Monday, November 30, 2015

The English 101 Fall Cruise-Weeks 11 and 12: Time for Research!

Captain's Log:  November 30, 2015

Weeks 11 and 12 

I am combining these two weeks because I met with this crew only one day for the two weeks. Why? I met on Tuesday of Week Eleven; then, on Thursday I had some personal business that I needed to address. Thus, I made arrangements for a substitute captain to be in place of me; I requested that she would continue to work on the crewmembers’ grammar/mechanics. 

For Week Twelve, I had already arranged that this crew not have a formal session. I wanted them to use this time to work on doing research for their upcoming final exam paper. So, on that Tuesday I was in my office available for “walk ins” for those who wanted to discuss any work assigned. There were a few who took advantage of this opportunity to come and talk with me. Nice! And that Thursday was an American holiday, Thanksgiving Day, in which most crews on the various academic cruise ships are relieved of duty and not expected to attend any sessions.

As for the Tuesday session of Week Eleven, I continued my discussion regarding research techniques and the various reasons for the importance they be learned. And in my effort to prepare them for all kinds of writing experiences, about seventeen minutes (17) before the end of the session, I assigned an in-class paragraph. The topic? Why was what I was discussing relevant to their lives? Next week, Week Thirteen, I shall return their graded paragraphs. 

Besides such an exercise being good for them, it was good for me. I was able to assess how well they were learning the techniques of good paragraph development, including topic sentences and concluding sentences. Also, I could see what grammatical aspects I would still need to emphasize as the time on this academic cruise is coming to an end.

And in 1971…

Dear Diary, March 16, 1971

Things went on ok with the 2/1 class. They viewed that (some mind you) that I gave too much homework. Some quibbled about my qualifications as a teacher. They feel that I get upset too quickly. The regular stuff.

I took their criticism with little back talk.

The Romeo and Juliet lesson went on nicely.

Today has been a pretty good day all round.

Dear Diary, March 17, 1971

It was interesting to watch the 2/1 class quibble over each other’s proposed lesson. [I gave them the task of getting in groups and determining some things they would like for me to teach and some items they would like to cover/teach in the next two class sessions.] I think it did them good.

I was really busy tonight checking my 4/5s exams.

The one thing that never changes is the exams and papers to check!

See you next week!

The English 101 Fall Cruise- Week 10: The "Jay Leno" Quiz

Captain's Log: Monday, November 30, 2015

Week 10

On both Tuesday and Thursday, I spent a lot of time focusing on mechanics errors and on the proper development of parenthetical citations and works cited entries, following the MLA format. 

I have spoken passionately (yes, I mean just that) about the importance of the ability to research and document what one places in written work as well as what one says. This is an outgrowth of the political fervor in the United States at this time. There are candidates who make statements about building walls to keep people out of this country but have shown no clear research about the feasibility or practicality of such an expenditure, especially when the proposal for another country to pay for this architectural venture. I have likened this idea to my wanting to build something and expecting a neighbor who does not want that “thing” to pay for it. Hah! I could see how many Americans would like that idea. 

Yet, on a more personal side, I have tried to make my budding student captains understand the importance of the ability to research for their own personal needs. For example, at present I have been experiencing some health challenges. There was a device that some doctors mentioned might be an alternative to be placed in my body. I did some research about this device and discovered, depending on the company that devised it, it could cause more harm than good. Two of these companies were being sued for some of the problems caused, not all, however. So, when I went to visit the doctor I was an informed patient, not a patient “lamb led to slaughter.” 

I wanted my captains-to-be understand that they might in the future have to be the advocate for the health decisions for a loved one or for themselves. Ignorance has never been bliss; if anything it might only lead one to a blissful death or serious repercussions. Many began to grasp the reason for the importance for research and the ability to be able to check things and document what they and others say and write. Indeed, these can be life and death issues.

My approach to running these sessions have always been to bring up information that might immediately affect them. Theory would be fine, but most young trainees of today have not found theory valuable unless a dose of reality can be found in the mix.

Also, this week my trainees could take advantage of earning extra credit. They were to submit a paragraph that focused on the poem each liked the best. The poem had to be one that was in the book, Community College Students’ Literary Collage, the supplemental work used in this course/cruise. From 12 pts. (A+) to 1 pt. (E), every student who wrote on this topic would earn at least one point. Also, this assignment gave students/trainees another opportunity to implement the lessons learned about citing (when paraphrasing and quoting verbatim) and those lessons taught about paragraph development and avoiding the common mechanics/grammatical errors.

