Teacher’s Log – Scholastic date 11.21.2019

I’ve realized while completing these projects, breaking them down into manageable sections will be what’s best, especially the annotated bibliography.

My plan is to have a library day where library staff show them how to use the databases. Then, they will have to bring in 2-3 annotations a week to workshop them in class. My hope is to avoid too much procrastination on their part, as well.

I would also like to incorporate the poster presentation in some way. It helped me get a better grasp on what I was researching and also helped me to appreciate it a lot more. At first, I didn’t think I would be interested in pursuing more research or other projects based on what my topic ended up being. But after seeing the results of the survey and putting all the results into a poster made me very excited about a lot of other possibilities with it. I think it would be very beneficial to have my students do the same. They may discover a new interest or area of study to pursue.

Teacher’s Log – Scholastic date 11.07.2019

The discourse communities project went as well as expected. As typical, there are a group of students who have continued to take risks with their writing and have fully embraced the idea of writing isn’t limited to essays. I saw genres of news articles, informational pamphlets, emails, and Instagram posts. And there is another group of students who are doing the bare minimum. This is the group that I always feel I failed in some way. I know it’s probably not true, and the reality is that not every student is going to be as excited about writing as I am. But, I can’t help but feel as if I failed to reach them in some way.

While teaching, I’ve also been working on the projects my students will be doing next semester. Writing a critical incident analysis, creating a research question and a survey to test that question, writing a proposal, and lastly, creating a poster presentation of all of my work. These projects have been very interesting. I researched the link between writing anxiety, self-efficacy, procrastination, and microagressions of a patriarchal society. Procrastination is of interest to me, especially. As you can see, even though all of my blog posts have been written in class; guess who procrastinated in actually posting them?

You think I would’ve learned something in preventing that in all of this research. But, alas, I have not. What I did learn is that first-year writing students have A LOT of writing anxiety, and it contributes greatly to procrastination. I also learned that while those who identified as women didn’t believe they had been made to feel inferior due to their gender; many of them still heard microaggressions from men. These included statements that began with “what you should’ve done…” or “what I would’ve done…”

Now obviously, my sample size of 36 isn’t exactly representative of all first-year writing students, but it does create many questions for future study. Whether or not I will complete those futures studies remains to be seen. But, it would be very interesting to learn more about nonetheless.

Teacher’s Log – Scholastic date 10.31.2019

At this point in the semester, my students have completed the literacy narrative and rhetorical remix. I have to say, I’m happy with their work so far. The majority of the students are still engaged and completed assignments on time. They took risks with their remixes and did very well with them. However, there is a small number of students who either did not turn in the final draft or did very little revisions. Some of them didn’t even complete a remix of the prior writing. Their reflection was written expressing all of the things they would want to change, but they didn’t go and actually change them. I don’t know if this was due to confusion about the assignment, mid-term stress, not wanting to do it, or a combination of all of those.

My hope is the discourse community project will spark some interest because it won’t involve looking at their past work.

Teacher’s Log – Supplemental

I can’t believe I forgot about the Doctor Who activity I had my students do!

On the last day before rough drafts were due, we watched the Doctor Who episode, “Midnight.” For those not familiar with the episode, it’s from season 4, episode 11. Amazon Prime’s description of it is…

The Doctor is trapped, alone, powerless and terrified, on the leisure planet Midnight. Soon, the knocking on the wall begins. Only a woman called Sky seems to know the truth – but as paranoia turns into a witch-hunt, Sky turns the Doctor’s greatest strengths against him, and a sacrifice must be made.

-Amazon Prime https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B00C104Y54/ref=atv_tv_hom_1_c_Nw77I8_2_1

It’s a bit of a spooky episode which is perfect for right before Halloween!

At a certain point in the episode (right after he asks “Could you really murder someone? Or are you better than that?”), I stop the video. Students must then decide if they would side with the Doctor, or throw the woman out of train. I give them 5 minutes to write a post to me, telling me their decision, and the reasons for that decision.

After their decisions are made and submitted, we finish watching the rest of the episode. The first question I asked when the show finished was “Would it have made a difference if I had added the constraint that your decision would have been on a discussion thread where everyone else in the class would’ve seen it?” They overwhelmingly said yes!

