I hate pneumonia!
My last day in the classroom was the 31st and I didn’t make it back until Wednesday. It feels like that gap was even bigger than it was. The library day on the 31st was a success. We worked in the North Carolina room, which worked out well. Everything we needed was within arm’s reach. I was surprised that some students did not know what to do once they located a hardcopy book that seemed useful in the online catalog. They didn’t know what the call numbers were or how to use them. That was eye-opening for me. I realized I wasn’t even understanding their questions when they were trying to get me to explain how to get the book. I was basically like...”you...go get it off the shelf???” and I didn’t know they weren’t even at that step yet. If there was anything else significant about that day, I can’t remember it!
I have asked Abby if I can guide students through the upcoming iWebFolio process, so I’m looking forward to that. It can be difficult to get all the little steps right, so I feel pretty good that I’ve learned them and can help students too.
I am happy to say that I’ve connected with two students who had never come to my office before recently (the first came for project 2 and the second came for project 3). Found out that we have a lot in common and share research interests/what we want to do when we grow up.
While talking to the first student, we talked about computers and video games and my brother’s work in Engineering. While talking to the second student, we got to talk about video games, Star Wars, YouTube, writing, and lots of other great stuff. I can really see now how getting to know students just a little more makes me all the more invested in their success in the future. I just want to take them both under my wing, but I know that’s not appropriate. Maybe they’ll stick around and become grad students here, then I can. :)
I also cried yesterday because Cody, who works with me in the UWC and is a new grad student here in the English department, says he wants to be just like me when he grows up. I was actually able to stop myself from self-degradation and just accepted that amazing compliment. So, I did cry in public, but at least I didn’t tell him he was wrong for looking up to me, which probably wouldn’t have been possible just a few months ago. I must prove myself worthy!!!
It was also shocking that my classmates and coworkers have all said they missed me while I was gone. It is hard to imagine that people think so positively of me and acknowledge me as an important human in their lives (even when I am not around). They don’t have to do that. I don’t even do that.
Next week, I'll be leading students on our library research day. I am currently finding out if we can reserve a special collections research room. Abby requires students to check out an actual hard copy of a book for project 3 and hadn't planned on reserving a space. She was basically going to let them free roam in the library, but I thought it might be better to have a central location they should come back to. So, I am in touch with one of the directors of Special Collections. If those wonderful spaces aren't available, we'll check out a regular instruction room. I think I will also like to conference with students at that time while they research.
Update: I heard back from the person I’ve been in touch with! We’ll have a room! Yay! I don’t know if it will be one of the main research rooms for the special collections, but either way I reached out and got us a room all on my own. The reason it wasn’t a simple matter of following the usual procedure is because we’ve already had a library instruction day and we didn’t want another one, we just wanted a space that was close to the resources students may want to use and Abby and I both wanted to introduce students to that unique collection without going through the touring/instruction process so students could maximize their time to work.
Abby is going to send me copies of all the students’ proposals (after approval) so that I won’t have to keep asking students to remind me what their topic is, and I’ll be able to help answer questions more quickly
I see that I’m really behind on this journal! I sort of feel like this is because the past few weeks haven’t felt eventful, but that’s not because they weren’t; it’s because I’m so tired!
In the time since my last post I did have the above Frankenstein lesson, Abby had to go to the ER, students got their Project 1 grade back and a chance to revise, and group presentations began.
I didn’t make the Frankenstein analysis as formal as I intended because while waiting for class to start, I was hearing a lot of stress about Project 2 and about the group presentations, so I gave students the option to relax a little and do the Frankenstein assignment less formally (mostly chatting and drawing together instead of Prezi and turning it in) and the other students could choose to work on their presentations or paper. For the students who chose the latter two options, I walked around class and checked in with them periodically.
As the semester progresses, I have been thinking more and more about what things I like that Abby and other GTAs do (from hearing about ideas in the weekly meetings) and what things I would change in a classroom where I’m instructor of record. I’ll start articulating some of those ideas soon.
Over the weekend, I had what I hope is a brilliant rhetorical analysis activity idea! I haven’t heard back from Abby about it, so I don’t know if we’ll actually do it in 1100 or not. She did add an extra day to practice rhetorical analysis after seeing the initial responses from the activity she started on Friday for them to complete at home, so there may be a chance! I might just have to check in because she just might not have seen the email.
