even apologized to the class --- "I see why no one signed up to present on this week. I'm sorry; have tissues. It's depressing, but important to think about." Of course that was some sucky class discussion after we watched that violence, but I couldn't think of much to actually say about it either. Except "Ahhhhhhh! Quick, go ... do something!"

Actually, that right there is the heart of my problem with this class. But first, I want to talk about what we did today.

Ok, someone --- I think Tales of a Wayward Classicist --- was posting about how he didn't ever do games in class. And in the comments there were a whole bunch of comments in agreement with the fact that doing games and entertainment in a college-level class was terrible in stupid. But then people chimed in that they loved "activities." And "activities" got the nod while games were bad. I confess I was lost, because I don't see anything so bad about games --- I have friends who constantly use that Jeopardy template that is available on the web in their lit classes and they say it works great --- and furthermore, didn't see anything qualitatively different between games and activities as they were described. But whatever. My problem is that I can never think of a good activity (or game) that is relevant to what is being covered that day. I can maybe come up with something that actually links everything together once a semester. If they work, they are carefully hoarded as prize activities (or games).

Anyways, I was pondering this games/activities distinction and also my students' apathy and lack of engagement and unwillingness to talk and suddenly thought: what if I literally have them make a game? Like, take this process we have been learning about, and the concepts of individual vs collective action I have been pushing them to think about, and had them make a game with rules and a goal that would teach these concepts? I even mentioned this to a permanent Frutairian who generously loaned me candyland and chutes and ladders so I could have them revamp an existing game if they so were inclined.

I actually think this is a tough, difficult assignment to do well. Especially if they paid any attention to the actual complexities of this process.

I wish I could say I had a marvelous experience like Belle regularly reports when she has students make videos and presentations on objects and interpretive dance and all that. I count today as a success, but only because most of my students in the two groups talked and they struggled with open-ended, problem-solving skills. This does not mean that they demonstrated much of any understanding of the process or how it was applicable to their lives. And the one group kept trying to just actually play candyland. Luckily someone picked up a card and said "you know, I can't understand now why this was soooo my favorite game when I was little. There's not much to it..." Or else I might have had them regress back to age 4 or whatever right then and there.

But my students were surprisingly resistant to the activity. (Or is it a game? I guess it's more work than just playing the game.) They found it simultaneously both hard and infantilizing, which I thought was interesting. They were not at all appreciative of the fact that it was creative or even that it meant they didn't have to use the reading for that day. They were probably not happy about the discussions since they had to be on task discussing the topic and negotiating power amongst themselves (the leitmotif of my class, admits the Foucault scholar, so I wouldn't be surprised if they thought I was "doing it on purpose.")

So now I'm tapped out for "activities" or games or creative things to do instead of having a quiz on the reading and then me using the Socratic method (or the teeth-pulling method) to get them to figure out what the reading was about and have the occasional thought about it. And I'm still thinking about how to get them --- how to get them to care, I guess. There is probably no magic bullet, but I bet there are better ways to suck them in and get them over to my side. I'm still brainstorming, pondering, experimenting.

Because this lack of caring --- which is both plain old apathy of the shrug when they see they earned a D on the first assignment, and well, that's good enough for me (and I'm currently at 2 out of 5 presenters have bothered to show up on the day they were presenting, so there is a big disconnect between what they are thinking college is and what they really should be focusing on) --- this lack of caring is both apathy as students and a complete lack of interest in the material, material which is really the lives of other human beings. When I see horrible violence done to someone, my reaction, as I say above, is that we must do something about it. These students see the same and are sad, and then shrug and say, "whaddaya gonna do? At least that's not me." They are so passive, so incurious about the world, about even each other and their problems. Since I am a passionate person, raised in a family full of people who care deeply about all sorts of different things, I don't know how to change an apathetic person into a person with passions and interests. How can you produce a "lightbulb moment"? Is it even possible?

And they are cynical. Everything is completely fixed and unchangeable and they are completely powerless in the world, so naturally if you have that world view you would be very passive and inert. I like using films and documentaries, particularly for poor readers, since they are very immediate and visceral and accessible, but I am worried about using too much because it is such a passive mode of learning that they love love love. They put their heads down and sleep during it, or just zone out, and then feel proud that they were in class and it didn't even hurt or require effort. And yet, it's more work for me to create writing prompts and worksheets and "activities." My comp students --- maybe 5 of them --- just put their heads down and refused to do the thesis worksheet I handed out today. And that was my big fancy interactive idea!

