Category Archives: mellow

Sweet FA

It’s summer, dudes, so fuck all.

Aksherly, this is not at all true, but I am doing fuck all in the way of torturing students for your amusment, dear readers. Sozzers.

My current activities include:

  • Beer
  • Playing computer games
  • Swimming and taking my spawn to swimming lessons
  • Doing some for fun writing projects
  • Procrastinating on a serious writing project
  • Wine
  • Surfing the web and calling it “prep for my online writing class in the fall”
  • Pouting that RYS died, and being vaguely dissatisfied with its apparent replacement
  • Walking to the store in the evenings to get more wine and beer
  • Sitting in my yard in the evening, as a charitable donation to the mosquito population
  • Planning some little vacationy activities for next month
  • Annoying some guy who was knocking on doors by yelling out “no thank you” before I even knew what he was selling
  • Thinking about making salted caramel chocolate mousse
  • Knitting while doing all of the above.

How’s your summer?

Uncharacteristically upbeat.

I have a good class this semester. There, I said it.

A couple of weeks ago, we read Italo Calvino’s story “Meiosis” which is an exercise in messing up reader expectations, and so we were talking about re-reading. The issue that sparked this was the question “Is a story which is essentially a mindfuck any good the second time, when you are aware of the mindfuckery?” (Not giving any more detail, since I do not wish to spoil the story for anyone who has not read it; if you haven’t, you totally should.)

So we were talking about reading as the sum of the textual experiences you bring to the text, and then I asked what I thought might be a harmless question, viz. “Have you ever read something you liked, and then hated it on second reading?” and one student said Twilight, and all hell broke loose, but in a good way. We spent the rest of the class discussing Twilight (which I have not read, but I can still totally discuss it), which was not the plan, but it was a great learning experience.

Not that this is a class of angels, by any stretch. This week is Heart of Darkness, and there was a notable lack of enthusiasm in class on Wednesday. I let them go early and told them to finish their darn reading by today, and we would tackle it again.

There’s an exercise I like to do with a class when there is reading that is hard, which is to give them 15 minutes at the start of class to write any questions they have about it on the board. I give them this instruction, and then I leave the room and let them get on with it. The leaving the room is key, because I find that students often have questions they think are stupid and they may be reluctant to ask them when you are looking. Writing your stupid question anonymously (or at least not in front of the prof) is easier, somehow.

So this morning, this is what I did, and I was absolutely astonished to find that before I left the room, one student had said “let’s be systematic about this,” and another one had agreed, and a third was calling for the best speller in the class to stand up and do the writing on the board. This has never happened before.

So I went and grabbed a coffee and came back, and there were a score of really good questions on the board, and the rest of the class was an energetic and intelligent discussion.

Awesome. Sometimes my job is really cool.

Also, I got to give them Howard Felperin’s awesome explanation of how Kurtz’s last words really might have been the Intended’s name, if Kurtz was speaking French, which is always good for a giggle.

The boring semester of no drama ends.

Dear Blog, I am sorry for being so horridly neglectful. I blame my students, who for the most part have been polite, hardworking, good-humoured and present. This makes for an awesome class, but it means I lacked the necessary raeg to get me past the fatigue of teaching 4 days a week in order to post. Also, not much happened.

Highlights, then:

I got an evaluation from last semester which was nothing short of a rave. This caused me to faint away, and I did not revive for a day or two. Apparently, there were several people who said “two thumbs up, would learn again” (I had 5 students out of 17 this semester who were repeat offenders, which may account for the overall good vibe in the classroom), and some of these people would even recommend me to their friends.

The incredibly difficult and loud student who complained to me that I wasn’t taking her learning disability into account dropped the class after I asked “what disability?” and then followed up with the Disability Office to find out whether she even had paperwork. (Turns out she does, but didn’t actually request accommodations until after she yelled at me. They kicked her ass.) So that was a win for sanity, although she did have the potential to become another Pineapple. Chalk it up as a loss for entertainment, I guess.

My older student (by which I mean the woman in the class who was my age) was peer pressured by her religion to get married and have 5 kids straight out of high school coped with adversity and me riding her to think harder and managed to get a respectable grade. I didn’t even mind when she hugged me after the exam. Well, not that much. People like that make me grateful that although my mother is a headcase, she is a headcase who believes in education for women, and had no desire to impose her experience of marriage and spawning at age 18 on me.

I was knitting during the exam, a practice I adopted after Sarcastic Bastard once got a comment from students about how when he graded papers he made “scary faces” that caused them to wet themselves with fear.  At the end of the exam, one of the students handed in her paper, and then said, a little tentatively, “can I ask you a question?” To which, I replied in the affirmative, thinking she wanted to ask about the final. Instead she said, “I am knitting this scarf in stockinette, and I was wondering if you knew how to stop the edges from curling.” I love that students think I am some kind of learning guru, and font of information on all subjects. Earlier in the semester, I impressed another student by mentioning that I had managed (through some kind of technomancy, no doubt) to get hold of a particular computer game before its advertised release date.

I am apparently utterly mellow. I suspect it will not last. Also, I am twotting desultorily, so I add the feed to this page.