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.