We spent the rest of the class time discussing all of the rhetorical moves made throughout the episode (there are a lot!). It’s always a fun way to end the first part of the unit.

Teacher’s Log – Scholastic date 10.16.2019

I started the rhetorical analysis unit a couple of weeks ago. It’s my favorite to teach. I mean, it makes sense because that is what I’m getting my PhD in, after all. I wanted to wait to post in my journal though until before rough drafts were due so that I could reflect on the first part of the unit as a whole. This is going to be a long one!

I started the unit by discussing exigence, Kairos, and audience/constraints. I had them read about and define the terms prior to our class discussion. I use an activity that I love that I call “The Situation.” My students in the past have always had fun with. I put them in the situation that while driving to their mid-term biology exam they are texting their friend, run a red light, and get in a car crash while driving their grandma’s car. No one is hurt, but both vehicles are towed away, they are cited for the accident, and they miss their mid-term. They then have to create an email to their professor asking for a chance to re-take the mid-term (knowing their professor is old and cranky and probably won’t allow it). They also have to create a text message to the friend they were texting at the time of the accident and ask for a ride. Lastly, they create a script of what they are going to say to Grandma when they Facetime her after they get home. I have them do this as a discussion post, so everyone can see each other’s writing. We then read through them as a class, discussing exigence, Kairos, and audience along the way.

This is always a fun way for them to realize the rhetorical situations they find themselves in on a day-to-day basis. It’s also a cool way to show how audience affects rhetorical choices.

The next class, we looked at the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos. After a short lecture/discussion, I had 5 stations set up around the room (I’m in a huge computer lab and have been really wanting to use the space to my advantage). At each station, I had different types of advertisements. Station 1 was a video Snickers ad with Betty White from a past Super Bowl; Station 2 was two activism ads (one from Moms Demand Action, the other from the ACLU); Station 3 was 2 cigarette ads from the 1930s; Station 4 was a political ad from a local primary election in Toledo; and Station 5 was a movie poster from the film Titanic. The students were in groups and had to work together to find one example each of logos, pathos, and ethos at each station. Afterward, they wrote their results on the whiteboards. This activity went long, so we ended up having to save the discussion for the next class. At first, I was happy about it because it gave me more time to review everything they had found. But the next class was a Tuesday, so there was a long break between the activity itself and discussion of it. That was not so great because many of them forgot or weren’t as excited about it after 5 days. Next time, I would either only have 4 stations, or limit the time they spend at each station, so we could cover it all in one class.

We then moved on to style, arrangement, and delivery. There was a short lecture, then I had them go back to their car accident discussion board and do 2 things. First, comment on their own post about how they used ethos, pathos, and logos in their email, text, and Facetime with Grandma. Second, discuss how aspects like appeals, style, and arrangement might change if the delivery method was different for each person. What if it had to be a phone call to the professor? What if they had to send an email to Grandma?

After this, they had time to brainstorm about their own project. I am having them do a rhetorical remix. They need to find a prior piece of writing, analyze it rhetorically, then pick at least 2 major aspects and remix them. After the remix, they are to write a reflection about what they remixed, why, how, etc.

As always, I wondered if my students were understanding the concepts of this unit. I would often get blank stares or a few head nods in response to what we discussed. But after reading what they wrote in their brainstorming session, I was so happy! Not only were they understanding the concepts, they came up with such unique and interesting ways to remix their old writing! Most are taking some piece of prior academic writing, but turning it into videos, presentations, social media posts, poems, short stories, so many creative things! I’m so excited to see the finished pieces!

Teacher’s Log – Scholastic date 09.25.2019

Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep. Nothing new. It takes a while for my brain to calm down enough to realize, ‘hey, it’s sleepy time now’. I was laying there trying to figure out why I keep clenching my jaw and grinding my teeth. Yes, I’m under stress right now, but I’ve been under more stress in the past, and I never clenched my jaw to the point my molars are begging me to stop! I love my classes I’m taking; I love the class I’m teaching. Why do I have I had this perpetual tense feeling?