Finally, on the Thursday, after my continued discussion of the above, I gave my “Jay Leno Quiz.” I have done this every semester for years. I wanted to make my student/trainees aware of what they know about current events. Yes, I have continued to make this quiz an extra credit activity. Generally, ten or eleven questions will be asked like the following:
  • Name one of the current Republicans campaigning to become the Republican candidate for president of the United States.  
  • Name one of the current Democrats or Independent candidates campaigning to become candidate for president of the United States.  
  • Name the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
  • How many justices are there on the US Supreme Court  
  • Name one of the women justices.  
  • Name at least one Kardashian. 
  • Name one major international crisis facing the world at present.  
  • Name the governor of this state.  
  • Name a law that has recently been passed in this state that has stirred up controversy. 
  • Explain why you think the captain/professor is asking these questions.

Time and time again, there are few who can answer any of these questions, except for identifying the vice president of the United States and the ability to name a Kardashian. Um, have I been concerned about the lack of knowledge and lack of concern. Yes, and I have expressed that concern every semester I receive these same results. 

I have recognized that when Jay Leno (the former TV host of The Tonight Show) asked similar questions of the man/woman on the street, the production team had to do little editing. Folks in this country know so little about their government. Folks lament that terrorists might take over the United States. Hah! My concern as an educator is that the ignorance and lack of concern to know about more than entertainment persona by many Americans has the potential to give those who want to do harm to this country the fodder needed. 

OK, enough of my “soapbox.”

What happened in the 70s when I was a captain in training?

Dear Diary, March 14, 1971

Working hard today. This Sunday will be the last that we (Cheryl, my roommate) will spend together in this house. She’s going to live in the dorm next semester [semesters ended in mid-March]. I shall miss her.

Dear Diary, March 15, 1971

Can you believe this is the first night in weeks in which I can peacefully sit and contemplate?

Received a letter from Aunt Rose and Uncle Tom (written 1-17-71—Whew!) It was nice to read. 

Well, I let my 2/3s criticize me. The results were:

  1. ½ of ’em think I’ve been understanding;
  2. They didn’t think their assignments were relevant to their lives (except for the letter assignment);
  3. They were bugged by my emotionalism and my giving too much homework;
  4. They liked my accent and my patience.

Well, I guess I’m not too bad.

I’ll have to be careful with my emotions. I think they hit the nail on the head.

After so many years as a full captain, I still let my emotions/my passion come out; however, I do my best to make it a positive and controlled expression. Yes, while I was a trainee my beloved students in Sheffield, England helped shape me into the captain/professor I have become today. I shall always treasure them!

The next entry will be coming soon. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

The English 101 Fall Cruise-Week 9: Preparing New "Captains"

Captain's Log: Friday November 13, 2015

Week 9

This week, Tuesday and Thursday, I met with every candidate individually. I find individual conferences one of the most important aspects of preparing candidates to become captains. They bring their work, in this case the research plan and the first body paragraph for the research theme. I am able to assess each person’s work and each candidate has an opportunity to ask me questions s/he may not feel comfortable to ask in the class sessions. I must say I really learn about each candidate during these conferences. In many cases, a true bond is established. 

I must say this is a key aspect of being a captain training future captains. And I say anyone who wants to be more than a good captain but an exemplary captain, must be committed to those who are put in his/her charge. This means s/he must be willing to put in the extra time. Individual conferences take that extra time. However, I know these conferences are definitely worth every 25 minutes per candidate/student. And after over thirty-five years, still, I become exhilarated when I hold conferences; it is an opportunity to serve as a teacher, advisor, and confidant.

My personality is intense. I have high expectations of all of my candidates. I truly have never taught a candidate that could not learn. I have, however, taught candidates who have low expectations of themselves. And some were just plain ol’ lazy. I do not tolerate laziness. I expect my candidates to do their best, and best does not mean a high grade. If the student’s best is a grade of C, I can accept that. However, if he earns an A- and that is not his best, I cannot accept that. However, this intensity and setting of the bar high does not always bring out the best in individuals. And I must keep this in mind. Still, I do know that when I meet with my candidates/students one-on-one, I manage to convey my sincere concern about them as a person. So, for my personality and my desire to give personal help, I believe strongly in the benefits of conferences. 

As I reflect I believe I realized many years ago, as a student teacher, that my intensity demands that I mitigate this intense characteristic.

Dear Diary, March 11, 1971

Today my 4/5s asked me questions about America. It was really nice. They told me a few things about their country. I found the discussion quite enriching.

Saw Paul, an Ed student and we had tea together. He told me where I could go and get my Youth Hostel card in London. Will do!

