Archive for the ‘teaching’ Category

….my last confession was….well, a long time ago.

but i need to be honest here, that’s how i get forgiveness, right?

well, on Day Two of the no-TV experiment, I stumbled a little. I watched a couple of You Tube videos and was lured, I tell you, to watch a little bit of TV. How could I resist the legendary Iggy Pop as he was asked, straightfaced, by the equally legendary Tom Waits, if he wanted to go to Taco Bell in the movie “Coffee and Cigarettes.”

It was actually worth it to see Iggy (or is it Pop?) attempt to suppress a laugh and reply, “You callin’ me a Taco Bell kind of guy?”
The idea of these two walking into a Taco Bell together would have been fun to see. But, alas, it did not come to pass.

And, I caught a few moments of the trippy sci-fi film, “Sunshine,” when I was asked to take a look at the screen and guess which movie it was.

I repented by blaring “Peggy Sussed,” the incongruous, but wonderful electronica piece that opens up the closing credits..

In fact, music has been sort of a solace. When you share quarters with a TV fanatic, as I do, obeying this experiment’s rules can be difficult.

As a kid, I remember our priest, Father Dittman, telling us that if we had an impure thought, we should replace it with a good one and God will forgive us. (I think he was telling us hormone-charged seventh graders not to think about sex, but I was a late bloomer and missed the point until years later.)

So, I’ve taken the old priest’s words to heart this time and whenever I think about watching TV, I’ll soothe myself with music. In a weird way.

For instance, all this talk about “Family Guy” made me think about the funny part of an episode where Peter goes to the Sweaty Clam gym and these two Hanz-and-Franz guys talk about proper nutrition. Then they bust out into song, “Steak and Eggs and eggs and steak, that’s what we’re having for breakfast (delicious)….”
I wanted to pull up the clip and sing.

Instead, I’ve walked around the house, singing it, instead. (I’d post the clip, but that’s a violation)

And yesterday, when I was looking up some music clips to recommend to a friend, I stumbled upon a clip of Jeff Tweedy (lead singer of Wilco) and his son, on the tour bus. It’s from Sam Jones’ excellent Wilco documentary, “I am Trying to Break Your Heart.” The moment was lovely, but I had to atone — again.

So, I put on the headphones and cranked up the album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”

Today will be better as I go to school all day. The night poses a problem, but I’ll try to stay strong.

Pardon the pun, but, stay tuned.

the experiment

Posted: 02/20/2010 in teaching

I am teaching a course called Mass Communication and Society this semester. There are 52 people enrolled. It is held in a dark, semi-depressing lecture hall that smells vaguely of a wet basement. And, it is located in another college, making it sort of an unpleasant place to be when it is cold and raining, which it has been so far this semester.

But each Thursday, I summon my skills and attempt to be entertaining and funny (which I am good at) and figure out a way to engage this group. Luckily, I already know many of the people in the class. They’re sort of groupies (we all get them) who take as many courses with me as they can. Sometimes that familiarity can become a toxic stew of personalities as people jokingly heckle me or the loud ones who overwhelm the quieter ones.

Well, this past Thursday, everyone — even my quiet ones — took note when I assigned their first mini-project.

The mini-project is my way of assessing how they think, write and interpret what we’re learning. Rather than assign a 10-page research paper, I devised this way to achieve the same ends and hopefully make it better on them and me. There are four of these assignments.

The assignment?

For five consecutive days, they are not to watch TV or videos.

I knew it would be a tough sell, but the looks of shock and cries of disbelief were hard to take.

One of them said she uses TV to help her sleep at night. Another said she is a YouTube “addict.” Another complained that the Olympics are on. Still another deduced that we couldn’t have current events in next week’s quiz because they couldn’t watch TV. Nice try, but what about radio, newspapers or the Internet.

The purpose of this exercise? To see what else you can do with the time you would otherwise be spending watching TV or videos online. Would they pick up a book? Spend more time interacting with people? Or cave in?

Midway through this discussion, an idea popped in my head: as an act of solidarity, I would give up TV/video with them.

Of course, I didn’t tell them that I am not a big TV-watcher. In fact, I mainly just listen to it in the background while I do other things. But, I do have a few programs I watch and enjoy finding some decent movie on HBO or Showtime in the evenings. Maybe it would be harder than I thought.

I decide to start today because I knew I had to watch the season premiere of Bill Maher’s show last night.

Here I am on Day 1: No TV in the morning, no problem. But, dang, there are a LOT of videos online. Blogs, news sites, Facebook all have videos. I never realized this was such a commonplace thing. My fingers twitch. No. No. No.