So, I did a bit self-reflection because 1:00 am is the perfect time for it; and I kind of had an epiphany.

I spent more than a decade in a highly adversarial environment. Being a bankruptcy attorney in the Eastern District of Michigan is no walk in the park. It’s an immeasurable amount of stress on a daily basis.

From there, I became a college instructor. So much less stress every day, but where I was teaching had an adversarial vibe. There was not much in the way of collaboration (it was virtually non-existent), and there was a divide between full-timers and adjuncts. I think a lot of people liked to pretend it wasn’t there, but it was. So, even though there was less stress, there was still a fair amount of tension.

Then, I started this PhD program, and it’s all about collaboration, and let’s help each other through this, and professors who say they see me as a colleague. And this is so amazing! So again, why am I so bloody tense all the time?!?!

What I figured out is that I’ve put up a deflector shield. And this deflector shield is trying to protect me from potential adversary. I know people aren’t trying to trick me into believing they’ll help only to have them say “Sike! Fooled you!” but, I still feel this need to be on guard.

Now that I know this is an issue, the goal will be to try to lower that shield and no longer be on Red Alert.

Teacher’s Log – Scholastic date 09.24.2019

I’ve realized today that when I finish attending a class, I’m all geeked up about what was discussed or covered. Then when I get back to my office, I only want to work on that stuff!

Today was a workshop with James Schirmer (who was teaching a first-year writing course when the Flint water crisis broke). I already had ideas for how to incorporate the Common Read (What the Eyes Don’t See) into the curriculum, and I have even more now. So, all I want to do is work on the assignments and activities for my WRIT 1110 course, but I have so much other stuff I need to do first. This does not help with my procrastination!

Dean Winchester saying awesome sarcastically
The struggle to find balance continues…

Teacher’s Log – Scholastic date 09.18.2019

This seemed like a more laid-back week. Peer review and conferences with my students. Less reading for my own classes for next week. I was even able to get to the gym today and run 6.2 miles! Dare I tempt fate and say that I feel like I found a balance this week?

I might be pushing it with that. After all, I still have a lot to do. Those WRIT Journal submissions aren’t going to review themselves. But overall, I didn’t feel as stressed this week as the first few weeks. Conferences went well with my students. I also had them do an anonymous survey. Most of them hated writing at the beginning of the semester. The consensus on the survey is that they are liking my class, and writing may not be so bad after all. Many of them are so happy to not have to write in the 5 paragraph model anymore. I’m so happy to not have to grade it! Most of them said they wanted to play it safe with the first project and just write it as an essay. I get that. They want to get their feet wet first before jumping straight in to a new way of writing. But, a few were excited to explore new ways of writing. One wrote a song, one is doing Instagram posts, another is making a video. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the semester to see how many of the others will start to branch out.

Teacher’s Log – Scholastic date 09.13.2019

What is even happening at this point? My mind is a whirlwind of trying to make the rest of the schedule for my class and trying to keep up with my own work. This is basically me right now. I can’t even think of anything constructive to say.

Teacher’s Log – Scholastic date 09.05.2019

Ok. Settling in. I introduced the first project in my composition class. A literacy narrative. I was very excited to tell them that they did not have to write this project in that awful 5 paragraph essay kind of way. I gave them examples of all the different ways they could tell their literacy story. I fear they may have been overwhelmed by this because many of them are still choosing to write it as an essay, instead of making a video or a series of Instagram pictures. This is fine, of course. I can understand they will want to stick with what they know.

They responded well to building their own rubric for this first project. They were pretty quiet up until that point, though, which is always a worry. Are they getting it? Is this stuff sinking in? Are they just tired because class is at the butt crack of dawn?

I had them “grade” the sample literacy narratives using the rubric they came up with, and they ripped those things apart! I heard things like “this isn’t organized very well” and “she spelled some words wrong; we should take points off for that.” I’m still floored that they wanted spelling weighted so heavily on their own projects. Next week, they learn how to peer review each other’s work. I don’t think they’ll be so brutal with each other, though. It’s so much easier to rip someone’s writing to shreds when that person isn’t going to be sitting next to you for the next 12 weeks.