After hearing some of my colleagues complain about poor annotated bibliographies, I decided I would make one of our class meetings a conference day in order to see how my class was fairing. I set up times to meet everyone on Friday, Monday, and Tuesday, but then I realized that I had a graduate student meeting on Friday…

Then I realized that I had a DMV appointment on Monday…

I ended up sending out a mass e-mailing letting my students know that I was not going to be able to meet with them, but I told them that they could, if they wanted, e-mail me rough drafts and that we would do conferences through e-mail. I received a handful of rough drafts and another handful of students came to my office hours, and it seems there has been a bit of confusion.

I would like to think, after reading the last student who walked out of here with an amazing rough drafts, that the problem does not lay with me but with my student’s slackness and resistance to read something more than once. The summaries have highlighted how little the students comprehend, but this is a writing class, so I am trying, as best I can, to not worry so much about the reading comprehension (HOW COULD I NOT WORRY?) and instead focus on the writing, which isn’t stellar.

I am constantly in awe of teachers that seem to have it all together. I never feel like I have anything together. And after spending an entire class going over summary and paraphrase, these summaries have been awful. I just don’t know what it is (how it is) i am supposed to teach. I think maybe I should be more animated, but there has got to be a way for me to teach, in my own morose, sarcastic, dark humor style, and still reach students.

I struggle to find my teaching persona….

What really worries me is how awful the essays are going to be of the students who didn’t bother contacting me about the rough drafts. I think I am going to have to get meaner before I can become nicer. I’ll see how it goes.

On Thursday we start the expository essay, which will be turned in on Tuesday, and then we are starting a new project (historiography of ads) on Tuesday. I think I am going to start each class and end each class with 5 to 15 minutes of writing from now on. This will be my mini reading quiz and a way to get the students to think about the essays they are about to write. I got to come up with some relevant writing prompts.

School is getting hectic. I want to try to get ahead, so that later I don’t constantly have to be catching up. With a conference in October, and much of the big stuff due in November, and with sooo much reading and annotating and all that stuff I got to do, I really need to get moving.

Today, I had the class present the articles for the annotated bibliography. Some of the groups went better than other, which might just be because some of the essays were easier than others.

I got to brainstorm some ways to make the group project better. I think that next time, each group with bring me a tentative outline, so that I can make sure they are all on teh right track. Also, next time, each group will have to give a powerpoint and will have to bring a handout. This way I can assure that each group is hitting what they need to in these presentations.

I am just playing catch up now, though; I still got to grade some stuff, and I totally forgot to make copies of my peer review sheet. Maybe I can use that overhead projector thing-y in the classrooms.

I have been starting class by asking the students if they have any questions or concerns that need to be addressed. So far, there hasn’t been much. I wanted to show the students that they evaluate things everyday, so I started class off by having them free-write about their favorite movie, song, or book. I told them that they had to explain WHY it is this thing was their favorite. After about 5 minutes, I had the students write for 5 minutes about the thing they hate and why. Once that was over, I told them to exchange papers and to evaluate the claims made.

I told them that liking a song because the singer was good looking was not a valid reason, so that it was their job to look out for this kind of faulty reasoning. I tried to lead this into a discussion, but no one was talking. It was pretty awful actually. I think this will work if it is tweaked, so I am going to have to contemplate a way to inspire more class engagement.

My first class does a little better with discussion; the students in that class seem to be a little more on the ball and little more self motivated (which reminds me, I should outline for both the classes what should go in the summary).

Afterwards, I put on the projector two news articles dealing with Obama’s speech about the end of the war in Iraq. One was from Fox news the other was from The New York Times, so both had very subtle ideological language. My first class (which, I know, I just said seems to be more on the ball, got it wrong). I pointed out (to both classes) the little turn of phrases and wording, style, quotes used to show the class how these things can give you insight to a writer’s angle of vision. I think they got it. I hope they got it.

I then briefly discussed MLA formatting, reviewed, again, what this annotated bibliography consists of, and showed them some web-page, like easybib.com. I had an issue where some of the gourps couldn’t find the article they were assigned, so I had to reassign some of the articles. (I need to read these articles).

