Saturday, November 10, 2012

My shortest post

Teaching is NOT just a job.
Teaching is NOT just another job.
Teaching is not JUST a job.
Teaching is not JUST ANOTHER job.

The spousal unit thinks it is just a job or the same as any other job; it is not.  Most jobs would not expect and entrust me with teaching people how to read, write and think critically.

Teaching has been the most important thing in my life along with my family.

Emptying my room was like throwing my life away and he thought that day was fun because Dora came and they were laughing and joking around while I was crying and my student Michael did a lot of the work and was worried about me.
Michael's were the kindest words that day, "Are you going to be okay, Ms. Peters?  I know this is unimaginably difficult for you."

I was not really okay that day and he knew that; I am not really okay yet with not teaching and I am not sure I ever will be.

The spousal unit will continue to lack comprehension and compassion on the subject-despite his many virtues and despite all the physical help he gives me and all the extra work he has taken on around the house since I have become disabled. He is a good man but he doesn't get it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Planning your classes

My biggest advice about class planning is to plan the whole unit before you teach it and if possible make the test then too. That way you always are sure of where you are going and what points you are making.  I think thinking in units is one of the best ways for kids to understand material. I think if tests are given because you need to give one or you give one every three weeks they may not be as meaningful and it may make it harder on the kids.

They need you to be clearly organized. Someone told me earlier on or I read it--teaching a class is like writing an essay. The class has a thesis or point you are making and it has support with the activities you are doing.

I know it can be easier , especially at first, to go one day at a time, but new teachers often run out of material that way. I never run out of material ; there is always something I can think of to do.

I think when you think of the work in units, you think of what is important, what to stress and why, you have the tests and projects done and in the end, I think you will find it easier  to do marathon a unit, then to sit up night after night trying to figure out what next and losing the why of what you are teaching.

Think not just of content but of critical thinking skills.  Anytime you can improve reading skills, writing or thinking skills I think you are on track. Even when I lectured I stopped and asked a million questions.  Socrates had it right all those years ago with the Socratic question.\

Teaching with a Class of Students with Computers

Too often state governors and other people want to be able to do away with seniority in order to make way for new more innovative teachers and move out the older ones.  I abhor the idea because I was older (or my friends) that we weren't keeping up and we weren't innovation. To me these people want younger because it is cheaper.

Nevertheless, I spent several years with all my students but seniors having a laptop (or tablet PC, if you prefer).  It is a different way of teaching.  You can do it at 54 as easily as at 22, maybe easier.

I know you have to teach the phrase, "Lids down" and enforce it immediately. When you want those lids down you want them to be in the habit of slapping them down as soon as you say it. Since I taught in a Catholic school, I started class with prayer and when I was ready, I said, Prayers , lids down."  You could hear them click down.  You have to start it asap and you have to keep up with it and you have to call out their name if it isn't down in a reasonable time.  I wanted them down during presentations, so they were paying attention to their classmates.

I was willing to detain kids if they were on sites that had nothing to do with my class.  People had all sorts of ways of catching or proving this. Some people yelled, "hands up" because they can minimize or close so quickly.  I decided that I wasn't doing that. If you were laughing or fooling around during "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" then you were on facebook or something else.  I would say, "Put your name on a post-it on my desk and I will see you for flex detention."  Did this stop it? No but it had consequences at least.

You have to be willing to walk around constantly to see what they are doing; you can't just stand in front of the room. You have to walk and snoop. You can do this by sitting down in an empty chair and looking at computers nearby.  I would sit there, on the sofas, the file cabinets and the window sills (on the first floor,  I had to give that up in 212).  I moved around a lot and sat everywhere.  That way I could see more of what was going on, computers or not.  That's why in the 2010 yearbook there is  a photo of me sitting cross legged on top of the sofa. Like many women, I didn't like my hair in the photo when I accidentally got a glimpse of it before it went to press.  I was told it was the perfect photo because I was the only one who moved around that much and sat on everything.  Now you know why I did it.  I also just don't like being up in front the whole time.

You have to learn to have them do more than take notes on them.  I tried to work them in as much as possible.They can look up and unknown word and hear its pronunciation. They can look up background information.

I had them copy and paste poems we were doing that were online into their notebooks so they could take their notes with the poems right there.  When we did "Huswifery" which uses the process of making clothes using a spinning wheel, loom, and seamstress/tailor to the process of salvation, I had them find photos of spinning wheels with the parts labeled so the poem would make more sense.

With "The Crucible" we looked up who was on the HUAC list to see if they recognized any names.Point out Burl Ives was the singing snowman in Rudolph.  We could read Pete Seeger's testimony and see that they couldn't even get him to take the 5th amendment because he thought doing that meant what they were doing was constitutional and he was sure it wasn't so he refused to answer. Then we could see how times had changed when we watched his birthday in front of the Lincoln Memorial with everyone including Obama and George Lucas singing "This Land Is Your Land."

I could go on and on. Don't be afraid to tell them to shut the lid.  Don't use it just for notes. The computer in the class can be very valuable. Will it be wrought with frustrations with things locked out and things not working all the time, sure, but you just need a back up plan.

