Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Anybody else up for a nap??

Well today is Wednesday, and Whitney and I have our project mostly done. I guess it was a little bit bigger of an idea than we thought it was going to be. C'est la vie. Anyways I've noticed something about the English dept in general this week...a severe lack of sympathy (no offense Dr. McKinney); I joke...5 papers plus our portfolio due before finals. Compared to some of the people I've been talking to, I've got it easy (poor kids). Is this some sort of weeding-out process by the dept to get rid of people who don't want to be here, or is this some cruel scientific study to test how much (or little)sleep students actually need to function? I'm starting to believe the latter. I would be blogging about some insightful subject from a class today instead of this rant; however, due to project overload I have not been to many classes this week, and expect I'm not alone. What really puts the topping on the cake is having to study the effects of stress and sleeplessness in Health class this week (it's not a pretty subject). Anyways, I'm not blaming the professors; truth be told I am quite the procrastinator. However I really believe that a lot of my (and other students') procrastination is because when there is a breather where I could work ahead, I have no motivation because I'm so tired/burned out by that point. It's a vicious cycle. Ok, well rant official over... I hope everyone else is handling pre-finals well. My best advice- Walmart: individual ice cream cups/frozen pie slices and Starbucks; may they bring you all the joy and caffination they have brought me.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Paper 3

Finally, observations are finished and writing on paper 3 can begin... This was my thought when I left Friday with the full intentions of producing a well-developed, interactive, paper 3 website. Long story short, it hasn't quite happened yet. Whitney and I have the final product in our heads, and we have a draft mostly prepared for peer review. Unfortunately I have been slowly losing motivation the last few weeks of the semester (or really since we moved back in in August :) ) I need to step back and refocus, but instead I'd rather play outside. Hopefully Whitney and I can stay on task and are ideas will all come together the way we imagined it. I think group papers are the hardest to write because each member has her own unique style that sounds completely different from the other members. Yet, I like working with other people to feed off of their ideas and collaborate to make better ones. Perhaps Whitney and I should go to the Writing Center...anyone still need observations??

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Online Tutoring...Do we have to??

First and foremost I would like to congratulate Whitney on posting before me twice this week. Not that we race or anything...but if we did, she would totally win. Kudos.

Ok now down to business. As probably suggested by this blog title, I am not exactly the number one fan of online tutoring. In fact, my name probably belongs at the bottom of the list. I have to say first of all that I do admire the intentions of online tutoring mentioned in the articles. For example, I think it is great that students can now access writing centers at their convenience (even if that may increase the increasing lack of oxygen students receive by staying in their dorm rooms). I also like the idea that students can leave the online sessions with a print out of what was worked on that they can refer to later. However, that is pretty much where my positive attitude towards online tutoring ends. Here's why (and I will try to keep this short):

1. I don't like talking to computers. I know unfortunately I was born in the digital age, but technology hates me. This is a selfish reason to hate online tutoring, but I think that because I am uncomfortable the student may be uncomfortable, or at the very least I may not be as effective as I would face-to-face.
2. Body language, to me, is irreplaceable. I am constantly looking for signs that the student agrees/disagrees/doesn't understand what she is hearing, and if I can't see those signs I feel like I can't assess the situation as well.
3. I don't believe students are any more prepared for an online session, and sometimes they are even less so. I think in an online session, students can multi-task (IM/listen to music/eat/talk on the phone), and this definitely takes away from their focus.
4. A lot of the technology used for online tutoring has kinks in it, and a lot of time is wasted during the sessions while both tutors and students try to adapt. This may sound strange, but I've had several sessions where the student and I are typing at the same time and interrupting each other so our ideas don't line up. In addition, I've had just as many sessions where the technology quits working and the screen freezes, or one person is disconnected.

I have some other general concerns, but this blog is getting long. Also I'm not trying to say that because I don't like online tutoring I won't approach it with an open mind. I do online sessions at work, and I try to make them as helpful and friendly as any face-to-face. My main point is that I think the articles we read were a little Bedford-ish in that they present more of the positive intentions than what actually goes on.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Manic Monday

Today was one of the more hectic days in a series of what appear to be the most chuck-full days of the semester yet. But alas, the end is near. I'm glad that the semester is almost over; however, when I start to think about it, I realize that means that deadlines are fast approaching. For example, I observed my first session today at the Learning Center for our upcoming paper. I didn't officially observe tutoring, but instead I got a feel for the surroundings (the Core Desk is a foreign place to us Math Desk workers). Even though I finally got going on this project, I feel like it is going to catch me off guard next week when I actually have to write about it. But even that worry is put off by another project that is due even sooner. On the bright side of things, Whitney and I finished our discussion leader stuff, so I guess that's one small thing out of the way. I thought things went relatively well even though I presented our author as a boy. It was an honest mistake; I thought perhaps Muriel was the male version of Miriam. Anyways, that aside, I feel relieved that I finished at least one minor project for the week.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pre-Class pondering

I read the essays that are assigned for today, and I think the idea of censorship will be interesting to discuss. In general, I point out sexist or vulgar language when it appears that the student has used it unconsciously. Granted this is a judgement call, but I try to base it on whether the student uses it throughout her work as an entire idea or if it simply a few words/one line. For example, if a student came in with a paper about how women should not have jobs, (wrong as he may be) that's his opinion and main idea. Therefore, I don't think it's my place as a tutor to censor him. However, if a student slips a vulgar/sexist word into one sentence in an essay about how business works, then he may have done so without considering how his audience would react. In that case, I wouldn't force him to take it out, I would simply ask him who his audience is and have him consider the effects his language may cause.

