Friday, January 18, 2013

Happy first week of school!

One week down, and a lovely week it's been.  It certainly helps that general exams are behind me, I'm not enrolled in any courses, and I'm teaching Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies, a class which I loved the first time I taught it.  This semester--at least the first week--promises to be just as enjoyable.

This semester I've had the course certified as Communication-Intensive, with verbal and written modules.  I didn't really have to change much from the first time I taught it--I already comment on student drafts, and they do plenty of writing in class, and they have group presentations.  To fulfill the requirements, I've added individual presentations, and a "drafting" process to the group presentations, which will require students to film their presentations ahead of time, and submit them to me for feedback before their final presentation.  This is the first time I've had students record themselves--it'll be good for them (as well as me!) to become more comfortable with such technology.  I'm looking forward to seeing how feedback affects final presentations.  It certainly has an effect on written communication.

And class so far!  Though the roster continues to be in flux (there are three people who have yet to show, though we've had three class meetings, and I've got at least one still on the waitlist), both Wednesday and today I've had some great participation.  Discussions are so interesting in WGS courses--and though I feel a bit guilty saying so (because I really am committed to the importance of teaching composition (so much so that I try to incorporate a lot of it into my other courses)), it was such a breath of fresh air to be in this class last week, after so many comp courses.  A big part of it must be the self-selection of the students--even though many of them take it because they need the humanities credit, there are other courses they could have chosen.  And unlike the previous sections I've taught, this semester I have quite a few young men (before, I had two per class, tops), and they've been contributing to class discussion quite a bit.

We started this week with a short unit on privilege, as a way of emphasizing the idea of intersectional analysis that I try to emphasize throughout the class.  We start by reading Peggy McIntosh's class Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack and John Scalzi's Things I Don't Have to Think About Today.  I really love using Scalzi's work in the classroom--I've used his Being Poor before, too, quite successfully.  I really like both of them, as they really emphasize the invisibility of privilege, and how--contrary to what the word "privilege" makes it sound like--it refers to unearned privileges.  On Wednesday, I started class with some basic vocabulary, including words like "ideology" and "institutions."  After some discussion about the Scalzi piece, I asked what this idea of privilege had to do with the vocab I'd given them earlier--and I got some really astute answers!  Yay, students!

Today, class started with the first individual presentation, which was on the McIntosh piece.  Again, pride in students.  Good presentation, good student responses, interesting ideas.  It occurred to me that that is so often what's missing in my comp classes: interesting ideas.  I think there must be ways to make the subject of conversation in composition more interesting, but I just haven't found that many yet.  It occurred to me today that I could probably kick off comp classes with this unit, with a focus on privilege, and how different modes of writing are related to reinforcement of privilege.

So, next week: historical background!  When I first was planning this class, it was so had not to just make the whole class about first wave feminism.  There are so many fascinating women to learn about!  I'm surprised that there hasn't been a film about Victoria Woodhull alone--she's fascinating.

And now, a three day weekend for a reward.

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