Spring 2018 Semester Reflection

For their final exam, I usually have my students complete a reflection. It’s time for me to do the same now that the spring semester has officially wrapped, and my brain has calmed down enough for me to focus on these things.


So, first, what went well:

1. Generally speaking, I felt way less overwhelmed this semester because I knew what to expect. Even the 7 a.m. start time was less brutal. That’s something to keep in mind with my first-year students as well. Going to college for the first time is a lot!

2. Stamp/participation sheet: I adopted a coworker’s stamp sheet for participation, and it was magical. One of my students said it helped him (her?) stay organized. I know I want my students to just do the work because I say so, but they are still learning and if working for points helps them understand that the readings and skills build on each other, then so be it. I am done fighting with what I want students to be vs. meeting them exactly where they are.

(Also, real talk, I was on the fence about using the stamp sheet until a colleague who was taking a course said she stopped doing the readings once her teacher stopped checking their reading questions or whatever. So why should I expect my students who are baby learners to behave any differently than a seasoned professional?)

3. Movie poster assignment: The assignments were pretty successful overall, especially having my developmental students create a movie poster for one of the books they read. I learned last semester that a lot of them didn’t get the point of the outside reading (to build fluency) even though I told them AND it already had an assignment attached (book reviews). They found the reviews (and the reading) to be busy work. So, the movie poster assignment helped the students who were less engaged with reading the novels by giving them something more meaningful, and they were then less likely to think reading the books was pointless. (Reading is never pointless, but they think so.) Anyway, I’ll be doing this in both of my comp classes next semester.

4. Group projects: I posted about the group projects before, but that was just how I set up the groups. The follow up is that most of the students really liked doing it (even if they weren’t satisfied with their grade) because it gave them a chance to get to know their classmates and make friends. So I’m going to try to have one in all of my classes next semester.

Now, onto what didn’t work/what needs more work:

1. Twitter: Twitter was a disaster. This was mostly my fault. I told the students to post about their readings and most of them just complained about their homework. I also scrapped the assignment I was connecting it to, which meant the students didn’t get the point (even though I explained it to them AND told them that we were going to do a final assignment that I decided against). Next time, I’ll make sure to give them specific prompts so they are a little more guided and a little less themselves (by which I mean complainers). I did let them do an extra credit assignment with Twitter, but they were still like, “But why Twitter though?” Sigh.

Two points of clarification here: (1) Though it was a disaster, it wasn’t a waste. One of my students did say it helped her writing so she was glad we did it. (2) I think the assignment I planned would have worked better with upper-level students.

2. Blogging: Overall, blogging is always a winner. However, I figured out about halfway through how to clarify two of the requirements that kept stumping students (using links and putting captions/credit on their pictures). I also need to do a better job of introducing the assignments since they felt a little rushed at times.

3. Grammar: I tend to not do direct grammar instruction but several students (in both level classes) said they wish I had. So. I’ll incorporate this next semester.

4. Grading: I still spend too much time on this, but! I did have students do more self-grading, which worked out well, so they will definitely do more of that. Also, my rubrics are very thorough (which is good!) but I need to simplify them just a little more. So, the grading struggle continues.

All in all, though, a really good semester. So of course I’m changing almost everything next semester. Of course.


California Acceleration Project Community of Practice, Day 1

(I didn’t post this last night because I fell asleep as soon as I got to my room. But this is all from yesterday, June 22.)

I’m at a conference this weekend, so you know what that means: random thoughts throughout any session that is lecture-based/bores me.

1. This conference started at 1, and they didn’t provide lunch. This information was provided at registration. Guess who still didn’t eat lunch today? To be fair, I ate breakfast and thought I was going to get a chance to eat lunch before I got here, but nope. On the plus side, I do have snacks.

2. I am exhausted, too. So that’s an A+ combination right there. Do you ever figure out how tired you are AFTER you actually get to sit down? That happened to me yesterday and today.  The thought of standing up again makes me want to put my head on the table.

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Because 999 times just wasn’t enough: May 2018 wrap up

So, a lot has happened this month (I saw Hamilton! Went to the movies! Read very few books!), but most of that has been eclipsed by my stomach issues (STILL) and figuring out what to do about them. But before I get into that, I’ll explain my post title first.

