Class Report: SPCH 275, 14 March 2018

After addressing questions from the previous class meeting, discussion turned to concerns of audience, returning to some materials from the first class meeting and expanding upon them. Examples of speeches were considered, along with their expected audiences. Owing to low attendance, the planned practice speeches were postponed.

Students were also reminded of upcoming assignments:

  • Discussions, due online before 0059 on 19 March 2018
  • Week 3 Homework, due online as a Word file before 0059 on 19 March 2018
  • Week 3 Course Project Discussion, due online before 0059 on 19 March 2018 (remember that the class has but one group)
  • Week 3 Presentation, due online before 0059 on 19 March 2018

Submission guidelines for the assignments are in the course shell.

Student please note that the grade for the Week 3 Course Project Discussion will back-fill the Week 2, accounting for earlier access issues.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 108 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed six students enrolled, a loss of one from last week; three attended, assessed informally. Class participation was good. No students attended Monday office hours.

In Another Response to Colleen Flaherty

On 5 March 2018, Colleen Flaherty’s “When Students Harass Professors” appeared in the online Inside Higher Ed. In the piece, Flaherty uses the case of Matthew Vivyan at Florida SouthWestern State College to exemplify an under-reported problem upon which she then expounds: harassment of faculty by students. Flaherty outlines the “normal” course of harassment–usually downwards in institutional authority–before noting the difficulties and complications involved in reporting and investigating the phenomenon. The piece follows with comments regarding what measures are taken and what can be done against such situations, and it concludes with advice for how to proceed further with them, at need.

I am fortunate, of course, to be in the position I am–and to have been in the positions I was. For one, I am certain I have done things that could–and perhaps should–occasion comment and complaint, and I have not much suffered as a result of them (although it could well be the case that certain employment decisions were made in light of such actions–but I have no way to know that, and, if I erred and was rebuked for it, I accept that as just). For another, I have rarely if ever been in the position of being harassed by students. I have had the occasional pupil who offered to “do anything for a better grade,” but I had been warned of such things, so I took measures against them.

There is really only one instance that stands out for me. While I was teaching in New York City, I had many students who were problematic for various reasons. One such, whom I’ll call Ifeche here (it’s not his real name), was routinely disruptive, not only being inattentive, but loudly so, and usually sitting in the front of the room so that his antics could not be ignored. At one point, not long after the middle of the semester, as I was lecturing on one thing or another, I noticed that Ifeche’s hands were blow the desk. This was not unusual; many of my students texted from their laps. (I cared–and care–little; as long as they do not disturb others, I am content to let students pay attention elsewhere. The matter tends to take care of itself). So I continued lecturing–until I noticed Ifeche’s arm jerking rhythmically and, as he shifted, that his hand was down the front of his pants.

At that point, I commented–and sharply–about the matter (Looking back, I am glad that the comment was “Get your hand out of your pants! What’s wrong with you?!?” rather than one of the many snarkier comments that occurs to me now–of a kind with the things that may well have gotten me into trouble in the past). Ifeche, grinning or smirking, left the room. I did not report the incident, which I probably ought to have done, and he came back for the next class meeting, to my distaste. And as I read Flaherty’s 5 March piece, I recalled it and wonder if I was sexually harassed–and if my students were, and I did little to aid them.

Care to help the consideration continue?

Reflective Comments for the January 2018 Session at DeVry University in San Antonio

Continuing a practice I most recently iterated at the end of the November 2017 session at DeVry University in San Antonio, comments below offer impressions of class performance among students enrolled in ENGL 216 during the January 2017 term at that institution. After a brief outline of the course and statistics about it, impressions and implications for further teaching are discussed.

Students enrolled in ENGL 216: Technical Writing during the November 2017 session were asked to complete a number of assignments in quick succession. Many, and the weightiest, related to the overall course project; others were homework meant to practice skills used in the workplace and in later stages of the course project. Those assignments and their prescribed point-values arePercentage Breakdown

  • Online Discussions
    • Weeks 1-5, 20 points each
    • Weeks 6 and 7, 80 points each
  • Homework Assignments
    • Weeks 1-4, 50 points each
  • Course Project
    • Topic Proposal- 20 points
    • Annotated Sources- 50 points
    • Outline and Back Matter- 50 points
    • First Draft- 70 points
    • Front Matter- 40 points
    • Final Draft- 100 points
    • Presentation- 60 points
  • Final Exam- 150 points
  • Total- 1000 points

As before, most assignments were assessed by means of rubrics provided by the institution. Some few were assessed holistically, with assessment being conducted more gently in light of less formality.

