Engaging Different Types of Students

Drawing of a sheep surrounded by the words Call Me Normal and I'll Call You Often

At this point in the semester we’re all sizing up our latest batch of students. Not every student is the student who quietly does all her reading and eagerly contributes to class discussion. In fact, I’ve found that students like the one I just described can sometimes be the least stimulating. What’s fun or interesting about a student who hangs on our every word, and who repeats for us exactly what we want them to say? For those of us who teach reading and writing courses, one goal of our pedagogy will inevitably be imploring our students to think critically about their place in the world.

Finding the Sticking-Place: Take Up New Technologies and Unscrew the Cycle of Fear

An overhead projector

There seems to be a tendency when teaching new technologies to slip into simply teaching the tools. When I’m gearing up to assign my students a multimodal project, rather than teaching students to puzzle over and feel out new technologies, I often—with the semester slipping by—take their hands and rush them through some piece of software.

Mid-Term Survey on Instructor Performance

Screenshot of a survey from the website Survey Monkey

Teaching is an art and teachers, like other artists, run the risk of valuing their performance too highly and overlooking their faults and mistakes. But as the true artist must ever abhor complacency, and tirelessly seek new angles on his or her work to spot frailities that can be avoided or improved in future, so the true teacher must resist the allure of self-sufficiency. 

Incentives, Focus, and Games

Black and white game pieces on a wooden board

Most teachers who allow laptops in the classroom regret their choice shortly afterwards.  Though students are always initially thankful and attentive, soon their eyes begin to wander to the screen.  At first they play little games.  Maybe they can have both MSWord and Wikipedia open at the same time, but maybe teacher will notice all that clicking and dragging so the reorganization goes unfinished and their browser sits blank, right next to whatever notes they are trying to compose.  It’s not long before they start wondering if you will notice them.&nbs

In Defense of Winging It

Gray background with the words There Are No Maps Where We Are Going

So far this semester, my best lesson plan wasn’t planned. In fact, it was purposely left vague and unformed just to see what would evolve. And with digital media, I would argue, these unplanned moments can be where the most instruction can occur.

To Accept Late Papers or Not?

Faux x-ray of a dog with math supplies and homework in its stomach

For whatever reason, perhaps due to my own misjudgment, many of my students are becoming increasingly – and overwhelmingly – sick right before their papers are due (some multiple times already this semester). This of course means that instead of spending valuable time preparing lessons or working on my own research, I am spending far too much time emailing back and forth with the student, creating new deadlines, and worrying whether to ask for doctor's notes. And if I ask for a note, do I ask only in the suspicious cases?

Teaching the (Not So) Tech-Savvy, or, Why My Students Wouldn't Get This Meme

Screenshot of meme featuring an elderly woman looking at computer with text Wikipedia is Down, What Do They Have Against Soap?

When I was informed as to what text we would be engaging in our introductory rhetoric classes this year, I was simultaneously heartened and shaken.  I was heartened because the subject matter of the substantive material we would be engaging was of tremendous import to everyone- as students, as individuals, as participants in the flow of e-commerce. The issues we would be examining were being addressed and discussed right now, by everyone from politicians to niche nerds with alarmist blogs.

Why Teach Popular Culture?

Photo of South Austin Museum of Popular Culture

This semester, I have taken great pleasure in teaching The Rhetoric of Celebrity to a group of enthusiastic and talented students.  In my office hours a few weeks ago, a student who came in to discuss a recent assignment with me began our conversation by asking if “all rhetoric teachers had to be so young.”  

“Well,” I answered, “most of us are graduate students, so we don’t have our PhDs yet.  We’re generally in our twenties and thirties.”  

The Shock Factor: Using Heavy Content in Class

Photograph of three small statues

This semester I’m teaching The Rhetoric of Documentary Films, and I have a very engaged group of students who have various levels of familiarity with the course topic.  In fact, one of my challenges in this course is devising class activities that are enlightening for both the person who has seen only one documentary (usually one of Michael Moore’s films) and the person who has seen dozens.  One of the ways I have approached this challenge is by showing clips from a wide variety of films: I figure that I will be opening some minds to the diversity of the documentary genr

Mitigating Silence

Speech bubble with an ellipsis inside

I’ve never been able to hold a silence in class. There’s lots of talk about how long you can let a question hang in the air--there’s a swagger in these discussions, a sort of teacherly way of one-upping one another. And I’ve heard boasts about a minute or two and stories about those rare masters that can hold the three, four, five minute silence (we can, in this regard, look toward John Cage as having raised the long silence to an artform).



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