How to Survive as a (Transfer) Student

Earlier this afternoon, I gave a friend of mine, who was transferring from the urban college to a UC school, some advice on how to be a better student. I’ve met this young man a few years back when I was the faculty advisor for the college’s LGBT club. We’ve kept in touch even though neither of us are no longer involved in that organization. I’m happy for him that he’s moving on up academically, but I hope he cultivates new student habits. He’ll need some as the university is a completely different world than the community college.

As a student, I’ve gone through the community college, undergraduate university, and grad school systems. I’ve also worked as a TA, GTA, and a community college instructor, so I have some perspective from both sides. Even with more and more courses going online, a majority of classes offered still take place in real time, these things definitely apply:

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Rubric’s Cube, II

If I’m not interested in teaching college English as a long term goal, then why do it? Ironically, I find my several semesters of being in the classroom something of value, especially as I’ve been getting my act together. Yes, I used the past progressive, not the passive voice in past tense. I have been working on being a better teacher, but I am also working on skills that will help me in my new career path.

Continue reading “Rubric’s Cube, II”

Many Pieces of Paper

photo-84I’ve had too many pieces of paper with student’s names and more yesterday afternoon. I graded them all and here I am in action. Something to point out: I’m not right-handed. Gotta love how MacBook’s webcam gets things arse-backwards.

img_0676I also need to thank the tree spirits this week as I used up two reams of paper to give my students various hand-outs (all with the hopes that they’d earn good grades, of course).

Is It Over Yet?

I’m stealing the title of Chris’s post, but it’s appropriate.

This latter half of the year I returned to teaching. Over the summer, I took on a job teaching at a private language school. I liked the students and my coworkers (including the director), but it was also the most temp-like job I’ve ever had. I also taught a summer class at the urban community college and it was a good getting my feet wet. I had taught for two and a half years (one year as a TA in grad school and one and a half years as an adjunct teacher) before I had a stint as a mailroom manager. That only lasted for five months before I got fired and spent a few months looking for a job. During that time, I worked every community community college I knew of in the county to get classes for the fall.

While I didn’t succeed with every college and English department chair I lobbied, I wound up with a decent workload at the schools that took me on. Actually, I took on a lot. Five classes were overwhelming, but I was happy to be working again. Also, there were things such as Christmas and a new computer to think about.*

Of course, returning to the classroom had its share of challenges. Some of the students were one. I’ve vented about this in some posts. The flow of papers was never ending. The hours were crazy, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Driving to various schools and staying on top of all of them took a lot of time. God knows how much time I’ve spent in my car. I’ve found myself more and more fatigued as the semester comes to a close.

While I listed my cons first, it was not a bad experience overall. I liked most of the students I had this semester. That I could make grammar clearer for them (in some of my classes) was rewarding). Some of my students were fun, others were very interesting to talk, and some really got something out of it. I’ve given my headaches a lot of airtime, but I should have also taken the time to mention the great students as well.

I haven’t been a good blogger over the past few weeks. There would be a few days of blogging punctuated by a few more days of no posts. I have no plans to drop out of the blogosphere soon. August seemed to be month where there was a universal topic shortage. November, however, is not at all short of topics, yet it’s the worst month for me posting wise. That’s why I never put up the NaBloPoMo badge on my site. While NaNoWriMo sounds like fun, I haven’t had the time to crank out a shitty first draft of my great American novel. I even filmed a video log this past weekend, but I haven’t had the time nor energy to edit it. Wah, wah, wah.

It’ll all be over in a few weeks. Then, like the Pythian prophecy in BSG, it will all happen again in the spring.

Happy Friday

Good afternoon, viewers. Today is my weekday off from classes and I exercised my right to sleep in. On Tuesday and Thursdays, I usually wake up very early (around 4:00 am) as my first class is at 7:00am. I then teach a few late afternoon courses those days and then an evening course on Thursday. Needless to say, I’m always exhausted by the time I get to the Thursday night class and my students see it.

