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.

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Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

After writing this post, I found “Dear Professor: I Hate You” in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Here, professors mention the cruel or strange comments they have received in evaluations from students. The article definitely compliments what I mention about my relationship with one nasty class.

Just thinking about that awful class in writing “Rubric’s Cube” brought back a lot of memories. I had a really cute and clever title and a great example of a horrendous experience that taught me to be better organized and put some time into my classes. With the adjunct lifestyle, this can be quite a challenge, but the customers, I mean students, can be merciless. They may not know if a professor is an adjunct or full-time. Even if they do, they may not care. I never did, but I treated my teachers with respect when I was in college. Now that I’m on the other side, I must keep in mind that not all students are like me.

Continue reading “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”

It’s Not Easy

It’s with a little difficulty that I weigh in on this issue. As someone who writes, creates art, and blogs, I am a strong believer in the freedom of speech. I have expressed my concerns and my fears regarding how my blog or any other form of online expression could be used against me. On my blog, I have a widget linking to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which serves to show that I support freedom of speech on the Internet, raise awareness of the issue, and hopefully get readers to support the EFF and other free speech organizations. However, the real test of supporting free speech comes with dealing with speech that isn’t pleasant or popular.

From an educator’s perspective, the news of someone “cyberbullying” their teacher and then filing a lawsuit following a suspension initially made me uncomfortable. Katherine Evans, a former high school AP Honors student, set up a Facebook vent group where she invited users to “to express” their “feelings of hatred” for Sarah Phelps, her English teacher. Having dealt with difficult students before, I can’t say I’m in love with what she did. However, I can empathize with her frustration and I do support her right to articulate her frustrations.

Whether she truly felt poweless against a teacher’s unprofessionalism or that she was frustrated that she may not have been learning the material, Evans does have the right to voice her grievances. Is what she did that much different from what students post on Rate My Professor? That forum is largely anonymous while the Facebook discussion was not.

When I was a graduate student, I had a mentor who treated me unprofessionally towards the end of our academic relationship. After the fallout, I was extremely alienated, hurt, and angry. My feeling that he did me an injustice was so strong that I wanted to tell everyone what a horrible human being he was. I found support with other grad students who hated him. I then did things I’m not completely proud of, such as submitting his surname as a vulgar slang word on Urban Dictionary and posting hateful comments about him on Rate My Professor. I’ve also written critical blog entries about him where I identified him as Professor Joseph K, which were mild compared to the other items. I’ve never doubted that Professor K could easily be identified or that the other items could come back to me. All I can hope for is that he does support my free speech rights, however uncomfortable my various postings can be for him.

On the flipside, I have worried that some posts I’ve done on some students could “bite me on the arse.” Here, if a student happened to access my blog and didn’t like my ventings about him or her, then they might try to get disciplinary action taken against me by the school administration. While such an expression may not be appropriate, stifling one’s voice is even more innapropriate whether it is Katherine Evans or Shinichi Evans. We may not be perfect, but we have a right to voice our opinons.

All of us have lived through an era where our government has pursued means to suppress our right to free speech, such as the PATRIOT Act. Apparently, dissent and critical opinions made Bu$h and company so uneasy that they pursued almost every means to silence people, including social sanctions. The Dixie Chicks can attest to that. Then, there are the people whose speech doesn’t sit well with a lot us, such as Fred Phelps. Of course, he and his sired church don’t care for most of us and our rights to speak out. However, to silence others because we don’t like them makes us no better than Bu$h or Phelps.

As for academic institutions who silence students or teachers, SHAME ON YOU!

Monkey

One of the joys I have returning to teaching this year is letting students take on incompletes. Actually, it’s not, but I somehow got into giving a student one at the end of a very short term summer course, the one that caused me to take marathon naps.

It was not my intention to enter into an incomplete agreement. With this student, I didn’t get all of her work, and I originally set out to assign a substandard grade. The grade gods must have been looking over her, because I wound up entering the grade as an “I” and I couldn’t change it, even with a grade change form. I could have pressed on, but it was difficult once she accessed her grades.

It’s also been difficult as she’s claimed to have e-mailed me the paper I never got. She has stuck to this claim and I’ve stuck to mine about never getting it. I have obsessively checked my e-mail many times for it. Recently, I have told her to print out the e-mails she sent me, attach it to a hard copy of the paper, and put it in the student drop section of the faculty mail room. For some reason, I never hear back from her after giving instructions like this, and I only get an e-mail when she has to deal with her college transcript.

Hopefully, she heeds my last e-mail and may the grade gods be with her.

Today, Chris went on this crusade against e-mail priority flags (a God-awful invention if I ever saw one) and I went on some mini-tangent about Office 2007, which I saw as another useless Microsoft invention (Zune is one of those things, but that’s another post altogether).

