Well, I’m at that time in the semester where I’ve decided that I don’t know how to teach, I’m messing my students up and I’ve done everything wrong. In my decade of teaching, I’ve never had a semester where I didn’t feel this way at this point, so that’s a good thing to remember. I got some fairly amazing papers for the Beyonce assignment (which I didn’t teach particularly well, for reasons I’ll describe later) but nobody remembered how to cite or really quote properly. This is probably because citation is approximately the least interesting thing in the world to me– I’m more focused on the students’ ideas (also their interaction with other ideas, yes) but I am still somewhat nervous about it, especially since my class getting assessed at the college-wide (or even CUNY-wide?) level, which I’m not really in the mood for, as I’m just figuring things out.
Here is where the Beyonce assignment fell a bit short: there were too many options. Honestly, I should’ve said: essay or video essay. There are plenty of genres to choose from with those limitations, but I kind of said “hey man, you can do anything.” In this case, I had students drawing pictures and writing about them. This COULD have been fine, but the students who chose to do that did not pay much attention to the explanation of what an artist statement is– that is, many of them didn’t refer to their own artwork in the artist statement at all, which means I have to have them all rewrite their artists’ statements. Honestly, the students for whom this was a problem were the students who were already looking for the easiest way out. But the way I structured the assignment, I had half of the class doing “creative work,” and the other half doing essays. This was a bad divide, and it split my attention in a way that wasn’t productive. That said, I had some great work, especially from some surprising students who seemed to really thrive on writing about music, and who hadn’t been doing too well before. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGUtfrrlIuE&feature=youtu.be
One thing I really want to focus on in my teaching going forward is research– research all the way through. Mini- research projects in class (students research and present on grammar/ syntax issues; students research little side mentions in the things they read and watch. In my 1101, it turned out none of them had heard of Abu Ghraib) and also big research on issues they are curious about. I’m not good enough at teaching research yet. The community problems unit has been a good start, because the students are engaged with these particular issues: gentrification, homelessness, etc… Sometimes I overhear a “you won’t believe what I just found!” And that’s what I want. Excitement about information!
My 1101, by the way, is kind of stuck. I have been giving them reading quizzes, something I never do, and I think that’s kind of messed with the class culture, to be honest. This is something I struggle with because also– I want them to read, and if I don’t quiz them, they often just… don’t. They’re just really quiet and it’s hard to get them to engage. None of my regular tricks work!