Category: Teaching

Trying Out the Unessay

Thanks to Twitter, the Unessay has been on my radar for a minute — but I only finally tried it out in my Short Story lit class this summer. My students really enjoyed having a creative option in lieu of a traditional research paper, and examples of their work are shared with their permission below (along with the full prompt, and the course syllabus).

But before I get to their work: let me give some clarification on what an Unessay is, exactly. My prompt and grading criteria were adapted and cobbled together from Professor Emily Contois’ “Teaching the Unruly Unessay,” Professor Emily Suzanne Clark’s Unessay post on her personal site, and Professor Ryan Cordell’s Unessay assignment on the Technologies of Text class site.… Read more

Revisiting Black Mirror in Composition + Special Issue of Supernatural Studies

A few folks emailed me in the past couple of weeks asking for more information around my Black Mirror-themed composition course, so I thought I’d post a few revisions and tweaks I’m working on as I prepare for the next iteration of this class. I focused on Get Out in the fall, but will come back to Black Mirror in both Composition I and our Liberal Arts capstone in the spring. I’ll post in the next week or so on the capstone class.

In case you are looking for additional resources on Black Mirror — both scholarly articles and/or reflections on teaching — I’d suggest you also check out the special issue of Supernatural Studies (4.2) devoted to Black Mirror that I edited.… Read more

Reflecting & Tweaking (Or, What We Should Be Doing All the Freakin’ Time): Get Out Syllabus Edition

I don’t want to quantify it because I haven’t conducted a formal study or anything, but an immense amount of teaching is about reflection.

Oh, students didn’t get something?

It’s not them. It’s you, boo.

A reading didn’t go over very well, or almost everyone struggled with it?

Well, maybe you need to chuck it. Or create a reading guide, with questions to engage and prepare them before they dive in. Mark particular points in the text that you want them to focus on, paragraphs that are crucial to unlocking the text–and ask them, in advance, to mull over these passages in depth.… Read more

Notes:

  1. I’m leaving a .1% margin here to account for things like fire. Or natural disasters and extreme weather that prevent students from physically getting to class, or other things outside of our control.
  2. Many thanks to Elizabeth Alsop, Luke Waltzer, and the TLC Summer Institute participants for inviting me!

Creative Writing Assignments in Composition: Creative Retellings

As summer winds down and our thoughts turn to trimming/pruning/burning and razing our syllabi, I thought I’d share a creative writing assignment I use in my second-level composition class, ENG 102: Writing Through Literature. This Creative Retelling assignment is cobbled together from prior work done by Amy Cummins, Pam Regis, and Stephen M. Park. 1 

At some point, the act of slogging through dozens of research papers on literature chips away at my resolve, and deadens my soul. It’s just boring AF. 2 I work all semester on the nuts and bolts of writing and responding to literature: close readings, paragraph construction, quotation sandwiches, citation methods, etc.… Read more

Notes:

  1.  Amy Cummins, “Tell Me a Story: Effective Use of Creative Writing Assignments in College Literature Courses.” Currents in Teaching and Learning 1.2 (Spring 2009): 42-9; Pam Regis, “Understanding Point of View” in The Pocket Instructor: Literature edited by Diana Fuss & William A. Gleason, pp. 75-78; Stephen M. Park, “Flip the Script,” ibid., pp. 78-81.
  2. This post grew out of a conversation I was having last week with the brilliant and talented Sarah Hildebrandabout course prep and the soul-deadening task of grading piles of research papers, and in which I promised to share materials, and realized I just needed to get my ass in gear and post this stuff already.
  3. In my fall sections of ENG 102, I plan on teaching Ken Liu’s “Mono No Aware,” Octavia Butler’s “Speech Sounds,” and Carmen Maria Machado’s “Inventory” for short stories (and will probably add a couple more before the semester starts). As I said above, if I include “Monstro,” it will be for modeling purposes for this assignment, and the other short stories will be fair game for the assignment itself.