There are days I’m tempted to skip out on classes. I never do, though. Unless I’m sick and contagious (or simply not feeling well), I show up to work whether I feel like it or not. I can get over the mood and do my job.

Then there are the bad classes. I have one of those from time to time, and then a student from hell. I had one of the latter yesterday morning. I’m not going to give details (sorry!), though I don’t think this one is a permanent problem. It was enough to throw the rest of my day off and I wanted to call in sick to the other campus. However, I didn’t do that.

I gave my critical thinking class their new syllabus. They seem like a cool group, but I have this argumentative chick (yes, I’m using this word instead of girl or young woman) who revels in her mediocrity and seems content to drag the rest of the class down with her. She’s also one of those types who tries to manipulate the professor, largely through being an aggressive loudmouth. Why do I have a feeling she’s in for a rude awakening when she gets her final grade?

I hit it off with another student in the class after I started talking about Star Trek and minorities being represented on that show. Interestingly, his first and last names are those of Star Trek characters (though I don’t think his parents intended that). I can’t reveal it here.

Then I had to go on with my “math teaching.” This is my special term for teaching grammar. I went over run-on sentences in my last two classes of the day and then went over writing assignments. In the English Skills class, I always refer my students to the English Writing Center to see a tutor. Since this is an ongoing thing, they keep pressuring me to give them extra credit for taking the time to have a tutor help them outside of class. I keep telling them this will favorably factor in their grade, but it doesn’t keep them from pushing for those extra points.

By the time I went home, I was completely exhausted. I caught the tail end of Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style and then went to sleep shortly after. Special elixirs (i.e. a couple of glasses of wine) always help.

I didn’t think this would be such a long-ass post. Here’s a funny, but cheesy skit I found on YouTube from some Aussie guy. Talk about taking self-love to an extreme.


Happy Friday!

Mona Lisa Smile and then some

Of course, much of the fall programming on ShindoTV is teaching stories, and this is no exception. Much of my time now is taken up with preparing for classes, reading papers (sometimes I want to shoot myself in the head), running to and fro various campuses. This week I picked up a critical thinking class at the urban college from a professor who dropped it to reduce her course load. She was happy to get away from this group of people and now I know why.

This course focuses on race, class, and gender. This guarantees that there will be a lot of controversial topics, enough to make any white person/white wannabe* uneasy. White (male) privilege, that women and minorities still face discrimination, and that divide between rich and poor has become greater are recurring topics in this course. The professor warned me the group would be resistant.

They watched Crash before sometime before I took over the class. She told me the class had a discussion on it, but they weren’t quite finished. I tried to continue the discussion yesterday, only to get tightlipped silence. Even though I saw the film several times, nothing prepared me for this. Some people did talk about the film, but several of the more vocal ones tried to claim the discussion on Crash was over. I also got some other misleading ideas about the course from some other student, such as that the papers were two pages in length and that the readings weren’t due that day. This was definitely a Mona Lisa Smile moment if there ever was one. I felt a lot like Julia Robert’s character walking in on that horrid group of girls with another professor’s syllabus. However, my class was a horrid group of young men and women.

New syllabus, new rules, and much longer papers. They need their arses kicked.

Now on to a few other things. Chris made a comment in his latest entry about “making a concerted effort not to do a blog fade.” He mentioned a few of the blogs he read that seemed to hit blog death. No apologies for not posting, just a sudden stop. I don’t think that’s the fate of Chris’s blog.

There’s this one person on my blogroll who stopped posting altogether. He got himself a domain name to route it to his blog and no posting since some rant in July. He broke his silence to show off a T-shirt, but that’s was over twenty days ago. Is this blog faded? Hopefully, all isn’t quiet on the western front.

I saw Eureka last night. I still don’t know what to make of Stark beyond that he’s hot (as he is too complex to be a villain). Oh, alchemy turns out to be alive and well in Eureka and apparently has a very handsome practitioner. That’s all I’ll say on Eureka.