So having written all this --- I'm not sure I'm up to the asking advice from you peeps yet; I'm still trying to figure out my reactions and thoughts --- my problem, as I see it, is that I want to find active, critical thinking-type projects --- activities? --- in class that are not passive, easy forms of learning, that do not reward rote memorization and simplistic thought, but also that can force students to work through ideas at an actual college level. Because I agree once you get something down to a simple visual level or something that can be cut out or colored, you've probably simplified it way down below college-level thinking. But then where is the "engaging" part? Hmm. Still pondering.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Long Shot

Ok, finally and at last I have broken my streak of inertia and once again applied to a job! Here's hoping someone on the committee believes I am an outstanding scholar of kumquats and elephants.

What's that, you thought I specialized in Tigeral Studies? Shuddup! They might hear you! Just because the title of my dissertation and all my publications include the word "tiger" doesn't mean that I don't have extensive theoretical knowledge in the realm of elephants. Theoretical as in, why no, I have no practical experience in that field but I always thought it was interesting. As in, I've used kumquat-based elephant traps in the classroom lots of times, just never in a course with that in the title and never got around to posting up my snazzy interactive teaching website demonstrating my expertise in the area of Defense Against Fruit. So it just cheezes me off to no end when I see jobs posted that I actually have done everything they want in the past, it just doesn't show up in an obvious way on my cv. Of course, I know that with this market there is someone out there who loves elephants and kumquats and that is the title of their dissertation and half of their articles have the word "elephant" in them and the other "kumquat" and clearly, that is the person who should get the job, except that then I go to conferences or the MLA and overhear people who say that this other random person whose cv doesn't even match as closely as mine ended up getting the job because "his research looked interesting."

So, dammit, now is the time for that person to be me! Especially since I know (and more importantly, one of my committee members knows) a couple people on that faculty and I am preparing to pull every string possible and take advantage of every unfair advantage I can find. Come on, nepotism and insider connections! Don't crap out on me now! Of course, there is the minor drawback that there is actually a person like in that last paragraph enrolled at my alma mater and if connections can get anybody something, it would probably be this guy who specializes in pachyderms and pomegranates, but, hey, I've gotta do this; it's my closest shot!

No wait, what am I saying? This is a hellofa long shot! WTF am I thinking, that they're all going to be doing coke right before looking at the job apps? Wait... maybe if it was coke provided by my committee member when name-dropping how I'd be a perfect fit...

Oh just fucking hit send already! Send! SEND!!!!!!! Don't overthink it! Long shot, schmong schot --- it's all Hail Mary passes in this economy. I'll send it out tonight and deal with some sort of plan for how to properly bribe 21st-century search committees in the morning.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sloth and Sluggardliness, in 3 parts!


Today is supposed to be my writing day, but instead it has become my recovery day, since Thursday is a very long teaching day (made worse by the fact that I have to be on campus before 8 to snag a parking spot). Today has been especially slow --- I went to bed early last night, got up very late this morning, and have already taken several naps. I'm not sure if this is due to illness or general malaise or the blah weather. So far I have only made a midterm, so I am falling behind even for a recovery day. I'm hoping that I will have lots of energy and the ability to concentrate and get both teaching and researching work done this weekend!


My clothing has become exceptionally boring. I destroyed several of my cheap bras in the wash a while ago and have been wearing only things that would go with a black bra for a while now, and then on top of that one of my pairs of jeans tore in several places. Grrr. It put me in a grumpy mood for the whole day. So I went to Target the other day and accidentally ended up buying a whole lot of stuff, including finally replacing my teaching bag, and replacing the stuff that died. I tossed a lot of things that were getting holes and worn places, too. Now I fear that I have fallen into a rut of boringness.

