Wednesday, March 6, 2013

When even entertainment isn't enough.

My freshman studies students have been begging to watch a movie.  "All the other freshman studies classes get to watch movies," they say.  So finally, I gave in.  Today was movie day.  We watched the first half of a movie that they chose.  A movie with lots of swearing and sophomoric humor, but absolutely no educational value whatsoever. A movie that many of them had professed to love when the class was selecting the movie.  And yet my students still texted through the whole thing, complained about having to come to class, and were annoyed when class didn't end early.  I swear, I can't win.  There is no pleasing them.

I have been operating under the assumption that my students just want to be entertained, but it seems that even entertainment doesn't cut it with them. There are no more tricks in my bag.  Short of giving them all A's for never showing up, I don't know what else I can do to satisfy them.  I'm pretty sure that they all expect college to be like it is in the movies.  That's what we're up against, people: a fantasy institution of gigantic dorm rooms and state-of-the art facilities, with pool tables and beer pong around every corner, where every chick is hot and bikini-clad, and where everyone graduates in the end no matter how little time and effort they invest, no matter how badly they fuck it up.  God.  No wonder they hate my class.

19 comments:

  1. Wait........... why are you trying to please them?

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  2. Because freshman studies is a year-long experience at my institution, and by this point in the year they all hate me and each other. We are just trying to survive. More importantly, though, because all of the other freshman studies proffies caved weeks ago (some caved by the end of fall term!) and I'm the only holdout still trying to create an educational experience in my classroom. In other words: my student evaluations are on the line and I don't have tenure.

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  3. OK, OK. I'm not the very last freshman studies prof to cave. Out of the twelve, though, I am second or third to last.

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  4. "There are no more tricks in my bag...I don't know what else to do to satisfy them."

    How about this: show up for class dressed in leather, and bring a whip. Learn how to crack it. There! If that doesn't get their attention...check for a pulse. maybe they're dead (or undead.)

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    1. Damn, this is good. I can't top it.

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  5. There's really no excuse for what you did. Atone for your sins and promise to yourself that you'll never do it again.

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  6. The problem was you showed a movie with sophomoric humor. Just a little too advanced for your freshers.

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  7. Oy, the not having tenure thing. See, this is what tenure is for: to make sure that we can have standards, including refusing to teach gut courses. Where I work freshman seminars are a big joke too, and compensated with a pittance. Having had a mind-blowingly great freshman seminar that set the course of my academic career, I'm not willing to teach what passes for them at my university; the culture doesn't support the rigor and range I'd want it to have. I'm sorry you don't have that choice!

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  8. I say show them COLLEGE films all the rest of the effing term--and drive your curriculum through them. And force them to exercize their rhetorical chops in analyzing them. And have them do research on directorial dialectics. And draft schematics of each significant setting, then transpose those over blueprints of their own dorm rooms, then discuss how the differences in footprint and square footage influences quality of life. Then have them use THAT argument to support their positions on gun control and executive powers attendant to drone deployment in-land. Fuck with them thoroughly.

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    1. In the same vein, you could show them the 21st century films of Jean-Luc Godard on repeat for three weeks, then require them to write interpretive essays. They will be begging for lectures and exams in no time.

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  9. Show them The Paper Chase www.imdb.com/title/tt0070509/

    I always wanted to be John Houseman: You come to us with brains full of mush ...

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  10. Stop trying to satisfy them. They have no clue of what they want. Run your class the way you want, or are supposed to. Is there no 'official' school syllabus for this class?

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    1. I'm with CrayonEater. If I have learned anything in 15 years of teaching it is that nothing I do matters (at least in Hamsterology 101). I have tried EVERYTHING. What I have learned is that if they don't want to think. I can't make them. So I do what I want to do (and what I think is good for them) and they can come along for the ride or they can pretend they are not texting in the back of the room (they think they are sooo clever!!!) When I show video clips I make sure to have questions on the exam to "encourage" them to pay attention. But I am mean (and tenured, though I did all of this before I had tenure, I think I am actually nicer now).

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  11. I like Mrs. C's approach (though I have to admit that colleagues and I tried a similarly "meta" approach to a more advanced class with only mixed results. Some of them really, really, really don't want to think about what they're doing and why. But I think Mrs. C's suggestion is a bit more straightforward than what we tried, and "how realistic is this depiction of x, based on other information from y sources and/or your personal experience," though not the most sophisticated analytical question, sounds like about the right place to start with this population.

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  12. I'm with Peter K. No, really. My students love me. Mind you, I'm a lovable guy, but beyond that, I teach complicated material, I am a hardass about deadlines, and I expect them to actually perform. And they eat it up. The only thing that makes sense to me is that they are scared and they want - not all of them, and not even always consciously - someone who is taking their education seriously. Project confidence, control, and authority and most of them will respond. Hell if I know why - I don't do Psychology. But it seems to work. Worked for me - my favorite teacher in high school was the most hardcase jerkass in the whole building. But he had our respect.

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  13. Yes, you did cave. Big time. Never, ever, do that again.

    It helps to start the semester projecting no-nonsense encouragement and rigor from the first day, and taking no prisoners the first two weeks. They wouldn't dream of asking for a mindless film from me, or if they did, I'd treat it like the joke it is.

    Heck, I just rehabbed an adjunct's class(temporarily, but still) in one session of subbing. She wants to know how I managed to get them to stop playing on their computers during class. And one of them stopped by to ask me which classes I'm teaching next semester.

    But okay, Mitch, the damage is done and you still need to meet with the Little Dears. I'm with Mrs. C and Cassandra. Find a relevant film, prepare a handout with questions they should think about as they watch, and then make them take notes that you initial during the film. Tell them that if they text, you will take away their phone until the end of class, and follow through. Make them write a draft essay for the next class and attach their film notes so you can see the roots of their ideas.

    Do not apologize or explain why you are doing this. If they ask, just say that this is how class is going to go now.

    Then repeat with a different relevant film (tied to your seminar's theme). Then make them compare the two approaches used in the films and relate that to the points of view of XYZ authors on those topics.

    See? You can still rescue some authority and restore some standards if your syllabus is so flexible that you can throw in a sophomoric waste of time.

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