On a lighter note about teaching, I inflicted a Beavis and Butthead episode “Butt Is It Art?” on my freshman composition class in east county. The main point of showing the vid was to show cause and effect, though I wonder if my students only got a “boob” and a “butt” out of it. We also discussed Chris Crocker’s newfound fame as a result of Britney’s critically panned VMA performance and we watched his vid and Seth Green’s parody. Gotta love those smart carts.

Back to work. I have a long day tomorrow.

*this definitely applies to those conservative types.

What A Week!

A lot has happened this week (along with the lunch hour incident in one of my classes).

There was the date of September 11. In my family, that has always been my niece’s birthday, so I must wish Aurora a belated happy birthday.

Unfortunately, this past Tuesday marked the 6th anniversary of 9/11, which also occured on a Tuesday. It is one of those dates where you will remember where you were when it happened. I was starting my first year of the MFA program and I was in the faculty computer lab abusing my priveleges as a TA. A television broadcast the news to everyone in the room up to the point where Gray Davis, then Governor of California, closed all state institutions, including the university.

It was Aurora’s eighth birthday when that happened. My mother originally had a birthday party planned for her that afternoon, but serendipitously cancelled it a week before.

I blocked out the date this Tuesday. When I wrote the date on the blackboard, a student reminded me it was September 11. I then reminded myself it was my niece’s birthday and I felt better.

Wikipedia has a long list of events on September 11, some of them very interesting and significant other than September 11, 2001.

Chris and Brian both wrote some long posts about this date. On that note, happy anniversary to Chris and his partner Ray!. Also, Brian’s birthday came two days after my niece’s. Happy Birthday, Brian!

Now to some other things. ‘Tis the season of the overstuffed accordion file folders. I may have been dealing with lessons, readings, and classwork the past couple of weeks, but this is the first week I began to collect assignments I will GRADE. For my freshman composition course, I collected their reading response to Brent Staples‘ “Just Walk on By…” and their first essays. The essays will be the easiest thing to grade because they are narratives.

Regarding Staples’ essay about how strangers respond to him as a black man, some students were much more honest in their written responses than they were in class discussions, especially if they reacted in similar ways to Staple’s examples of white strangers who assumed the worst about him. These students weren’t proud of this type of behavior or attitude, but they were connecting with and responding to the essay. Some other students mentioned in their responses how they felt they were singled out and profiled (such as one young woman who, along with her grandmother, was hassled the San Ysidro border checkpoint and spoken to in bad Spanish by a border patrol agent). One young African-American man’s response could have easily been one of Staples’ examples as he mentioned a moment when he was crossing the street and an old white woman decided she would rather cross the street in another direction and risk getting hit by incoming cars rather than simply walk past him.

I always learn too many things about my students in the course of the semester. Things come up in class discussions, writing samples, and essays (like the narratives) and reading responses like I mentioned above. The kids and their antics are material enough, but who knows? Schools are never short of characters.

I’m sure I’ll learn a great deal from my students from the evening class as I go through an essay they had to write for me in class last night. Instead of racially charged essays like Brent Staples’, I targeted them as non-traditional students by having them read “The Professor is A Dropout,” Beth Johnson’s essay about Lupe Quintanilla, a first grade dropout who went on to become a professor. While my students’ histories may not be as extreme as Quintanilla’s, I knew they could identify with her story and even find inspiration. My folder for this course is stuffed with what they wrote in response to Quintanilla’s story.

Yesterday, I had a mini-obsession where I had to find some colored chalk because I have blackboards (more like greenboards) in my late afternoon and evening classes. While the east county suburban and desert colleges have whiteboards and dry erase markers, most of the classrooms in the urban college have chalkboards.

I like chalk better than dry erase markers. Definitely more sensuous and tactile, and I love how the sticks break while I write or draw on the board. There’s something hideous about how whiteboards get dirty from the markers. Also, getting high is the best you can hope for while using dry erase markers, and marker smell is simply god awful.

I’ve learned that yellow, green, and white show up the best, but other colors are fun to use.

Gotta go. Gotta drive out to the desert and get a form in the that college’s office and I’ve got a few errands to run.