A lot of my frustration with Microsoft’s finest creation stems from my experience with the software during my first week of school. At the college in the desert/mountains, the composition classes have one hour of computer lab time and they’re in these brand new classrooms with state of the art PC’s. Last semester (before the new building was completed), my class met for their lab in the library, and those computers were polished white iMacs (circa 1999-2002, the cathode ray tube variety). All of my students (and yours truly) hated those antiquated devices (which were updated with Panther, but incredibly slow. The spinning rainbow wheel was a common occurrence). Even though I’m not a PC person, I feel the new computers are a vast improvement. Of course, they come equipped with Office 2007.

Since I teach English, I naturally have them use Microsoft Word for their in-lab writing assignments. I suspect all of them were familiar with some previous version of the word processsing program. Before my encounter with the new Word, my most recent experience was with Office 2004. Two weeks ago, I plunked Office 2008 into my new MacBook, but that did not prepare me for its PC-based sibling.

Unfamiliarity with the program didn’t make the lab an easy one, especially since I had students create writing samples during that first day.

The interface was the thing that confused all of us. Office’s website calls it “Fluent User Interface,” but it was a foreign language for all of us. Certain formatting features (new ones) are laid out in a way for the user to easily click on them to use, but this does very little good if you don’t need them right away. For some simpler functions, they weren’t so readily available like on the older versions. Mac’s Office 2008 retains this older interface and integrates it with the new interface. However, Office 2007 goes for something newer and flashier. It took one of my students to figure this out, and she told me to click the “medallion”* on the upper left hand corner and comes the functions to save, print, and some of the other basic ones we all love.

Once we all understood these things about Office 2007, things are easier. I’m sure there’s some more learning we will all do as the semester comes along. There are a few other computer issues I can think of, but that’s for another time. Sometime down the road, I should call the school’s IT department and arrange for someone to come to the lab as a guest speaker.

As I played around with Word 2007 today, I have to say it grew on me. One of the coolest features I discovered was that files can be published as blog entries. Strangely enough, this feature isn’t available in Mac’s Word 2008. Yes, I am eating some earlier words. Perhaps I’ll say more as I become more and more familiar with the program.

*my little term for the Microsoft crest that adorns the upper left hand corner of the Office 2007 program window.

The past few days…

I haven’t posted in a few days. It wasn’t due to having a boring week. There was one thing of note which I want to get into, and classes have been stressful, especially one. I’ve been backlogged on the term papers and another essay for this freshman composition class. A little more on that later. Plus, most of my holiday shopping is over.

I got to meet Chris this past Saturday. I actually had a very good time hanging out with him and showing him about town. As he mentioned in his post, it was finally nice to meet someone I’ve been corresponding with for the past few months. Actually, it’s been a good part of the year. He does have the same kind of biting wit that’s displayed in his blog, but he’s definitely a good guy. We had some good conversations as we got acquainted in real time.

Brian’s was diner where we ate and hung out for a while before heading to Sole Luna in Downtown for a couple of beers. Chris said it best about Brian’s being the gayest diner in San Diego and mentioning the P-Flag mom and her son walking in for dinner. Of course, Brian’s is also one of those gastronomically incorrect places, as many 1950’s styled diners are, and even the modern menu items aren’t good for your waistline. Not the place to be if you’re a skinny bitch on a diet.

Sole Luna
is near where I used to live in Downtown, so I still know many of the people in Cortez Hill. Chris got to meet a few including Karen, who stuck around for a bit and was actually good company.

The next time Chris is in town, I’ll have to take him to one of our several outlet malls if he has an afternoon free. I’m definitely game to seeing Austin in the future, especially to see if it lives up to its reputation as one of the weirdest cities in the US. Plus, I’ll definitely take up Chris’s offer to show me around town.

I’m in the midst of grading hell with the freshman compostion class. Somehow, I can’t seem to move fast enough when it comes to their papers. Most of them are done. They’re not great, but what can I expect from term papers. I take the first comment back. Some of them are very good, but others are not. The thing that gets me are that many of the papers don’t conform to MLA (Modern Language Association) style (despite having gone over it with the class and even giving them a handout of where to look in their reference books for what they need to do). For the future, I have to figure out how much of this problem is me and how I go over it, and how much they’re paying attention. Regarding this class, I never saw a pen move when I went over MLA style or anything else for that matter

I had the final class session with another class this morning. This one was at the school out in the mountains. I brought some coffee (Starbuck’s traveler) and some of my students brought some goodies. It was an informal wrap, and I felt really good about seeing this class off into the next semester. I’ll miss them for sure (can’t say the same for the other class, though I’ll be happy to see some of them on an individual basis).

I picked up some DVD’s this week. BSG’s Razor was released on DVD this Tuesday, and there are some additional scenes, but no healthy sex as I hoped. Maybe I’ll recap it later. Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet was released as a DVD some time ago, and all I can say is, “About time.”

I saw Project Runway last night and I’ll do my recap tomorrow. Culture clash and meltdown (easy to guess between who) in this episode.