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Monday, November 3, 2014

Sucked into YouTube

I  just spent way more time than I intended, trying to find good videos on YouTube for the subs to show to my classes next week while I'm at the conference. I'm not entirely thrilled with anything I found; interestingly enough, I was specifically looking for something short, pithy, and well-produced about the positive side of social media--and I couldn't find anything, which I find ironic, considering that I was searching YouTube, for heaven's sake. And yes, I'm aware of the reverse irony of videos condemning social media on YouTube--which isn't "social" media like FB, Twitter, Instagram (and so on) but still relies on cyber communication.

Mostly, however, I need to just pull the trigger, give the subs something to work with, and let them take it from there. I hate that when I'm subbing, so my apologies to my colleagues--but maybe they can make something fly.

Interesting day today. I started with an observation (a good class taught by a fine colleague--and I envy her the particular batch of students, who seemed to be predominantly pretty smart and prepared), then went to Advisement--and should have explained that I only had five minutes left of my shift but ended up with a student who, of course, needed more time and hand-holding than I could expend. I offered to take her to someone else so she could get the rest of her questions answered, but she said she was OK. I have my doubts, given the questions she was asking, but as it was, I was late to meet with the observed colleague and even later to get to my office hour.

And I knew I had a student waiting: she'd written to me last night to say she was coming--and she actually was there, waiting. We had a great talk, and she left feeling much more confident, not only about what to do with her paper but also why she was struggling in the first place. I got it out of her, instead of handing it to her. She said she's done research papers before, but I explained that research can be used all kinds of ways: it can be used simply to provide information or it can be used to support an argument. I asked her, "Have you ever done an argument essay like this before?" No. OK, so why are you struggling?

I hope I remember this when I get ready to teach 101 again: I need to clarify to the students that what they're going to do isn't just a "research paper": it's something more challenging. I do say that in the little blurb at the beginning of the syllabus, but they need to be reminded, often, that the point isn't the research: the point is to have something to say that you can defend with evidence.

That makes me think about the paper I got from the rather arrogant young woman who doesn't believe that I can possibly teach her anything about writing that she doesn't know. I was very diplomatic in my comments, along the lines of "I know this isn't at a stage you would normally show a professor, and you may already have a very clear sense of what's needed," blah blah blah, but honestly, the paper is unmitigated dreck. No thesis, huge generalizations, talking out her ass in a manifest absence of any actual knowledge, no organization--and absolutely no support from anything anywhere. Even as a "draft," I think it's substandard. But no, she already knows how to write a college-level paper, because her high school teachers had been professors at Harvard. (Uh, sure; I'll buy that. But even if that's so, that speaks to their education, not what they were teaching you.)

I have some sympathy for Little Miss Arrogance--because if I had been required to take a freshman comp course, I would have been equally arrogant and certain of my abilities. Even completely untaught, I was a better writer than LMA, but still, I could certainly have learned something from a good course taught by a quality instructor, though I would never have believed it at the time. Well, she'll either learn something or she won't--but if she thinks she's going to get a decent grade from the class, she'd better think again, because right now, she'll be lucky to make a C, if I'm very forgiving about missed work.

I probably need to ask her to meet with me. And to leave the door open when she does, so there are witnesses. I'm not sure I can get through to her, but I want to try--mostly because I do sympathize, having been an arrogant little shit myself. (Some might argue that I still am: perhaps not so little any more, but the arrogant shit part.)

But I'd prefer to think about the young woman who came to see me. I think I mentioned her last week: I've not written much about her, because she's mostly pretty quiet, but she's earnest, she cares, she's intelligent, and I'd be ecstatic to have classrooms full of students just like her. She said she'd write something about today's epiphany. I told her it would surely benefit other students to hear her talk about what she figured out, how it's changed her way of looking at the work, and even though she's very quiet in class, generally, she said that as small as the class is now, she'd feel comfortable sharing her experience. She mentioned that she might write something up--and I pounced on that. Do, I said, and I'll send it to my office mate, Prof. Rosa, for possible inclusion in his book. I hope she does.

The Fiction Writing class was great today. I'm not sure quite what made it work so well--partly that we started out talking about the disappointing "master class" of last week, I think, but mostly that they have completely bought into the process of the class, what we're doing, and the value of it all. We had a discussion about what "show, don't tell" actually means. The Brit said that he felt that often "tell" is a good strategy, as having a character tell something in dialog is beneficial--and I said, "Ah, but that's actually 'show.'" We're all--myself included--going to look through our work to find passages where we feel we engage in too much tell, not enough show, or, conversely, where we feel we do a particularly good job of show rather than tell. It will be interesting to see how that flies on Wednesday.

Now, however, I truly need to just get out of here. Since I spent so long on YouTube, I didn't get anything else of value done. (Had another difficult "conversation" with my autism-spectrum conversation partner, but that's about it.) So, I'm calling up the Scarlett O'Hara mantra yet again. I'm so glad that tomorrow is another day, not just more of today.


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