It's tough, if you don't want to spend a lot of money, figuring out which items should be understated and which interesting --- and if you're like me and only buy a few pieces at a time with no plan, everything just gets messed up. Do you buy simple, plain outer layers or patterned ones? Plain bags or printed ones? Plain or patterned tanks and tshirts? I can't stand mixing odd patterns or loudness (the causes of which should be understandable from my past) and in the past I have picked out a patterned bag or sweater only to have it match the only other patterned object in my collection, which then makes getting dressed highly confusing. Do you wear a patterned sweater over a patterned shell, or do you combine the colors that clash, or do you end up never wearing the patterned sweater and using the plain black one with everything? I also have been trained by the fashion industry to not mix "warm" and "cool" colors, or browns with black (which I always think of as a "cool" tone) and then I don't have the right kind of stuff to mix and match and look interesting.

Anyway, I now might be at the place where I only own like three solid colors and no patterns. Boring. It is easier to get dressed in the morning; I'll grant you that. But between the boring preppy clothing and the lack of color and the way you have to dress to be warm in the winter, I'm no longer getting interest and complements from students and people in the halls, and I fear that my wardrobe has become completely boring-ified. I think the real problem here is that I don't have the money or the planning/patience to toss large quantities of stuff and really plan an entire wardrobe so that it has multiple outfits that balance interest pieces and understated pieces. So I end up doing stuff like grabbing whatever looks interesting on my way to replacing my bras and then discover that I already have a plain black cardigan and all my sweaters are the same shade of blue as blue jeans. I've been saying for years that I will sew stuff on to my clothes to make them individual and embellished, but I've been saying that I would tailor stuff so that it fits better too, and I've just never had the interest or energy.

Ooh, and I am currently very angry at Modcloth, because their cute little dresses are cut so wrong! It's too cold to wear dresses anyway, but the ones that seem wearable for my body type and have some sort of interesting pattern to them are all super short and in the reviews people who are my height are sending the dresses back saying they basically are like long tunics not dresses. Some of the dresses worn by models on their site also have this nasty weird cut going on where the waist is not meant to be a high waist and it lands way too high on the model's body --- a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland effect that to me reads like a sexualized child's cut --- if you've ever seen those types of photos where a grown woman is doing sexy poses in a childlike dress and the ruffled baby underwear, you know what I mean. Bleah! Sorry, I want a dress with a waistline at the waist and a skirt that stops two, maybe three inches above the knee. I may have to give up on looking at Modcloth entirely. But I don't want to give up on patterns and interesting clothes, so I will have to think of some new plan. Or maybe actually map out what I own and how it goes together and plan a wardrobe excursion. Hmph.


I was supposed to have a part three here, but I am too tired and got sleepy again. I do want to give a fruit studies update, especially on how I dislike student presentations, and also there are a bunch of conference CFPs due this weekend that I do not have the energy to think about. I don't really have anything leaping to my mind to present (this would be for fall) and yet I think I do need to get back into presenting things. Or is one presentation this year going to be good enough? I dunno. I get tired just thinking about academic stuff these days. I can't tell if I'm sick of the whole constant year-round job search rat-race or worn out (like getting sick? like too much teaching?) or I'm just too lazy to be an academic and that's showing now that I have real-world levels of commitments. Yeah, I don't really want to make big ambitious research presentation plans for this year if I can't even get myself to work on the one article I have going on at the moment. For some reason my complaints about Point 2 seem applicable for Point 3. Although I think I would have a much easier time if I were researching and writing about fashion! No wait, terrible idea. I'd never manage to match my solids, stripes and patterns.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Well, at least that was easy...?

The only good thing about having a lot of grading and multiple types of classes is that I can switch around from one project to another and still be getting stuff done. So, today I graded a couple more essays, then, tired of the topic of education, I switched over to their response papers. I thought I finished all of those but while looking for a straggler assignment from another class I came across more of them and fell into a despair, so I switched over to grading the quizzes from my Stripey Class even though that is not a priority.

Well, at least that was quick. I think this is quiz three or four and still I am mostly getting blank sheets of paper handed in to me. I did get several 5 out of 5s for this week, which lets me know that the quizzes themselves aren't that hard and that they are still not doing any of the reading. (seriously, one of the questions could be answered by looking carefully at the title of the work this week!) In the same way, most of the students don't have any paper out or take any notes while I lecture. And yet, when I reminded them that there was a midterm coming up in a few weeks, they wanted assurances that I would do a midterm review! Honey, I can tell you straight out what all the questions are going to be and you will still fail this midterm if you haven't done any reading for the semester. And if you find the reading boring and hard now, then waiting until it is one hour before the midterm to do half a semester's reading is not going to somehow be easier.