I am on Facebook chat when Josh, one of the students in my class and a member of the magazine staff, sends me a message about going to New York City to track down a visiting professor here who is homeless up there. As we bandy the idea around, he sends me a link with a video interview he’d done with the writer.

I almost click on it.

Josh! We aren’t supposed to be watching videos.

He acknowledges this and apologizes.

Then, as I am perusing Facebook, I notice that a few of my students have posted videos on their profiles today, encouraging people to watch.

Ack. When do they plan to start the five-day clock? Or are they aware that this is already a violation of the rules?

I can already see this is going to be a loooong five days.


Posted: 12/07/2005 in teaching

so, before we wrapped up our final reporting class tonight, fynite and i sang the refrain for “oklahoma!” to the class. he sort of read the intro and then we busted it out on the refrain.

and i was regaled with applause.
(maybe because i stopped singing)

amazing the things i will do even if i am not under the influence of anything.

i really am a ham at heart and love performing. as an aside, one of my colleagues suggested i try out for a play before long because i have a good “look” and could be interesting….

look out, here i come!


Posted: 01/24/2005 in teaching

i just gave a power point presentation and a few of the kids were giggling. i had no idea why.

luckily, one of the girls got me aside and explained that they were laughing at the heading for the part about story endings: happy endings.

i had no idea it was slang for a hand job.

shit. i am getting old.

they make me proud

Posted: 09/23/2004 in teaching

so, of all the classes i teach, i am having the most trouble with my reporting class. this bedevils me since it is the class i have taught for three years. the students are required to report and write a story per week. this is how i did it at florida and people struggled through. the problem, here, is the other instructor gives his students 10 days to do a story.

today, when their stories were due, about four people were no-shows. cowards. i was pissed and frustrated. the ones who were there all seemed beaten-down.

so, i asked them whether i needed to go easier on them, even though this is how i’ve always taught the class. a few of them said they wouldn’t mind the 10-day deadline, but the majority said they’d rather keep plugging away.

i was proud of them.

later, i ran into jorge and mary, a couple of reporting students. i’d just been outside and saw a pizza sale with proceeds benefiting students in florida, affected by hurricanes. i also noticed that the campus clubs were recruiting. i told them both about these potential story ideas and told them to get out there and find out what is going on.

about 45 minutes later, they came by my office and said they started reporting on these stories. i was very happy.

it’s times like this that make me glad i did what i have done.

this job takes a lot of energy, but, somehow, i manage to find it and channel it into my classes.

i can’t begin to explain how satisfying this all is.

now that’s progress

Posted: 09/08/2004 in teaching

i simply must record this now while it is fresh in my mind.
i teach in exactly five minutes.
i almost didn’t get into my office this morning because the office manager is out sick.

i get to school and four of us are hanging around, locked out of our offices.
the master key is locked inside the manager’s office.

we call the depatment chair. she’s stuck in traffic but on her way.

i start looking for janitors.

we consider calling campus police.

we call the dean’s office. his secretary has a key, but she cannot come downstairs to give it to us b/c she is by herself.

ok, one of us can get it.

no. she is not allowed to give the key to anyone.

i felt like i was in a a scene from alea’s death of a bureaucrat

finally, she materialized and the key was gotten and there was joy in broncoville.

i have seen my future…

Posted: 06/28/2004 in teaching

so, here is my fall teaching schedule:

Comm 2304, TV Production, Wed at 7:10-9:55 p.m.

Comm 4322, Writing for PR, Tues & Thurs 10:35-11:50

Comm 3303, Writing for Mass Media, Mon, Wed, Fri 8:45-9:35 a.m.

Comm 3305, Copy Editing, Mon, Wed, Fri 9:45-10:35 a.m.

Comm 3327, Reporting, Tues & Thur, 9:10-10:25 a.m.

with that, i can almost assure you i won’t be haunting el-jay-land a whole heck of a lot. i am kinda worried about the grading…and teaching PR writing? i already warned my boss that i really don’t know much about PR. this should be entertaining.

the good part is, though, is it looks like i’ll be teaching feature writing in the spring, which will thrill me to death. i have always wanted to teach that.

jaimee, you need to get this from iTunes…stat. i loooooove this song for spinning. it has nothing to do with that bad 80s movie, either.

oh, and as an aside, i am so over the coke machine at school. twice now, i’ve put 60 cents in, pushed the diet coke button and gotten a damned coke c2. wtf? the head of my department took pity on me today and offered me one of his diet cokes from his stash. i do not operate without diet coke. it’s sad. but it’s one of my addictions, ok?