Summer Term 15: Overview

This past term, Summer 15, has gone by very quickly. Although there is much to report, I don't think I can do it all in one post. Frankly, there is too much distracting me. There have been too many things distracting me, and it's rather a lot to bring in in a single post. So I'm not even going to try. Instead, I'd like to identify some pieces of the assemblage that have been making up my world lately.

Using Facebook for class: for one of my classes, we had Facebook as the site for interaction, questions, posting, etc. It worked pretty well, except when it came to locating individual students' work. That was a bear. And as many students indicated, it was at first confusing or disorienting to use FB for a CMS when it was not intended that way. I do plan to use FB for classes in the future, but I need to modify how it is used. Overall, though, I was quite surprised how well it went. I do like how more interaction seemed fostered there, on FB, than in forums.

Using Tumblr for class: in this same class we used Tumblr. I'm not sure I did a very articulate or good job in framing how we could or use Tumblr, so it seemed like an add on. Perhaps this was due to my limited experience working with Tumblr; perhaps it had to do with the rush in shaping the course. Either way, I need to revisit how I frame using Tumblr as a site for students to gather their artifacts and share them.

Using Twitter for class: this went pretty well, and most students gathered; speed quickly enough. Next time, though, I plan to push more on them picking up and using a Twitter client, like TweetDeck, earlier. These clients make it easier to track conversations, search, following hashtags, etc. Need to put that near the start of class.

Self-evaluations: I have never relied as heavily, or given as much weight to, the self-evaluations as I did for one class this term. Honestly, I was expecting a few potential problems with students grading themselves too highly. That did not happen. There were a few people who marked themselves too low, and I boosted their grades up. But overall, they scored themselves as I would have scored them--including the people who scored themselves lower for their work (or lack of work). I have to say that I was pretty stunned.

Given this experience, I'm looking at trying out grading contracts, potentially, next term as well as moving the self-evaluation piece into more of my classes. This one class has not only given me the confidence to do it, but it's also really helped frame other grading approaches for me. So I am very excited about that.

Reading what I want when I want: I'm not feeling as guilty about what I read, or don't read, these days. As long as I am reading and not watching movies or TV, then things are fine. I'm also getting more used to being okay with reading a chapter or chunk of pages and leaving the rest of the text. I don't have to complete things any more. And I'm better with that than I used to be.

Not fronting: Like a lot of folks, when I feel bothered or insecure, when someone I perceive as a dolt or pest bothers me, it can get my ire up. And, of course, feeling righteous, I'd like to put them in their place. Or at least enforce my being perceived as superior. Not nice or proper I know, but I'm being honest here. And when that happens, it's easy to shift from staying on solid ground to fronting. And I'm tired of fronting because, the moment I do it, it enhances my insecurity and feeds fear. What if they find out?

So I'm working on not fronting as much.

Hand in hand with not fronting is not being a tool. I'm not really sure how to say that in academic language, but I feel quite sure that the embodied caveatness of academic writing does not allow for such forward statements. I may well be wrong. If you have suggestions for better phrasing, do let me know in the comments. Sadly, I can only think of more coarse versions of not being a tool. I'm guessing that it's a blend of my limited imagination and my really wanting to echo and have the tone which that phrase carries with it.

This goal, this process, has been central in my experience for a number of years now. And yet, in spite of all my efforts, I still find myself doing and being a tool when, in all honesty, I'd rather not be. Most times. I can think of a handful of incidents when I probably should have been more of a tool. That said, I don't see this as limited to work or being this summer. Instead, given all the other stuff that was going on, it's been on my mind.

Central to my world was the closure of the trial of my step-son's murderer. The man was found guilty of murder, second degree. Sentencing happens in late August. After three years of waiting, we're finally there. The trial, the after effects, and the waiting of dredged up a maelstrom of emotions--much of which I've written about elsewhere and may post here eventually. This series of events, and the impact that it's had on my life, has permanently and irrevocably altered who and what I am, how I perceive teaching, and how I respond to others. It's permanently shifted my priorities. Hopefully you are thinking, "Well, of course it would."

And again, I will respond, intellectually it is easy to frame and understand such things. In terms of living and experiencing it, feeling it, it can seem like quite a shock. A shock because no matter where we are, it almost always seems as if we are right at home. And to shift, well, often feels unnatural even though intellectually it makes sense.

My final factor, for here at least, is FYC. I've been thinking a lot about first-year composition and how I miss teaching it. Not sure what will happen, but part of me would love to get back to teaching that. Yes!