The Summer of Sims and Prelims

Last summer during lockdown, I played Sims for the first time. And me being me, I quickly became obsessed. By the end of summer, I had bought all but 3 of the packs. (I don’t have My First Pet, Kids Room, or Toddler).

Over the past year, Sims has been my way of relaxing and escaping from academic stuff. Building and creating are my favorite parts of the game. I’ve been uploading my houses and such into the gallery for other people to download. If you play and are interested in seeing what I create, my username is GingerSnap425. Look me up, follow me, download my shit! (haha!)

Screnshot of my Sims account, GingerSnap425

This summer is the summer of prelim exams for my cohort. Before I can start dissertating, I have to pass a prelim exam of 3 questions from my dissertation committee; one in pedagogy, one in theory, and one in history. There are a total of 70 readings to prepare for the exam; 52 on a general list, and 18 that I added. I’ve read some of them already in classes over the past 2 years, so I just have to gather the notes and annotations I already have for those. And, let’s be honest here, I have no intention of reading Phaedrus again. (Sorry, not sorry, Plato).

I get 3 days to answer the questions, and it’s open book. Right now, I’m planning on taking mine August 27-30. Doesn’t seem too difficult, right? Hahahaha! At least it’s not like the bar exam. That’s what they’re telling me, anyway.

So, as I’m reading and annotating and reading some more, I will be building and creating in Sims to relax from it all. It’s something completely mindless which is what I’ll need. I remember when I was studying for the bar exam way back when, and I would watch the MTV reality show “Sorority Life” for the same reason. Remember that show? It was gloriously awful as most reality tv is. Doing something that takes no brain power is a must when your work consists of nothing but brain power.

And I think I’ll be writing posts about my adventures in Sims. I’m not entirely sure what to write about yet, but here are a few thoughts:

  • write about each of the packs I have, and my favorite/least favorite parts of the pack
  • build a house using only the base game and one pack (this is very difficult for me)
  • have people give me building/character creation challenges to complete

If there is anything you want to see or read about, or if you want to give me a building/creation challenge, go for it! I’ll do my best to create it, and then I’ll write all about it here!

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 10.16.2019

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 09.05.2019

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.