Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thirteen days away...

The contract year begins 8/26--next Thursday--but classes do not get underway until 9/2. I still have not finished my reading/assignment calendar for my English 101 (composition) course, only because I chose to use a different book this year. I wanted to return to something more pop-culture-y, so I'm using Remix: Reading and Composing Culture because the exam copy I got last year had some interesting stuff in it. So far I've chosen to do readings on identity, entertainment, and progress--mainly because they involve asking intelligent questions that don't have easy answers, which hopefully means I'll get some good discussions going.

That's provided my students actually read what's assigned.

I have struggled quite a bit in recent years with this particular aspect of my job. It's led to some issues in my tenure dossier, because as part of my self-analysis, I ended up ...complaining... without accurately expressing how I was searching for solutions.  So this year's make-or-break dossier is going to be all about the search for ways to engage my students--beyond the type of reading quizzes they got in high school. I will be highlighting the reading I've done over the summer, and I'm going to work my tail off at showing the EC that I'm engaged with engaging my students.

As a new experiment this semester, I'm going to try having my students blog about their reading; instead of "encouraging" them to keep a journal/log, I am going to have them blog about what they're reading and how they're reacting to that reading. My friend and colleague Jessica is going to help me get started on it so that I don't have to reinvent the wheel. 

The biggest problem I can see with this is that it is going to involve a LOT of reading on my part. A LOT. I may do it for the literature course alone, but the ENG 101 readings seem to be made for this sort of thing as well. I am not going to grade the content per se, but will try to figure out a way to grade the level of engagement. Perhaps I will use the blog in place of the traditional semi-formal assignments I've been using. The more I think about it, the more I think I will do it this way, if only to cut down on the amount of reading somewhat.

I love my job. I love reading about how other people approach this job and its challenges. I draw the line at using Twitter, and I'm not giving out my phone number because I am not a 7-11 (open 24-7) but I do use a variety of ways to engage with my students. What puzzles me is that the students seem to expect this level of engagement (or higher) from me, yet my expectations of them are shock-inducing (e.g. my attendance policy, my no-late-major-assignments-without-a-doctor's-note policy, my hard and fast D2L drop-box deadlines). If you're reading this and you're a teacher, what do you do to engage your students with the required materials (beyond quizzes and exams)?

Anyway, that's all for now...I've got Thing Two asking to get into my lap and there's just no way to refuse this face...

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