Teaching Get Out in a Composition Class

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted. 1 My semester starts at LaGuardia this week, and with it comes my personal pedagogical ritual: taking a decent, pre-existing syllabus I conjured forth (that has been already tweaked and refined); putting it aside; and completely overhauling the content, usually within a mere week before classes begin. 2 To be clear: I am constantly reflecting/tweaking prior assignments and in-class exercises — and many of these are fairly portable and can be recycled with ease into another section of composition. But I want to teach content that I find fresh and exciting, and that I hope will engage students.… Read more

Notes:

  1. I got into an MFA program, and CUNY foots the bill if full-time employees want to take graduate classes within the system (or undergrad classes, for that matter). Yes, I’m lucky AF. It’s also a bit time-consuming, turns out.
  2.  The Black Mirror composition course (detailed in my last post, many moons ago) went quite well, and only needed some minor adjustments. I made them soon after the semester ended, and will probably re-visit that at some point again. I just felt an urge to trot out this idea first.

That Black Mirror Composition Syllabus. Finally.

This composition syllabus had a rather long gestational period. It was supposed to make an appearance in the fall of 2016.

Instead, Lemonade happened.

Which worked out fine. I had a great time teaching those composition sections around Beyoncé’s visual album, intersectional feminism, and pop culture more generally.

But because I get bored/distracted easily when teaching the same material repeatedly, I felt it was time to revisit my Black Mirror ideas, tweak as necessary, and roll out this sucker. Fortunately, the experience running those Lemonade sections – especially using student writing as course reading/response materials – helped me hone this iteration a bit more.… Read more

What Comes Next?

Today, I held individual conferences with students. I suggested these conferences, instead of our regularly scheduled class,  a little while ago. I tweaked the schedule because it’s usually a good idea to check in, one-on-one, around this time in the semester. But I also did it as a precaution. Maybe it is my Southern roots. Maybe I subconsciously knew how white folk could be : the sexism, the racism – whatever it takes to maintain white male supremacy. 1 But I knew that – if what happened were to happen – I wouldn’t be able to function in front of a whole class today.… Read more

Notes:

  1. This should not have been news to me. Hell, the first thing of mine that I ever saw in print was in high school, and was an editorial against the Confederate flag, written in response to some good ol’ boy in the Lynchburg News & Advance. And I look at racist AF Civil War memories. I should have known better, but was in denial, like so many others.

A Blog Post About Blogging & Social Media In Academia. Specifically Theatre. Featuring: Risks! Rewards! With an Appearance By: The Near-Criminal Neglect of Pedagogy Training in Grad School!

I went a-conferencing this past weekend, to the American Society for Theatre Research in Minneapolis (#astr16). I was invited to speak at a career session called Beyond the Journal: Social Media, Blogs, and Podcasts, with scholars Brian Herrera , as moderator and general theatre/social media/digital writing expert, and Pannill Camp, who spoke about the important and exciting On TAP podcast. It was pretty awesome to somehow get invited to this party (if a 7:30 am Sunday session can be considered a party. Indulge me.). Many thanks to the Career Sessions organizers for the invitation, should they ever stumble across this post.… Read more

The #LemonadeSyllabus & A Last Minute Switcheroo

The semester starts in less than two weeks, y’all. So what did I do, with my ready-to-go-syllabi, numerous writing deadlines, and paper-/committee-work looming over me, vulture-like?

I posted a proposition on social media that would lead me down the last-minute-abandonment-of-already-developed-syllabus road.

And yet, that is exactly what I ended up doing today.

 

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Of course, the major source of inspiration behind all this was Candice Benbow’s stunning, comprehensive, and wonderfully detailed/designed Lemonade Syllabus. I live in awe of this document.… Read more

AI, Transhumanism, & Posthumanism: Some Introductory Readings

I‘m very excited to be co-facilitating – with colleague Priscilla Stadler, the Center for Teaching & Learning Instructional Design Manager – a semester-long faculty seminar this fall. This is an outgrowth of the NEH Technology, Self, and Society seminar that I was part of for the past two years. Our seminar, Future Humans, will be more pedagogy-focused, but will draw on the themes of transhumanism, posthumanism, and AI that came up in the Technology, Self, & Society sessions. … Read more