The activity is:
We would have some kind of creative, collaborative way of displaying the analysis. I was originally thinking we would use constructions paper, markers, hole punches, scissors and pipe cleaners (as the “stitches”) to write out the parts of our analysis and put together as Frankenstein monsters, but I think a more legible, cost effective, and long-lasting option would be to do something similar using Prezi.
If I made a group Prezi with each group being assigned a blank/coloring page/silhouette of Frankenstein, then they can zoom in as much as they like to designate which parts of the monster match the parts of their analysis. I would ask them to choose what goes where and explain why. I want to do this to help them understand that all the parts are tied together and that different students might see the relationship between the parts differently, which is okay as long as they see that the parts work together as a whole, just like Frankenstein’s monster!
The blank space on the right of the second page is where I would give the instructions for this creative display method. I've modeled an APA citation at the bottom of the second page and would explain the reason for including the useful facts on the first page (the importance of doing research about the topic beyond the text itself to understand the full context, which I think was discussed as an important part of the analysis process in BR chapter 2).
Today Abby and I took turns again, but it was a more even division than on Wednesday. On Wednesday, she started us off by introducing Project 2 and then the remainder of the class was my time. Today it was more even because we alternated with doing rhetorical analysis practice activities.
Almost all the students were well engaged. I sat in a chair in front of them and read the practice article along with them. I think demonstrating/talking through it together as a group worked for them.
They also responded well to me asking new people who haven’t talked yet today or at all this semester to give answers. Only one group was not paying attention much, especially as the activity went on. I had to repeat the instructions/explanations to them multiple times during each round of the activity. Then when asking them to give us the last answer for the day, because they hadn’t contributed yet, they repeated the answer just given and had no idea. I told them they had given the answer just given and Abby reminded them they would have known that if they had been paying attention. I don’t know if that got through to them or not.
All the students in that group are in the STEPP program and their writing mentor finally showed up for the first time Wednesday. I just hope she knows which students in the class work with her and noticed the behavior today and the resulting comment Abby had to make.
Yesterday was my first teaching day since the school remained closed after the hurricane through Monday. Abby and I had to adapt our plan because we missed a lot of time and had to really condense our material. I think I did okay for having to rush through the lesson that I wanted to span two days, but I don’t know if I explained things well enough. I feel like I blanked sometimes on how to elaborate on what I meant. I hope Friday (a practice/activity day) will show me if they really got it or not. Whenever I asked if everything made sense, they all nodded, so that at least makes me hopeful. Sometimes students won’t even nod or shake their heads!
The students were at least respectful and receptive to how I did the lecture. I didn’t want one long day full of lecture; I wanted to break the lecture up with more active learning activities dispersed in between. I also didn’t want to cover so much material at once because I didn’t want to overwhelm them. I wanted to cover one topic per day and spend approximately half the class period engaging with students in practice where we went through some examples together and then I let them pair up to try on their own before bringing the whole group back together in the end to wrap up.
Anyway, I hope my actual abilities and actual joy of doing this will come through more on Friday.
This week did not feel very eventful for me. Students got their Project 1 assignment, had a library day learning about the NC collection, and some time to work together in groups to discuss their topic ideas before posting them to Blackboard.
I did express a little concern to Abby and to the group on Thursday that I wasn’t sure if the students were actually as confident and clear on the expectations as they were saying, or if they were just saying so when they were actually not sure. It could also be that some students are not taking the project seriously. It is definitely my hope that every is actually going as smoothly as it seems. Their Blackboard posts about their intended topics show a wide range of effort, detail, and enthusiasm even just in this initial post, so I am not sure if that same range will carry over into the project or not.
Other than that, I’ve had some more great email communication with the students so far, which is encouraging. They are a kind and considerate bunch, at least in class, in my office, and in email!
One thing I hope is that they will start coming to see me in my office more as the project continues. So far it is the same few students who come to sit down with me that are the same students who volunteer to read in class or answer in class while the rest are both quiet in class and don’t come by. I’m not sure if these students are just shy and are totally okay, or if they are so shy that they aren’t getting the help they need.
For our second day of class, Mindtap was a little troublesome, but everyone was patient and we all finally got it figured out. Abby and I walked around and helped folks get set up. One of the problems was that student accounts were looking different than what we were shown at orientation and what Abby was accustomed to. We also had the expected trouble with turning off pop-up blocking. Once we were all in, it was smooth sailing with showing them the online textbook and how to do the auto-graded assignments.
