Friday, April 6, 2012

A fuckton of backpedaling

My students are doing research presentations in comp today and through next week and it is fucking hilarious. Also incredibly painful to sit through so many bad presentations. But mostly hilarious.

I'm not taking these presentations very seriously or making them a large part of their grade, but man are my students nervous. And messing things up. I am actually surprised. If I were to stay here I would definitely have to keep the presentations because it is clear the students need the practice and to confront their public speaking fears. And because these are such a great learning experience ... for how not to do presentations. Ideally it would be a good time to model kindness and acceptance of someone else messing up and overcoming and embarrassing situation, but I'm afraid that instead I am teaching them that they can survive public ridicule because I keep laughing at them. I did also tell them that they did good jobs, and I hope they take my laughing as part of my lack of uptightness that doesn't quite fit in at this school, but it might not.

(One student asked if they need to dress up professionally for this presentation and I said, no, I don't care --- I'm from California; it's not like I have a dress code or care about that shit. I did not tell them that; I told them I would be grading them on how clearly they explain the background and thesis of their research paper. But this student has done presentations in Spanish and some other classes and they insist on ties and suits and full Sunday church type outfits and grade on smoothness and professionalism. So I repeated that as long as they were not naked, I did not care about appearance and professionalism.)

The presentations so far? Nervous, shaky, dropping notecards and losing one's place, running completely over the time limit without actually getting through, powerpoints have not been emailed to the right address, crashed upon opening, and were white text on a black and white photo background of a cell. They are funny yet also painful, since they are not news to me --- I have read proposals and annotated bibliographies on the topic and I know exactly how much good, well-researched material they have that they have not actually included or conveyed successfully to their classmates --- I sit there in excruciating pain willing them to include this or that good point they made in the draft, like the audience that holds its breath when a player sets up for a free throw and then cries out in disappointment when the player misses.

The highlight, however, was when one student was explaining all that shi--- sheee--- sheooo--- random stuff they have in hospital labs and they just throw a fuckton of antibiotics at the infection which leads to resistant strains. (tiny pause.) Priceless priceless expression of shock and then an ohmygod I just dropped the f-bomb in my class presentation! I was laughing so hard I was wiping tears from my eyes, and the whole class had exploded into laughter. I don't care; you're doing fine, no problem no problem, I said. Just keep going, you're fine. (I toyed with saying I don't give a fuck about that, but I do think my students will need the ability to turn off the profanity on command by the time they are applying for jobs, so I tried modeling that for them even if wasn't doing a good job showing them serious behavior.)

So: presentations. Not much prep work on my part, and so far, entertaining. But not in a pleasant way, that's for sure.


Anonymous said...


Dr. Dad, PhD said...

Awesome! I think I will always require presentations....

Contingent Cassandra said...

One of the most amusing things about Anne Lamott's advice about "shitty first drafts" is that I get to say "shitty" in class, which always shocks my students a bit.

And yes, whether out loud or in writing, they are sometimes nowhere near as good at explaining what they're doing reasonably well as we would like them to be.