Monday, April 25, 2011

Why do they do this to me?????

Here's what I hate more than anything in grading--more even than "since the dawn of time" intro-sentences:

When a student who has been doing really good work--like, earning an A despite being a non-major, participating in discussion every day, and coming to see me about papers and all that other solid stuff--plagiarizes some stupid sentence in practically the last assignment of the semester--an assignment for which, I might add, there were plenty of options, so zie didn't even need to pick this particular (and difficult) poem to write on.

Don't you haaaaate that?

According to my policy, I need to fail this student. For the course. A student I really like, a lot. I hate that!

Well, I mean, first I'll hear hir out, and perhaps there's some perverse misunderstanding of "ethical research" here, but...argh! WHY???? Dude, if you didn't understand the poem, you could've come to my office hours, and I swear I would've just explained it to you. ARGHHHHH.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Drunken Rampage

Internet be warned:

I have had some wine, and I am commenting on your posts. Ha ha!

(It's been a verrrry long couple-two-three weeks.)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sans Snark

My last post was, I know, rather embittered. I'm not entirely embittered, however (although I do kind of hate teaching statements, much as I recognize their utility and would ask for them were I to chair a search). But the first half of the week was long. And we're approaching the end of the semester. So sarcasm is easier to pull off than sincerity (isn't it always?).

So: Here are some better thoughts. I'm not going to put together a philosophy statement because, well, that's too much work. Instead, I'll aim for bullets of teaching goodness:
  • This first-year bio student in Brit Lit II. He's taking the class for a gen ed requirement, and first-years don't normally do very well in the class, but, despite not being a brilliant writer, he works really hard and it shows. It delights me to consider this biology student who will go out into the world able to say intelligent things about Jane Eyre, Virginia Woolf, and Wordsworth. That's what a liberal arts school is for.
  • The student who remarked, on leaving class on Monday: "Dr. Mihi, you're awesome. Just FYI."
  • A student challenged her grade on the first paper that she wrote for one of my courses--I'm one of a team of instructors for the course, so challenges have a particular procedure that brings in a third party. The third party upheld my grade decision. The student then approached me to ask if it would be all right if she met with me about future papers (why in the world wouldn't it be okay?); she started participating much more actively and doing better on quizzes; she showed me a draft of her next paper--and she just got an A- on said paper. It's clear that she fundamentally didn't get the expectations for the first one, and now she does--and her work is actually good! So pleasing.
  • Those moments in class--especially in the surveys, which is funny because they're the courses I've taught the most--when I suddenly realize something completely new about the text that we're discussing. It makes me realize how much easier it can be to generate new thoughts through a conversation than stuck on one's own.
  • The fact that I am now able to go completely off script in class on a regular basis. In fact, there are days when I don't use my prep outline at all. And teaching is so much more fun.
  • And honestly, sometimes, I just really love my students. All of them, more or less. Not for anything that they've done, but because they're there, and they're trying (or not), and going through all their stuff, and I get to play a part in that.
See? I can be lovey, too.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sisyphus's Teaching Philosophy Meme

OK, so there's this.

In the spirit of P, however, I've got to go for snark. It is April, after all, and I've got absolutely no patience left. At the moment, my real life teaching philosophy is DO YOUR GODDAMN HOMEWORK AND GET TO CLASS ON TIME, I AM TIRED OF YOUR BULLSHIT.

So here's my world-weary, when-will-this-semester-end version, born of actually serving on search committees that require teaching philosophy statements.

My teaching philosophy centers on students. I believe in a dynamic classroom where students learn actively. I eschew all forms of sage-on-the-stage, chalk-and-talk, rhymey-blimey-whatever teaching. Eschew it! My pedagogy requires students to talk, to discuss things, to actually participate in the learning process. In this, I am refreshingly newfangled.

In my student-centric classroom, we occasionally sit in circles. This radically disrupts the power structure of the classroom, enabling students to take an active role in their own educations. Sometimes we also do group work.

Further, I am committed to developing critical thinking in my students by getting beyond the notion that learning is all about memorizing facts and regurgitating them at the professor's will. I know that this is a new idea, but bear with me here--as it turns out, literary study is not just about plot summary! I ask challenging and innovative questions to connect the material to students' own lives. I also use PowerPoint sometimes, because today's students are digital natives who learn best through visual stimulus and are excellent multitaskers. These are all very exciting new ideas that I came up with myself while I was TA'ing that course that one time.

Hm. That might actually be too snarky even for me. And truthfully, I can't say that my real-life teaching philosophy was that much better (content-wise, anyway; I had very little teaching experience when I first went on the market). I've tried my hand at writing more original teaching statements, and they all sounded just a little crazy. But "student-centered" has GOT to be the tiredest classroom-descriptor in the book.

At one point in the last committee I served on, I started fantasizing about receiving a statement of teaching philosophy that embraced straight lecture; at least it would have been different.

If I'm in a better mood later this week, maybe I'll take Sis up on her challenge for real and write about what does bring me joy in teaching. Up until about a week ago, I had plenty to say. And, okay, honestly, my seminar students are rocking right now, so I'll leave you with that bit of positivity.