Abby also showed the students the LiveSafe app and gave them the chance to download it, which I really appreciated. I think it showed the students that we care about their safety and it is actually on our minds. I’m also going to put it on my phone for Monday nights because I don’t get done on campus until 8:30 and my walk to my bus stop in the dark is a little scary. I’ll use the SafeWalk feature to get from the library to my bus and then from the bus to home with my brother on the other end. He will definitely appreciate knowing I’m safe without him having to come pick me up.
So far three students have come to my office and they all seemed happy when we were done, so I feel good about that! The second two students were just sitting with me to borrow my copy of the Pirate Read because theirs hadn't come in yet, but it still helped them have one less thing to worry about during this stressful first week when things are prone to go wrong and overwhelm students.
In class I’ve also decided to sit at the very back, not to distance myself from Abby or the students, but so I can see everyone’s device. Everyone has been on task so far, so I’m not sure if that will ever become a problem or not. So being able to see devices should also help me know who’s having trouble with Blackboard or MindTap or even connecting to the Wi-Fi to begin with. I think that will give me the chance to help them sooner because it does seem like students would sometimes rather sit in silence with nothing on their screen and fall behind instead of asking Abby to slow down or repeat a step or ask for help (because asking for help is scary, especially when it seems like everyone else is not having a problem).
I will start by saying that yesterday was a good first day! The students in ENGL 1100 with Abby all seemed very receptive to having me as their advocate and go-to person for any questions or concerns. That advocacy is what I’m most looking forward to about this unique position as embedded mentor/TA. Being the advocate for students in the UWC and being able to act as mediator between them and the professor/between them and the assignments/fear/assumptions was always what allowed me to alleviate their stress the most and encourage them the most; it was utterly fulfilling for me, perhaps because I know how scary asking for help can be and how feeling like they are falling behind or just not getting it can really weigh heavily on a student’s mind.
One thing in class that didn’t go perfectly as I imagined it was the ice breaker. Students were already antsy to leave early at that point because they could hear/see other classes being let out early, but Abby used the full class time like she should have. So, we didn’t get through as many ice breaker questions as I thought we would, and we only got to know a few students who identified with the first few questions (if they liked Marvel/DC movies/comics). The few students who answered “yes” were very enthusiastic, at least! I know what some of the students in class like, but not what most do! As I meet students one-on-one I hope to get to know them better. When they come to my office they’ll see my personality all over my desk with my little decorations and resources for them, so hopefully that will both make them comfortable and encourage them to share about themselves too (if they want to).
At least one student is planning to come today and I’m looking forward to it. She was totally proactive and emailed me with a question yesterday and it was a “proper” and polite block letter email, so she’s already on the right track!
As for those resources I mentioned, I’ve put some spare pencils, erasers, and notebooks that I never used (and just don’t have room for at home) out on my desk for them if they need them. The pencils and erasers are Halloween style, of course. I’ve also got the Counselling Center’s Coping Skills chart right on the wall where both the students and I can see it. I’ve got the academic calendar, Abby’s class schedule and other student services documents available on my desk in a folder so I can quickly reference them for students.
Starting Monday June 18th, I will begin hosting an online, self-paced workshop to help teach poets about writing concerns and as a formal introduction to how to critique. A new topic will be introduced once a week for six weeks, but the workshop will be available after that time and as a series of free printable documents for self-paced learning.
Description/Goal: A lot of folks who don't offer critique (who aren't doing so for selfish reasons) don't offer suggestions because they don't feel qualified. I’ve seen it in countless comments on forums and in real-world workshops. They don't have the terminology, the technical skills, the poetic know-how, or the formal education overall.
This workshop is intended to serve the needs of readers and writers who want a more formal foundation for suggesting revisions and giving writing advice.
By following my critique blogs and some additional scholarship, together we will explore different writing concerns for poetry. These writing concerns include content, flow, word efficiency, imagery, literary devices, syntax, and more. During this workshop we will learn how to identify, analyze, and discuss these features of writing for the benefit of our own poetry and the poetry of others.
This is not a workshop for poets to workshop any of their own writing; it is an in-depth introduction to critique where we will explore “anonymous” poetry.
Level of expertise: Open to all
Subject matter: Critique and Understanding Writing Concerns https://www.neopoet.com/workshop/great-big-all-inclusive-critique-workshop) in manageable sections.
Get the short version of the workshop (exactly as it will be posted to Neopoet by clicking the download file below. This version offers less in terms of academic resources/discussion/reading, but still offers plenty of free resources.
I'm just your average fictional creature, living in a swampland by the sea.