At the end of last semester, I was talking to my office mate about how I have to tell my students stuff a ton before they get it (if they get it). For example, I had my students print out their papers all semester, and I would always tell them to print it out and read it when they were revising or editing.

The day after class (but before they turned in their final papers) a student came to see me to look over her final paper with her printed draft. “Oh!” she said in surprise. “When I print out my paper, I notice stuff about it that I didn’t see when it was on my computer.”

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Picking Favorites: A Wrinkle in Time, Awesome Ladies, Terry Crews, TV, and More

Links! It’s been a while, but I’ve been reading some good stuff lately and wanted to share.

I can always tell when I am dealing with WMWF by their rallying cry “be nice” or “choose kindness”, as if the act of calling out racism, misogyny, ableism and homophobia is the problem and not the act of racism, misogyny, ableism and homophobia. — #KidLitWomen: An Open Letter to Well-Meaning White Women

You don’t have to watch The Good Place for long to realize that Tahani Al-Jamil is more than, as Eleanor Shellstrop says, “a hot, rich fraud with legs for days.” She’s also a relentless name-dropper. But when Princess Diana is your godmother and Beyoncé if your best friend, can you really blame a girl for bragging? — Every Celebrity That Tahani Has Name-Dropped on The Good Place

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On Selfish Teaching

Today’s post is inspired by Two Writing Teachers, specifically Deb’s post No More Cookie Cutter Teaching. In it, she says:

As educators, we need to take ownership of our teaching.  If you think your tried and true lessons are lackluster, then change them.  Start by looking at your students and asking, what do my students need?

I teach college composition, so I actually take a more selfish approach and ask, “What types of assignments do I want to read?” and then build student choice into that. I mean, yes, obviously, I care about what they need but since I typically have to read over 100 essays at any given time, I have learned that the best thing for me is to consider what interests me.

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California Acceleration Project, Day 3 #SOL18

So the key takeaway from the conference was this:

hard things are hard

I suggested we just put those words up on a PowerPoint slide when we talk to the department about the changes ahead.

Hard things are hard.

Just those words and nothing else. Do you think it would work? I don’t know.

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California Acceleration Project, Day 2 #SOL18

Panel discussion with people from the chancellor’s office to talk policy, so the running commentary is back.

1. Right after the introductions of the panel members, the woman at my table said, incredulously, “They’re all white.”
Her companion: “Yeah that’s disappointing.”

2. The contract grading session was good, btw. I learned a lot about different ways to implement contract grading, especially ways I can ease into it.

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Picking Favorites: The “I Should Be Packing” Edition

It’s a step up from “I should be grading,” so I’ll take it. (Also, as a content warning, the Terry Crews and Johnny Iuzzini stories both discuss sexual assault.)


Terry Crews understands that he is in a unique position to speed up that progress. So, instead of internalizing his abuse and spreading it to others with toxic actions of his own, he is taking the steps necessary to break the chain before our eyes. — What About Your Friends? Why Hollywood’s Abandonment Of Terry Crews Is Unacceptable

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Right, so: October 2017 Wrap Up

I am not participating in NaNoWriMo, but I did decide today to blog every day for the month of November. What better way to start than to catch up on all the blog posts I didn’t make during the last two weeks of October?

(Also, I only have 20 minutes to crank this out, so let’s see how it goes.)

1. My daughter came to visit me for her fall break and the whole thing was an adventure. She missed her flight, we rode public transportation, she got sick, and then some other stuff happened that I don’t remember because I didn’t blog about it. The short version is adventure! The long version is lost somewhere in my brain.

2. I finished two books (er, abandoned one actually):

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Picking Favorites: Sara Zarr, Carolyn Mackler, Harry Potter, AND Rick Riordan?

It’s been over a month since my last links round up, so there’s a lot happening here. Let’s dive in, shall we?

“Congresswoman Maxine Waters isn’t even reading these fools anymore. She has completely leveled up. She is like Scarlett Johansson in Lucy, that movie where she was using like 100% of her brain and she can control televisions and tell the future. That’s Maxine Waters. Except with reading. We don’t even have a word for what she’s doing yet.” — You Will Never, in Your Entire Life, Get the Best of Maxine Waters

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