The section met on Wednesdays from 1800-2150 in Room 107 of the San Antonio campus of DeVry University. Its overall data includes

  • End-of-term enrollment: 7
  • Average class score: 693.429/1000 (D)
    • Standard deviation: 251.505
  • Students earning a grade of A (900/1000 points or more): 1
  • Students earning a grade of F (below 600/1000 points): 2

Unlike previous sessions, attendance was assessed as part of classroom activities; a component of the discussion grading each week was given to in-class attendance and participation. Consequently, attendance data is available; on average, 2.625/7 students attended each class meeting, with 35 total absences noted. The absences, and their concomitant rate of non-submission, exerted negative influence on overall student performance.

On the whole, I think the session was a good one. Despite the lower average score–occasioned by student non-attendance and non-submission–I had students doing better work overall. I am unsure what else I can do to get students to show up to class, but I am doing quite a bit for those who do attend when they have signed up to do so. I expect, then, that I will continue several practices from the session into future courses.

This session, I remembered to bring “real-world” examples of various types of writing into my classroom frequently, and the students who attended seemed to derive benefit from my doing so. I am already making sure to continue the practice in my current teaching, and, as I have been advised I will be teaching ENGL 216 again, I know I will be working to replicate the January 2018 session’s success.

Some concerns still persist from previous teaching, however. Foremost is that I remain prone to tangential discussions; the idea that I will be able to set them aside is laughable. If and as I continue to teach, they will continue to have to be accounted for and accepted. But they seemed at least to have been informative for students this time, which marks a welcome change.

As ever, I remain grateful for the opportunity to continue teaching. I look forward to having a few more such.


Class Report: ENGL 135, 10 March 2018

After addressing questions from the previous meeting, discussion turned to concerns of sources and their reliability. It followed with consideration of organizational patterns at the sentence, paragraph, and whole-paper levels. Examples for consideration, previously distributed via email, were treated.

Students were also reminded about upcoming assignments:

  • Discussions, due online before 0059 on 12 March 2018
  • Information Literacy Assignment, due online as a Word document before 0059 on 12 March 2018
  • Course Project: Source Summary, due online as a Word document before 0059 on 12 March 2018

Submission guidelines for the assignments are in the course shell.

Students are advised to be at work in preparation for the Annotated Bibliography assignment, due at the end of Week 4.

The class met as scheduled, at 0900 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed 13 students, a decline of one since last class; ten attended, assessed informally. Class participation was reasonably good. No students attended Monday office hours.

Initial Comments for the May 2018 Session at DeVry University in San Antonio

In a bit of news, I have been offered a section of ENGL 216: Technical Writing for the May 2018 session at DeVry University in San Antonio, Texas. I’ve not yet signed my contract for doing so, but I expect it will be coming soon enough; in the meantime, I can take a bit to get my materials ready again.

The session runs from 30 April through 23 June 2018; the class meets Mondays from 1800 to 2150 in Room 111 of the San Antonio campus. I am not yet certain when I will have office hours.

I feel I had great success teaching it last time, so I am looking forward to teaching the class again. Additionally, I think restricting topics for the class will work well, as it seems to be the case for the March 2018 session’s classes, so that will be one of the adjustments I make as I move forward. There will be others, I am certain, coming from results of surveys as they arrive.

On “Calamity”

Another of the WordPress blogs I follow is @ bittersweet diary, to which I was introduced when its owner liked a post made to this webspace. (I appreciate it, by the way.) One relatively recent post to the blog is the 25 February 2018 poem “Calamity.” Preceded by a black-and-white photo of a blonde-haired, pale-skinned woman exhaling beneath dark gray waters under a cloudy sky, the poem reads as some thirteen lines of free verse grouped into four irregular stanzas. No dominant pattern or rhythm or rhyme presents itself, no regularity of line-length appears, a disorderly structure perhaps connoting the calamity of the title and appearing in the first and penultimate lines of the poem.