In response to the second article about consent, I was reminded of something Phil said the other day. I forget what it was that we were talking about in class when when Phil mentioned that he always tries to set the tone and expectations for the session at the very beginning. I think about setting the tone and making the student comfortable, but laying out expectations usually slips my mind. However, I agree that the beginning of the session can be incredibly important, and I think that a lot of the issues the second essay deals with can be addressed by doing just as Phil suggests.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Murphy and DiPardo

So I was thinking about Monday's class discussion concerning whether or not a tutor should go into a session expecting to learn something from it/make a change (whether the change be significant or minor). It reminded me of a debate (that turned into a near-full out argument) I had with a friend once about the expectations of teachers, especially English teachers. A newspaper article referenced a letter to the editor concerning past and recent movies displaying ideal, unique teaching practices. Some of the movies mentioned included Freedom Writers and The Dead Poet Society, and the article talked about how these movies set up unrealistic expectations of teachers to become "heros" in the classrooms. The movies are about English teachers that drastically change students' perspectives on writing and literature, and both the article and the letter to the editor agreed that this was unrealistic. My friend and I were talking about it, and he said that he also agrees. I was not too upset at this point; I agree that the situations in movies are ideal. However, what I disagree with is the idea that teachers should go into the classroom not expecting/hoping to have a significant impact on students. My friend said (and I'll never forget this), "teaching is just another occupation. You go in, do your job, and clock out." I'm not becoming a teacher, but this idea upset me anyways. I know that teachers can't be expected to change each and every student's life in a dramatic way, and I recognize that the stress of attempting to do so would be overwhelming. However, I am a huge believer in the idea that if you don't go into an occupation like teaching (or tutoring to get more on topic) with the mentality that you want to go the extra distance to impact lives, then you never will. I believe that like it or not, teachers should want to have some impact on students, whether it is small or large; teaching (to me anyways) is not "just another occupation." To bring this not so short story back to tutoring and what we talked about in class, I think that if every tutor was out to "counsel" each "patient" and expected to make significant breakthroughs in each session, then he/she would be sorely disappointed. However, I think tutors should at least realize the added responsibility of attempting to make those little breakthroughs/learn something minor from each session, or else that tutor will never really impact anyone at all.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I observed my English 230 class today during the first 10 minutes of lecture. We were discussing a play that we read, although there was not much discussion going on.

1) 3 people have computers
2) Almost no one is talking (class hasn’t started)
[class starts]
3) Many people are doing other work
4) Room warm, but everyone is wearing a coat/fleece
5) No one is sitting facing the desktop computers (lined around the room)
6) One student comes in late then leaves again
7) Lighting is very dim
8) The professor talks very loudly
9) Prof. also sits on desk w/ elbow on podium
10) Prof. talks with his hands
11) He points at the power point often, even when not talking about something on the slide
12) There’re 14 students
13) Students all raise hands to ask a question
14) 4 tables in the center of the room, very few people sit there
15) Many students look like the scene in Ferris Bueller (chewing gum, scribbling, staring blankly, leaning on hands)
16) Most students are staring at the front of the room but not at anything in particular
17) Prof. makes sarcastic jokes (about Eng majors expected to be “syntax police”)
18) No one walks down the center aisle
[I drew a map, but I don’t know how to post it on here]
19) Only 1 boy in class (2 are absent)
20) Prof. talks to the back wall

1) Why did they bring them when there's computers in this room? What are they typing? They all have Apples (teaching maj?)
2) It's early morning, but this is still awkward. Shouldn't we all know each other a little bit?
3) Typical of most students...I'm doing other work; I'm working on this. Since this is a required class for all of our majors, shouldn't we wan to pay attention?
4) It's hot people!! Northface fleece is really in fashion, but it's kinda plain.
5) It's almost like if we face the comp, then the prof. will notice we are doing other work. I'm pretty sure he can tell anyways.
6) Intriguing, wonder where he's going. Why did he come in the first place? Obligation?
7) Maybe this is because computers are easier to see in dim light...although we don't use the computers. I bet this is why everyone is sleepy and not talking.
8) Maybe he's trying to wake everyone up. It's not working though. I'm surprised he can talk this enthusiastically to a bunch of students who aren't paying attention.
9) As excited as his voice sounds, it's surprising that his posture suggests he's just as bored as we are.
10) I'm not really surprised by this because most people who talk loud seem to talk w/ their hands. However, how is he talking w/ his hands and leaning at the same time? Kind of impressive really.
11) Maybe he's just trying to catch our eyes with the motion?
12) It' not a large class, so you would think we would be a little more active. i wonder why I can't memorize 14 names, but I know everyone who lives on my floor (26 people)
13) This doesn't happen in many of my other classes, but it seems to be an unspoken rule in this one. This is especially weird because this prof. despises most traditional teaching methods and tells us so every class.
14) I'm sitting here, so I guess even though I'm in this class, I'm kind of an outsider. I wonder what it is about these tables that disturbs people. Maybe because they;re in the center?
15) Again this is surprising because it's a major class that we all chose so we should like it. Or we should at least pay attention.
16) I think they;re doing it because they know they should be looking forward but aren't intrigued enough to focus on one thing.
17) I think he wants our respect. His jokes are very sarcastic and funny. It's surprising that no one really reacts to them though, because they're the only part of the lecture that students seem to hear.
18) Again a fear of the center. If people walk down the center, they would draw attention to themselves which isn't wanted (unless a hand is raised).
19) Poor boy. I think it's intriguing that most of the guys who major in English have a very similar style to them. A lot of the ones I know (including this one) are laid back, intelligent, funny, witty, and seem to be very passionate about their major (but they don't pay attention in this class).
20) It's like he knows if he looks around the room he will see the Ferris Bueller scene.