Dear Diary, March 12, 1971

A very trying day. I admonished my students on their tactlessness. They couldn’t take it. And so, like babies they went crying to Mrs. Beech saying I would not listen to ’em; I had overworked them, etc. What plurps me is that they didn’t come to me first. I have little respect for such immaturity. Mrs. Beech meant well; however, I feel she was a bit unprofessional to come to me and give me a lecture on their (students’) say so. Oh well, it’s over. However, I’m quite upset.

Yes, even a full-fledged captain had to learn to crawl (a baby/student teacher) before she could walk.

See you next week!

Monday, November 2, 2015

The English 101 Fall Cruise Week 8: Of Poems and Children's Short Stories

Captain's Log: Monday, November 2

Week 8

On Tuesday, the first item of business was to have the crew sign up for individual conferences for the next week, beginning on Tuesday and ending on Thursday. While meeting with each crewmember in another room so to maintain privacy, I shall have the crew as a whole working in groups. 

While in groups of three or four, they are to take on the task of working together to set up the outline and theme comparing and contrasting the following from the work Community College Students’ Literary Collage:

  1. Two poems
  2. Two of the children’s short stories
  3. Two characters in the children’s short stories

This task will take two days. There will be one grade per group. I have done this kind of activity on other cruises. It has proven to be very successful, especially in teaching comparison/contrast and making certain crewmembers really learn to implement this writing style. What about the possibility of a “shucker and jiver’ ” in the group? Well, before any new captain should try any group work, on the very first class meeting, s/he should establish clear authority and that no nonsense will be tolerated by any crewmember. Then, it is less likely that an irresponsible behavior will occur in group activities. Still, there is always the possibility of an aberration. So, I make it clear that I should be contacted via e-mail if such an aberration occurs. Then, I shall contact that crewmember to check on the situation. This type of back up “up front” disciplinary approach is effective.

After every crewmember signed up for conferences, the class session continued. I focused on discussing what would be expected for next week’s individual conferences. Every crewmember is to bring the following:

  1. The outline that would include parenthetical citations
  2. Only the first body paragraph for the research theme
  3. A works cited page covering only the sources mentioned in body paragraph 1

The outline format I have devised and used for years makes is effective in letting this captain determine the quality of the thesis sentence, topic sentences, examples being used, and the key sentences to be used in the concluding paragraphs. And with the paragraph, I shall get a good idea how well each crewmember will be setting up the research theme. 

On Thursday, I continued discussion about the research plan that is due next week. Then, the remainder of the session was focused on questions and answers regarding how to set up parenthetical citations and works cited entries for books and web articles. The handbook used has an extensive list of samples. Some crewmembers become overwhelmed. So, I have guided them to the samples that they are most likely to use. I sensed they felt more relieved. 

Next week, the individual conferences will take place. I look forward to them. Conferences give me an opportunity to give the kind of individual attention that I feel is paramount for a captain really to train future captains. It is in these conferences that I learn more about my crewmembers than just about their writing challenges. True rapport and bonding can take place. And that is what really helps one become an effective captain.

Something very special happened on Thursday. Two former student captains contacted me. One came into the session room after I dismissed the crew. He let me know he wanted to let me know that he was doing well in the 102 English Cruise. He wanted to let me know that I had prepared him for the advanced cruise. Then, another former crewmember sent me a note via his sister who is a member of this semester’s crew. I was so very touched. He let me know that I had, indeed, prepared him well. He decided that instead of becoming a captain he was entering a police academy. As long as he was able to implement what he had learned, I felt so good. These are the moments when I am reaffirmed that I have made the right choice to be an academic captain.

And to think this began so many years ago. . .

Dear Diary, March 5, 1971

I sat in the staff room and was entertained. They discussed a lot of hot topics. Indeed, the place to go, if ya’ want to be in the know is the Staff Room.

Dear Diary, March 7, 1971

Two months I have been here. That’s a long time. I hope the postal strike [yes, the UK was in the midst of national postal strike] ends. The postmen are voting today.

Dear Diary, March 8, 1971

The Postal Strike is officially over! Hallelujah! 

Dear Diary, March 9, 1971

A thrilling day with my students! My 4/5s really appreciates Romeo and Juliet. And my 2/3s are doing fine with their play. I am enjoying watching them.

Dear Diary, March 10, 1971

An ordinary day.

Mr. Pinion came in and observed my teaching my 2/1 class. He was quite pleased. He said I’d make a fine teacher. I’ll try God.

Well, that is a good way to end this blog entry. See you next week!