That near-bracketing is one of the few structural elements in the poem; a few other instances of repetition help to give the poem a shape, namely “I drowned” in the second and third stanzas (ll. 4, 5, 11)–linking them–and the anaphoric “Not once did I [even] try” in the second stanza (ll. 6-8)–reinforcing its distinctiveness. They, along with the consistent tenor and vehicle, serve to keep the poem a coherent piece of writing despite the inherent disorder of free verse.

They also serve to unify the piece across a particularly strong juxtaposition of the narrator, metaphorically fire in the third stanza, and the dominant image of the addressed lover as an onrushing oceanic storm. The two lines treating flame stand out against the watery rest of the poem, evoking the idea of the narrator being doused by the addressee, fires extinguished by the calamity in which the narrator drowns utterly.

Additionally, there is an interesting neologism in the poem: “everywords” (l. 5). The phrase where it appears would normally be rendered as “In other words,” indicating that another way of saying or explaining the phenomenon would be presented; in such a case, the “drowned” of the preceding line would be presented in different terms, likely expanding upon it in some way (although the word is not arcane, to be sure). The construction, however, is “I drowned. / in everywords, I drowned” (ll. 4-5), the narrator tacitly saying that there is no other way to explain what has happened. Every word that could be used is used–and repeated, further foreclosing the available ways to talk about what has happened amid the calamity. That traumatic events tend to restrict how they can be discussed, usually by surpassing the ability of the mind to frame them, is amply attested–and enduring a calamity, as the narrator claims to have done in interacting with the addressee, is the stuff of which trauma is often made.

It might be easy to read “Calamity” as one among many break-up poems, or else as a quiet reaction to an abusive relationship–the idea of obliteration and subsuming in the poem lends itself to the latter. I am not sure that either is actually the case, however, although I find that I am not able to articulate clearly what the poem is actually doing. (That may be me more than the poem, though.) And it is possible that that inarticulabilty is the point, that in presenting something that seems like it ought to be accessible–because a short poem talking about a bad relationship should be–but actually is not is something that befits the title. Reading the piece may not be a calamity, but being unable to read it results in something not unlike one.

Help me avoid my own calamity?

Class Report: SPCH 275, 7 March 2018

After addressing questions from the previous class meeting, discussion turned to historical and other patterns of argument, thence to what audiences expect from speakers and what speakers expect from audiences. Practice in being both speaker and audience was then offered in the form of a largely impromptu in-class speech.

Students were also reminded of upcoming assignments:

  • Discussions, due online before 0059 on 12 March 2018
  • Week 2 Homework, due online as a Word file before 0059 on 12 March 2018
  • Week 2 Course Project Discussion, due online before 0059 on 12 March 2018 (remember that the class has but one group)
  • Week 2 Presentation, due online before 0059 on 12 March 2018

Submission guidelines for the assignments are in the course shell.

The class met as scheduled, at 1800 in Room 108 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed seven students enrolled, unchanged from last week; three attended, assessed informally. Class participation was reasonably good. No students attended Monday office hours.

On “A Lonely Beer”

As part of my effort to write more about what I read–and what I read in blogs, since I want my blogs to be read, in turn–I turn to the work of Frank Solanki, which I began following early in my time writing in this webspace. He writes poetry, with which I sympathize, given what I do in my other online endeavors, and it seems to me that attending to that poetry might be a good thing to do for more than one reason. Among my reasons is, as noted, that I’d like my own blogging read and commented upon, so I ought to read and comment upon the works of others. Another is that, as someone largely outside academe at this point despite some pretensions to retaining intellectual rigor, I ought at least to try to remain in practice with those skills I have trained through years of study–one of which is picking apart poetry. So I turn to Frank Solanki’s 14 February 2018 “A Lonely Beer” to see what I can still do.

The poem consists of twenty-eight lines of generally irregular meter–most read as trimeter, although a few dimeter lines are evident, and there seems to be no particularly preferred foot for the most part. There is no formal division into stanzas, although the prevailing abcb rhyme scheme does group the lines into seven quatrains that largely align to what could be read handily as sentence breaks. The first three such quatrains form something of a rhythmic unit, as each ends on a line of a stressed syllable followed by two iambs. The last three similarly unify, each ending on a line of iambic trimeter; the central fourth quatrain follows neither pattern, its distinct rhythm helping to figure it as the pivot its position suggests.