So I will give them a reminder when I do the next quiz of what the point of these is, and why they will not be able to pass the midterm if they are not doing any reading and taking notes. Sigh. I don't feel like this is my business --- I myself often did not take any notes in certain of my classes because it wasn't always the best way for me to study --- but if you remember, the stripey class last semester was the one where I had a lot of complaints and problems and even threats when they failed those midterms, so I want to at least make it clear what they will need to do and what the consequences will be if they are not reading and studying. Gah! Just like last semester, these are overwhelmingly seniors and some juniors, so I don't see why they are not connecting the dots: not doing the readings -> failing all the quizzes -> taking no notes -> dozing off in lecture will all add up to a failing grade in the class! Maybe it will not be so painful after the midterm if I keep warning them of what's going to happen.

Thing is, I like this class much more than last semester --- I know the material a bit more now, and my (revised from last time) lectures are smoother, and I am getting class discussion. They are much more entertained. I can just see what is going to happen down the line and want to stave off, if not sucky midterms, then hostile meetings and responses and confrontations in front of the dept chair over sucky (mostly blank) midterms. There might not be any way around that, gah. Well, I will prep a little angry lecture that connects all the dots for them and hopefully that will have some effect.

Ok, now --- do I grade a couple more essays, response papers, or in-class paragraphs? Or do I look at some of the writing from the Fruit Studies class? I promise I will give you an update on them and their saga in the near future.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Oy. These essays do a number on me. Last semester, I got to hear stories of rural white poverty as part of their reasons why a college education is important. This semester, it's The Wire gone live --- my mama had to take the electricity money for food because my baby sister couldn't sleep for hunger and she screamed at me never to be working three jobs like her, my older brother took me down the street to ask all his dealer friends why they didn't get a regular job and they said they never finished high school, my parents adopted me out and gave me up because they thought the projects here were too dangerous. It's heartbreaking. I have never had to choose between food and light, with heat not even an option on the table.

I wish I could do something for them ---- that it was possible to make up for years of crappy schooling and no reading and terrible spelling, grammar, vocabulary and even reading comprehension in just a semester. But really, you can't ---- those are all skills built up through long and continual years of practice. It takes the same kind of daily, constant work to be literate in your own language as in a foreign language; we just don't think of that. I want to give them things, hand them certain books and movies and say, go look at this right now! but there's no way they would actually go through with the reading or watching.

And yet, these are the same kids who all couldn't do the in-class writing assignment in the class period last week because it was clear that they were reading the article for the first time before they started. And then these same kids, after I told them that this made me annoyed and I was going to institute reading quizzes, all got zeros on their quizzes this week. Grr. I straight-up told them there would be a quiz on the reading!

I spent an early class period warming them up by asking what specific study habits were important for college and they came up with a massive, wonderful list --- a list that I know they are not using, though they know better. Sigh --- and yet, I can't make them have that connection; I can lead the proverbial horse to water but not make it drink. They have not yet figured out, or really taken to heart, or something, that all these study skills and hard work do in fact apply to them and they are going to need to do a lot more work to make it through their college classes. And I worry about them because the college here makes a lot of money off them with their pell grants and loans for as long as they are enrolled, but it doesn't actually have any vested interest in getting them to graduate, to say nothing of whether the students who graduate actually got a college-level education. But I guess if you're coming out of the projects and went days without food at the end of every month, pretty much any degree and job based on it will be miles better. If they graduate. If they get jobs with this degree. If they aren't strangled by student loans. Ugh. Worries.

My students sure talk the talk in their essays about dedication and drive being important for a college degree (or the degree teaching you or proving you have dedication and drive, depending on whose thesis you look at, and none of these papers are arguing the same thing from one page to the next.), but man, they are fighting me every step of the way, and complaining, and eye rolling, and sleeping in class, and asking how soon til class is over, and everything else annoying you can think of. They seem to think they are magically exempt and for them it will be easy, despite what they have written about their last semester's grades. I told them that I was going to be their Mr. Miyagi, making them practice over and over until they mastered the art of essay-fu; that they weren't going to be able to write an essay until they did the academic equivalent of Rocky running up and down those museum steps, but man! I said that because they need to be putting in a certain amount of the effort and caring here --- I'm not going to carry them up and down the damn steps!

