Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Focusing on the positive

I started student conferences yesterday.  The rough draft for their first paper is due Friday, with the final paper due next Friday.  The first paper is a rhetorical analysis of a print ad--I like it as an exercise in analysis.  So far, it's been quite a motley assortment.  In class, I handed back the paper proposals and went over a few common issues I saw with them--one of which was a tendency with a few students to want to write some big sprawling paper on the history of gender roles in advertising, or do research, or write about an issue the ad brings up, but not about the ad itself.

My last conference of the day yesterday was like that--a real go-getter student, even after I'd talked about this in class, and noted on his paper proposal that the assignment is for an analysis of his ad, and not on the effects of materialism on divorce rates, he sat down in my office and said, "Let me tell you about the paper I'm going to write," and then proceeded to talk about his feelings on the effects of materialism on divorce rates.  I explained again what this paper's focus should be, and explained my reasoning behind the arc of assignments in the course.  I suggested that his larger interest might be something to keep in mind for the larger research project which we'll begin after this paper.  He expressed understanding, but seemed less than excited about this assignment, which I got the impression he seems to think is beneath him.

Oh well. I intend to focus on the positive.  Another student I met with yesterday emailed today, asking if she could meet with me again before Friday and have me look over her rough draft.  That makes me feel hopeful, that there are students in the class who are working.

Still, I'm a bit annoyed that I waited until this semester to ask to have my teaching evaluated.  I have a date now--March 9--which may be the same lesson plan I did when I was taped for evaluation purposes at UT.  Fingers crossed that by that point, the class will have gelled a bit more.  If they don't, though, I'm a bit torn whether I should warn the evaluator before the class period about the class.  I have a good reputation as a teacher now; I wonder if, when I confirm the date a week or so before the class period, if I should note that it's not the most engaged class I've ever taught, partly because there are a couple of large cliques of friends in the class.  I plan on addressing that this week by having them count off on Friday and randomly assigning partners for the rough draft workshop, rather than having them pick their partners.

And in other good news, I sent out the semester's calendar of events for the WGS Graduate Student Organization (WGSGO) to the list of DGSs I had one of the student workers in WGS put together for me.  My hope was to reach some departments which are underrepresented in WGS--as much as it's nice to have English dominate, it would be nice to get some fresh perspectives (one thing which was quite beneficial when I did my independent study, required for a WGS minor, with a sociology professor).  I've already heard from one graduate student in kinesiology, which I'm quite happy about. 

This weekend is the WGS retreat, which I'm looking forward to a lot.  I had such a good time at last years'--although, I will have a bunch of rough drafts to grade while I'm there.  Last year, I had a bunch of Flannery O'Connor to read, which was highlighted by the noisy peacocks which roam about the retreat location. 

And my Letter Writing Month commitments continue--it's been a really wonderful practice in gratitude. And, yesterday I got a lovely note from Mary Robinette Kowal, the fabulous author who came up with the program in the first place.

Positive!  Happy thoughts!
(which I need, as I now resume my viewing of Birth of a Nation for the class I'm auditing. If only MST-3K had done a version...)

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