After tallying your mid-quarter responses, here’s a quick breakdown of what’s going on in our classroom:
An overwhelming number of people have asked me to post grades to Canvas. I appreciate that you’re a technologically-driven bunch, so that will be done. I’ll also start answering e-mails with more frequency (sorry.)
There is a more complicated issue going on in that while most of you prefer group work to class discussions, many of you have expressed that you think we’re not using that time effectively.
Which means that I’ll be structuring your group activities a little differently in the future, with an eye towards GETTING ALL OF YOU TALKING AS A CLASS. I’m planning on trying to incorporate more time for writing in the classroom as well–there are mixed opinions about this, but it ties in with the time constraints that several of you are chafing against.
Unfortunately, we operate on a quarter system that forces us to work in chunks of 10-12 weeks, depending on the quarter. THis means that all the work of a 101 class gets shoved into 10 weeks, instead of 14, and due to our 3x/week schedule, the material that generally gets taught in 50 minute chunks 5 times a week gets compressed into what we do.
The other, overwhelming response that I’ve received about our work is that my instructions are unclear, largely due to a lack of structure. Allow me to enlighten you as to why this is:
In giving your assignments, I state exactly what it is that I am looking for. I give you a LOT of space in terms of how I expect you to write, as well as what I expect you to write about, because placing restrictions on a student’s writing is actually detrimental to the ability to craft good essays.
I’m aware that this places a lot of responsibility on you as students who are generally 1-2 quarters into your college educations, and are used to a structure in which you are told to do something and produce results which are either right or wrong, according to the formulae you are given for success.
That is not how my classroom works. Success in this classroom is determined by how much effort you place into creating something that is authentically yours. This discourse gives you a framework to build on, rather than attempting to compartmentalize your work. That is the difference between the Humanities and STEM work.
Consider for a moment: In STEM classes, you’re learning to calculate and analyze in ways that can determine whether people live or die.Formulaic processes are necessary to minimize the risks to others Nobody’s going to die because of what you write in English 101. Our work is accepted as one perspective of a larger whole that is subject to interpretation (THAT BIG OLD ELEPHANT IS EVERYWHERE IN THIS CLASS!) As such, the space of English 101 is one in which it is acceptable to take risks with your work–and I hope you do. Writing is an incredibly messy, chaotic process that puts us in the uncomfortable position of being uncertain, but that isn’t a bad thing in this field.
What I can do for you in the process of your writings for this class is give you the tools to face the uncertainty of your own ideas, but no amount of structure or instruction can take away the abject terror of “If” that arises when we are made to complicate our understanding of things–which is the underlying goal of the study of rhetoric.
That having been said, I’ll work to give you better and more frequent feedback about your work in here.