They talk a good game in their essays about valuing some amorphous thing called "education" and how it will bring them "higher and higher," and yet they are utterly unwilling to connect their own arguments about dedication being important to education to their own experience in my class. Sigh. I worry that they have been sold a bill of goods by a school that is desperate for tuition money ---- that they have been brightsided with promises that "going to college" is something that just happens by walking in the door without any sort of effort.

But mainly, I'm just tired of grading already and wish it was summer.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sigh --- never do I understand Foucault's microphysics of power more than when I am trying to teach students critical thinking

It's been a long day, yo, and I feel beaten down. In my office, the postdocs have had many conversations about how this semester, it's all about "making them do the work," and we have all tried in various ways to implement this. I, now that I have actually been through the readings one semester, am implementing regular reading quizzes (too hard to do when you yourself are frantically trying to finish in the 30 minutes of prep before class!). Postdoc 2 has instituted regular homework assignments (which she says are killer to grade, feel like they are in high school (and are producing more high-schoolish behavior) but are making them do the reading regularly) and Postdoc 3 has turned to presentations on absolutely everything, from grammar problems in the comp class to literary terms or leading discussion on the readings. She has also gone away from powerpoint and now refuses to show anything while she lectures (when she does lecture), because so few of her students were taking notes while she showed things on the slides.

Clearly, having them do the work --- the more actively, the better --- is a way better way of getting them to understand the work. And yet, there is still the "making" them of making them do the work, which I find exhausting. It is certainly clear to me that wherever power is exercised, so too is resistance, as my students have to be prodded, cajoled, reminded, nagged, ordered, threatened, and reasoned with, at every moment. Never can I simply tell my students to do something and have them do it. Well, Postdoc 2 reminds me that I didn't have this last semester until I did finally have my peeps all socialized to do things in the amount of time I demanded and I've just started over with a new group, but damn, I'm tired. And before I even start the nagging and the threats, I have to make very extensive directions for them to follow that they can't wriggle out of. And not only do I have to ride them to get them to do any work for me, but I also have to constantly be checking on them to make sure that the quality of what they are producing is acceptable. And nowhere do I get more resistance than anything having to do with "critical thinking."

Yeah, I'm still not sure what that means. My students can all talk about it --- they always have; it's a buzzword they all know to pay lip service to --- but they can't give an example or demonstrate it. In my experience, any decent answer to an open-ended question or hypothetical solution to a problem requires critical thinking. "So is the answer to that going to be on page 156?" asked one of my students today. "Dude, no. You're going to have to create an argument about it. You are going to have to use the text, but this is not about recopying a sentence from it and having that be the answer." As soon as I said that, the student got his oh-hells-no expression on his face. How should we know what the author thinks about X if there is not a sentence saying "I think this about X" in there? How can you ask us questions if there isn't a bolded word in the text that counts as the answer? I'm starting to worry that the strategy of having factual-answer questions as constant homework (like Postdoc 2) won't just be reinforcing bad anti-critical-thinking habits and expectations for profs further down the line.

The only thing I have more trouble with than critical thinking this semester is getting students to comprehend abstract concepts, and to not generalize out from their experience to entire societies and worlds. Actually, I'm having this in my comp class too, where several of my students --- ones who, I can already tell, are significantly weaker writers than the others; is this connected? --- are having weird reactions to the readings about the purpose of college, in which they project bizarre things about their personal experience onto the writers. For instance, being adopted. Dude, most of the people of the US were not adopted and you're just saying really weird things about parental expectations about college that neither the writer nor, really, anybody in the US believes. Can you not tell that your personal experience is not really a standard one?

But anyway, I've totally gone rogue and am being a sociologist --- I may actually print out some stuff from wikipedia on "agency" and systems and bring them in to my other class (anybody have some good exercises or writing exercises to get students at this idea of larger social structures shaping people in ways they are not really in control of?) Now I have my beefs with sociology and sociologists --- and have figured out that while I like teaching sociology there's no way in hell I could do research their way --- but I really really think that the ability to see and comprehend abstract structures in our society --- no, to think critically about abstract structures in our society --- is the most important thing students can take from college.

