Weekly Update: Back to School Edition

I did my speedy quick update two weeks ago and feel like I have been rushing ever since. Blergh. But even though this weekend was book club and I had a work/writing date with a colleague, I finally feel a little more settled and calm.

So, obviously, the big news is that the fall semester started. Things have been going well so far minus the extra exhaustion I felt the past two weeks because, whew, that was a lot. I mean, when I got home this past Thursday at 5 p.m., I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until around 7 a.m. Did I mention I was exhausted? Just exhausted.

Two big adventures happened. The first is that I forgot my flash drive in my office for the first day of my short story class, so only had the poorly formatted Google Drive backup of my first day slides. None of my memes showed up properly and everything was just a mess. But I got through it.

The other is that I forgot to publish my students’ readings and assignments that were due last Tuesday, so they were in a panic and I had to completely readjust what we did in class that day. I also made this meme to apologize for my screw up:

welp

We did housekeeping stuff and then I just sent them to the library to get all of the stuff done since we couldn’t move forward without it, and we picked up as though nothing happened on Thursday.

I am trying some new stuff in my class this semester, so we are going to see how it goes. The first is that I am not doing blogs in either of my comp classes. Instead, students are doing a daily observational journal based on Lynda Barry’s SyllabusThey’re also keeping freewriting journals. So I figured a blog on top of that was a bit much, especially for my first-semester comp classes. I probably could have kept blogs in the second course for the comp sequence but whatever. I’ll see how I feel about that at the end of the semester.

I am still requiring them to read three outside books and write book reviews. They’ll just do them on the course LMS discussion board instead. (That reminds me: I need to update the approved book list for the second and third book reviews.)

After reading this post from Jacinta, I have also adopted minute reflections. I have students write their responses to the two questions (“What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this week?” and “What question do you still have?”) and then I start the week by answering their questions. I am so in love with this. I can’t believe I haven’t done it sooner.

Another new thing I’m trying is self-grading based on this post I found in the Canvas community. Basically, students complete a self-declaration and get points that way. It’s perfect for completion-based assignments. My brilliant friend Casey pointed out that we could have the students take self-grading quizzes, so that’s what my students are doing.  I am still working the kinks out (especially making sure the language is clear for students) but so far, so good.

I am also trying Twitter again but being smarter about it. See Casey’s blog (linked above) for tips on how to do that.

The theme for my first-year comp class is adaptations, so we’re using Hamilton as our entry point, and it is going brilliantly. One of my students said after listening to the first bit that it made him feel like he could do anything. Another student said that it’s nice to do something fun for class (she was already a fan of the show).

All of that to say, as part of our study of the play musical, I assigned the first chapter of Chernow’s biography and WHOO BOY is it a steaming pile of a good example of why we need more black and women historians. I was INFURIATED by it.

To whit:

“the four thousand slaves on Nevis outnumbered whites by a ratio of four to one, making inequitable carnal relations between black slaves and white masters a dreadful commonplace” (9).

INEQUITABLE CARNAL RELATIONS. I mean, that sure is a pretty way to say rape, isn’t it?

There was also this:

“Violence was commonplace in Nevis, as in all the slave-ridden sugar islands.”

Slave-ridden.

SLAVE-RIDDEN.

And this: Hamilton’s mom’s ex-husband gets her thrown in jail because she’s found guilty of adultery and doesn’t live with him, and Chernow says the lack of “outright refutation suggests that Rachel had indeed…found solace in the arms of other men.” I mean, maybe she did indeed or maybe in a society where a woman’s husband can PUT HER IN JAIL because she doesn’t live with him is one in which she can’t stand up for herself.

And found guilty BY WHOM? OTHER MEN???

flames
source

So, yes, I gave my one class a mini-lesson on this whole thing (I get to tell the other class tomorrow). It went pretty well. Not only did I use the excerpts to talk about the importance of historians of color and women historians, but I also showed them why it’s important to look up words they aren’t familiar with when they read AND when I did my lesson on thesaurus writing and why clarity is the most important part of writing, one of the students pointed out that that’s why they didn’t understand Chernow because he didn’t use clear language and it fooled them. THEN, one of the students wrote on the minute reflection for questions they still have “Why aren’t there more historians of color?” or “Where are the historians of color?” (It was one of those. I can’t remember right now.) So I count that all as a win.

Okay, that’s a lot and it’s time for bed, so I’ll do my reading update post tomorrow.

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5 thoughts on “Weekly Update: Back to School Edition

  1. I love how you are always trying new things with your class, instead of “phoning it in” as some of my teachers did. Also, completely agree with you about women/women of colour/people of colour writing about history. How infuriating is it to read that Chernow guy!?!?!?!? That euphemism for rape is a new one for me. And slave-ridden?!?!?! Holy crap.

    Like

  2. Awesome! I’m glad to see you’ve found that post/strategy useful. It’s definitely been super helpful with my own teaching. I love getting insight into what they’re thinking.

    Like

    1. It’s also great for helping me see what I thought I explained sufficiently vs. what they actually understood.

      One student asked (via the postcard) if they would have to ask questions every week and I told them, “Yes because people keep putting questions on here that they’re not asking out loud” and several students nodded when I said that. They *love* being able to ask questions anonymously. I have gotten some really good ones.

      Liked by 1 person

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