Friday, October 26, 2012

College teaching assistants, stray dogs, and schizophrenic men on campus

It is 1980 or maybe 1981 and Carl and are teaching at the University of Louisville and being professional academics working on our MA degrees in English. One afternoon we found a German shepherd on campus with a huge gash in his neck and he was quite thin; he was also very friendly. We got him to come into the Humanities Building where our offices were and it was late afternoon and the building very empty. We got him some food and called the shelter.  They said he had probably been chained outside and possibly starved and he had pulled free from the chain which caused the gash. They took him.  Not much of a success story but it was more interesting if you were actually in it.

  We used to eat lunch on the third floor of the Humanities building. Several other friends ate with us depending on the day and their schedules. We started seeing an young Asian man in our building and he was putting trash in a bag and also eating from it. The second day we saw him we put on our Superhero capes to try to help him. He kept putting in trash and picking out food from the bag he carried, so we asked his name and he gave it. He followed us downstairs while we got him a sandwich and the window and then he put it in the filthy bag.

He didn't make a lot of sense when we talked to him but he was cooperative and agreeable.  At one point we thought maybe he had a head injury and he told us that we were right he did.

I had to go to class but we agreed it didn't seem safe for him to be wandering around, anyone could easily do anything to him since he was doing anything we suggested so I went off to teach and Carl took him to the medical facilities on campus; he was refused treatment because they could not determine if he were a student there.  Not one to give up, Carl decided to take him farther downtown to one of the hospitals. While walking with him to the parking lot, the guy fell over in a complete 180 board like fall and then got up.

Carl took him to the hospital where he was recognized by the staff. His name was not the one he gave us, but he was a regular because he was a mentally challenged schizophrenic; his family had to work  and he often wandered and ended up there. His family was called.

Carl left.

The next day our guy was back picking up cigarette butts and trash and putting them in with food into his bag and eating from it.

So much for Superhero capes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Aristotle's Poetics Found on a Desk but not in Ancient Greece

There was a student who I knew was cheating, but I couldn't catch or prove it. I was not the best at that but I used to give each student a test personally so I could check the desk for notes and also so someone couldn't say there weren't enough tests in the row and then take an extra one with him or her for someone who was absent.

This happened in the 90s when I was in 103B. We were having a test on Aristotle's Poetics and Oedipus and in second period the class was full (first period was half full) and I went to hand the test to someone when she yelled out, "That is not mine, I swear it is not mine!  I looked at the writing and agreed it was not in her handwriting and I commented on the fact that I recognized the person's writing.  When the maintenance people cleaned the room, the desks got moved around and Jill in first period didn't get the desk with the writing. She obviously had spent time outlining the Poetics on her desk and then when she came in, her desk had been moved and she had to go it alone. She got a 46.

I said nothing to her.

We started Dante a few weeks later, and I began to talk about contrapasso, where the punishment fits the crime in Dante.  Then I gave them the following "hypothetical" example:
If you were in my class and Dante wrote about you in hell. He might have a level for those who cheat on tests. The contrapasso there would be you would write the notes for Aristotle's Poetics and Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus on your desk. Then hell's maintenance workers, drawn from mythology, would come along and move the desks. Then the next day the sinner would come in for the test and find an empty desk, her desk would have been moved, she would have to take the test without notes, and she would get a 46. This would happen over and over again throughout eternity with her always getting a 46.

Some of the kids were laughing at this example. The guilty person slid down a bit and the person next to her said very quietly, "Is she talking about you?"

She replied, "Be quiet."

I thought it was the best kind of confrontation--what I call the non-confrontation confrontation.  She knew I knew she cheated and that was enough for the rest of the year.

Yet another Carl story --Carl and this blog

Carl loves this blog, despite the fact he has only looked at it if I have showed it to him. Moreover, he has only read a few posts or has had them read to him. He THINKS he can get on the blog without me, but I personally don't believe he has a chance. He tried to insinuate he had actually been on but,as it turns out, he has only been on under the circumstances mentioned above.BUT he means to get on and read the rest of them.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Technology and New Ways of Cheating

Back somewhere around the Middle Ages when I was in school cheating generally meant copying off another person's test or homework.  Occasionally someone had a cheat sheet.  As time went on cheat sheets back smaller and more innovative. Girls wrote them on their legs so they could just flip their skirt up a bit. People put them in their shoes but I don't see how they could see them.  Guys put them in watch faces and on the underside of their ties.

Plagiarizing an essay generally meant copying from the encyclopedia, Cliff's Notes  or another person.  Sometimes people copies a textbook.

People whispered answers or coughed them to each other, haaaackk a or kkkkkkkks b.  They still do that.

But today's technology has given students more innovative means of cheating. I have never been what I consider a gold medalist at catching cheating but I have caught all of the above at some point or another.

As of late, I caught people using their cell phones to text each other answers or to copy the test by taking photographs of it. In the Middle Ages, people announced there weren't enough tests in the row and asked for another which they took out of the room, which is why I handed each person his or her test personally.  In the past people wrote outlines on their desks (more on that later in Aristotle in the classroom), another reason I handed each person his or her test personally.  Cheat sheets became even smaller because of the availability of small fonts on the computer and one person could now generate multiple versions of the same cheat sheet. Therefore, you don't even have to make your own anymore.

People look for more obscure essays to copy from the Internet and they send them to each other and change the font size and the opening sentence.  People also do things like put a title page on an essay and then copy over something like Sports Illustrated hoping the teacher only checked for length.

Information can also be hidden in calculators, so they can't be on the desk except in math classes.  IPods have some of the same capabilities as well.

As technology grows so do the methods of cheating.