If that means I'm a heretic who is throwing over the study of literature, then so be it. I've already tossed all the "literary" type assignments and readings out of our textbook, and I may chuck the personal essays next. Read personal essays? Fuck personal essays --- my students can write personal essays til the cows fucking come home, and they can do it without ever having a thought. What they can't do is admit that their taste in music is at all influenced by popular culture, or that their gender assumptions aren't invented all by themselves, or that not everyone has undergone the same experiences as them, or even that not everyone in the US is 18. (Seriously. I don't know why I've run up against this so much already this semester, but multiple times I've had to stop while putting a brainstorm list up on the board and chide students for not varying their answers to think about age. "What about parents?" I ask. Then the next example is of an 18-year-old parent. "No, what about your parents? Grandparents? Expand your sample!")

Sigh. In short, I am about to hit the part of the semester where I usually get the "well I have never seen/experienced this kind of discrimination, therefore it doesn't exist!" And this class has already been very resistant (ok, some more than others) to any notion that social structures shape us or affect different people differently, and I think this semester once we hit this new topic is going to be brutal. I still have people in this class who refuse to believe that words can't mean anything they want them to mean; that language is a social endeavor. "Really?" I shout. "Look, I have a feminism! I am sitting on the feminism! Would you like to trade me my feminism for your misogyny?" I say, pointing to someone's pencil. They giggle, but nope, there is still a segment of my students who are not convinced. "You don't get to make up word meanings and still communicate!* Groop fleep balp meebeltephooo!" I holler. Nope, some of them are still shaking their heads. "That's only your opinion," they say. "These words have a personal meaning for me that's whatever I want."

Do I have any sociologists in the audience? Got any special tips or tricks that could help me get them to understand abstract things like social structures? Or is it, like critical thinking, one of those things where there's no shortcuts or speedups, just the long, hard work of slogging through and practicing and beating it into them? Jeez, what a semester it's going to be. I better get out my whip.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Like pulling off a band-aid, sloooooowly...

Sigh. Where have I been? Sadly, I missed my Friday writing schedule already, as well as skipped yoga that day (and the days since then). But my stomach/guts/general malaise has been a little iffy, lately, and I have had very low energy. I hope to somehow magically turn it around and get caught up enough that I can go back to my article. Soon, before I forget everything I have brainstormed about it lately.

I had a lot of assignments and then there was a nice weather weekend (not the recent one, yes, I know) and I alternated between working on the article, reading for fun, and just having a pleasant time outside. Got behind on the grading, which is never a good idea, like when the hero of the movie is chained in a cave and the water is pouring in ---- you don't want to wait until it is over your head to do something about it.

So I managed to find some Grading Mojo(tm) and pounded through an entire section of comp drafts (so, like, 28 or so?) on Wednesday and then spent the entire day (when not teaching) pounding through a bunch of in-class writings and then spent the entire day Friday (at school but not teaching) grading Stripey class assignments, and then I just couldn't bring myself to do anything at all on Saturday, except some sluggish and halfhearted laundry. It was like how they say binge-writing is bad for you because you burn out and then can't do any writing at all. Except I don't have that option, as I got Fruit Assignments and then the peer reviews and final drafts of the comp stuff and a set of Stripey quizzes and then I'm going to have to prep classes for the week now that all of them are moving into a new sequence.

If I were able to pound out an entire class-worth of one of these other assignments I'd be ok for this week, but I have been just so listless and pitiful today. And it's worse than ripping off a band-aid slowly; I have wasted hours anticipating ripping off the band-aid but not actually being able to force myself to do it. Just pull, dammit! Get it over with! Alas, I have spent a lot of time staring out the window with a half-graded assignment on my lap. If I had just chucked everything and done something fun, at least I'd have something fun to show for it. But really, I have only unpleasant memories to show for today, memories of time wasted not even in grading, but in pissing and whining about not wanting to grade (with a very little bit of grading thrown in).

Plus, I've been having some computer troubles and there's nothing more time-consuming or frustrating, in my experience, than searching the internet for advice for hours, finally understanding it and implementing the solution, only to find --- Oh Fuck! it doesn't work!

But, in happier news, I had some chips and salsa and now will put some music I like (music without words, as I can't grade and sing along to things at the same time) and I hope this will help me keep focused while I finish this stack o'crap. Or alternately, will soothe me while I painstakingly reorganize these already-organized piles.