Semantically, the fourth quatrain bears out the pivot its position and rhythmic distinction suggest. While the other six quatrains can be read as introspective and reflective, the fourth is a decidedly direct address to the reader, offering a command to “Quit reading further” as it opens before laying out the conditions for that command. It also explicitly identifies the poem as being a response to the holiday of its publication; the quatrain’s final line bespeaks “not having a valentine,” appropriate to the 14 February publication.

That the poem thus marks itself off as a Valentine’s lament, and that it occupies twenty-eight lines, initially seems to invite consideration of the poem as a calendrical piece. That seeming quickly falters, however; a more fully calendrical version might align itself by sevens, following weeks, and it would position the Valentine’s reference in the fourteenth line rather than the current sixteenth. So one easy interpretation–one that would make the poem clever although not necessarily inspiring–does not hold up under more than a cursory glance.

Similarly, the easy interpretation of the poem as the lament of a sympathetic narrator who is alone on a holiday dedicated to romance falters quickly. The aforementioned direct address to the reader breaks a narrative flow that could otherwise ease reception by readers of the narrator as one with whom to empathize, and not only for its bluntness; it reads as somehow snotty and mean. And the narrator’s solitude seems justified by the sixth quatrain, in which the poem reveals the narrator had two lovers (with names evoking the perceivedly Puritanical, straight-laced 1950s of the United States) at once–clearly illicitly, since “They found out about each other / Now [the narrator is] alone and blue” (ll, 23-24). Had the narrator been in an avowedly open or polyamorous relationship, such would not be the case, but since the revelation of other lovers has resulted in the loss of both, the reader is left to conclude that the narrator deserves to be without romance amid others enjoying it.

What happens, then, is that the poem becomes the whining of the justly afflicted. The narrator has clearly not learned the lesson to be taken from the events discussed–namely, not to be duplicitous in romantic relationships–focusing rather on the isolation occasioned by bad actions than on how to avoid bad actions and improve the self such that either others would find the narrator fit company or the narrator would move past the need to be accompanied. (How much an improvement the latter would be is, of course, easily contestable.) The narrator drinking a beer alone becomes not a figure of sympathy or an image of contentment–and the figure of a lone person drinking in a bar can be and has been taken as both–but one of scorn, and in that becoming might serve as a warning to those who might otherwise approach such a person.

There may well be a reason that person is alone in the bar on a holiday.

Stand me a drink?

Class Report: ENGL 135, 3 March 2018

For the first class meeting of the session, discussion focused on introductions to the course, the instructor, and foundational concepts of rhetoric and composition. The course project, particularly the preferred alternative topic, received attention, as well. So did upcoming assignments:

  • Discussions, due online before 0059 on 5 March 2018
  • Course Project: Topic Selection, due online as a Word document before 0059 on 5 March 2018

Submission guidelines for the assignments are in the course shell.

The class met as scheduled, at 0900 in Room 114 of the San Antonio campus. The course roster listed 14 students; six attended, assessed informally. Class participation was reasonably good. No students attended Monday office hours.

On Little Fears

A thing I ought to do more often than I do is write about the things I read–not just the news media pieces to which I respond, but also the works of my fellow bloggers. Since I hope to have my own work taken up and considered, I owe it to my compatriots to do the same, to note what I read and appreciate in them–and one I very much appreciate writes at Little Fears.

A WordPress-powered blog, Little Fears is a series of illustrations and short pieces, typically humor and horror, that I’ve been following for a while, now–and even commenting on, which I do all too rarely. I do so chiefly for the humor–a long series of puns, some of which are quite groan-worthy. I am a dad, though, so that kind of joke caters to my needs; dads seemingly have to make puns, typically zeugma, and Little Fears presents no few examples of that form that can be taken up and re-deployed. (The blog also makes liberal use of homophonic puns, although those work less well in text than in speech by their very nature, as a recent post about aquatic mammals exemplifies.)

The blog also offers no few other items: the aforementioned horror, SkillShare courses, and merchandise of various sorts. It seems to be doing well enough to keep itself going on those efforts alone, so it serves as a useful model to follow for those who would do the same with their own work. And the author does respond to comments left on the blog posts, which is often a good thing; readers are invited into conversations thereby and made to feel as if they contribute something of value to what they presumably enjoy. So that much, along with much else, is worth the consideration.