This left about 15 minutes in one class, 20 minutes in another, for group work. I walked around to the different groups and listened in to what was going on asking if anyone needed help. Over all not a bad class.

My own classes are suffering, and I realized that I was behind in my readings– especially when 20 minutes before class, as I was going to get coffee, I ran into a classmate reading an article. When I asked her what she was reading, she told me it was for class. Well, I had enough time to print up the article but couldn’t read it, which didn’t matter because we didn’t even really discuss it. Then in class, I managed to BS my way through class eventhough, I only read about half of the book.

I’m off to read read read…

Not much to reflect on today. I went over the basic skill the students will need in order to complete thier first assignment: Annotated bibliography.

I started the class off by asking if anyone had any questions or any announcements they wanted to share. Both my classes seem to still be a little shy, so no one really spoke. I told them that I wanted to talk about the writing center. I briefly told them about the center–its location, what they do, how I plan on using the writing center myself because it is always a good idea to get someone to look over your work. I told them that I would give them extra credit for going to the writing center and getting that extra help on their essays.

In terms of what we did in class: I prepared a short power-point presentation on the skill needed to complete this assignment. Th epower point hit on some key skills that the students are going to have to work on, and then I added links to web-sites that will hopefully be helpful in developing those key skills.

I outlined what (and when to use) summary, paraphrase, and direct quotations. It was a lecture heavy class, so I think having the power point helps keep them focused rather than me just standing up there talking at them.

I went over, step by step, in class with them, how to find the resources they are going to be using and how to use the library home page to find those sources easily. Once we discussed all that, and I made them repeat several times everything we had just gone over, I then broke them off into groups. Stealing an activity from my mentor, I am having each group present on one article that the class is going to have to annotate. This way, hopefully, I can see if they are focusing on the right main points within the article, it gives them that ‘oral presentation’ component of their grade, and it is an easy way for me to review all of the articles without killing myself (since, oh yeah… I have stuff I GOT TO DO, too).

I told the class that they are going to be teaching their classmates the article. I informed them that they should have a powerpoint presentation and handouts and that they need to talk for 8 to 10 minutes, but that other than that, the presentation is up to them.

I have used this vague ‘give a presentation to the class’ instruction before, and nine times out of ten, the students really rise to the occassion. I think when they are worried about a grade, worried about pulling their own weight, and when they know that they have to present material to the class, most students actually do care and do a great job. I preface this with informing them that employers want employees that are good communicators, good writers, that can work in a group dynamic well, and that can present information in a clear, concise fashion, so hopefully, they understand the importance of the assignment.

We’ll see how it goes.

David Bartholomae raises some interesting points in “Inventing the University” that I find both intriguing and problematic. Basically, a student is aware that there is an academic discourse, and students “…have to learn to write what I would write or to offer up some approximation of that discourse” (8). Problems arise when the student tries to be an expert while knowing that the teacher does know more than the student, “The student, in effect, has to assume privilege without having any” (11). Students are forced to poorly mimic the instructors imposed discourse.

Through a series of examples, Bartholomae points out how the successful student is one that can claim some form of “insider” knowledge which places the student within a discourse, but leaves the student the ability to challenge the “naive” common knowledge of that discourse, “The writer continually audits and pushes against a language that would rather render him ‘like everyone else’ and mimics the language and interpretive systems of the privilege community. Bartholomae ends by stressing how eventually these student writers will be able to, hopefully, “take on the role of the privilege[d]” discourse. While I realize this to be important and while this is what I do in my classroom (tell my students that they are entering into an academic discourse, and to not worry so much if they don’t really understand what that means or how to maneuver within this discourse because they eventually will “get it”), I wonder about the students who just want a better job and don’t want to join an academic discourse community.

Especially after reading this critical piece on Bartholomae’s essay: http://www.jacweb.org/Archived_volumes/Text_articles/V11_I2_Boyd.htm.

I am also always concerned with being someone who promotes the current dominant structures of our culture that since I am so entrenched, I can’t see a better way out: http://www.cla.purdue.edu/academic/engl/theory/marxism/modules/althusserISAsmainframe.html