Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Crispy Critter Part 2

One of the problems I have created for myself is that I explain most everything to my students. I share with them all of my background thinking which forms the foundations for my motives in how I plan out class procedures. Included in this is an explanation of how I perceive them fulfilling the demands for each class. What seems to me as a transparency in teaching translates to them as a democracy; they have this sense that they should get a vote on each of the assessment components. Whenever something changes without giving them advance notice, they huddle like the crowd outside Frankenstein’s castle ready to lynch the monster. Generally, there is always one spokesperson who claims to have been appointed to be the champion of justice as if by some royal decree. However, time and again, when I question other students, they have no memory of appointing any person to be their spokesperson.

This happened yet again this semester where someone from the Justice League had issues with my assignment. It has happened in the past over minor issues, but this one seemed to be a significant event, at least in some of their mercurial minds. Prior knowledge of having 115 students, to deal with this semester, with 18 of them being in creative writing, it was a no-brainer that I would be drowning in a student writing pool of papers. This led to my creating changes to maintain my sanity assuring I would still have some of it by April and with any luck possibly still by the middle of May. By May 15th, I would need a mental douching.

There had to be a reduction in the number of pages assigned per assignment. Both Race and Ethnicity and Religions Born in the US had their required essays lowered to six pages, not including the works cited pages. To substantiate this change of expectations, there was the added requirement that once they wrote their essay, they were to create an online magazine with it. Pictures or video clips could be added to provide a real magazine feeling if they chose. Three online magazine sources were provided as well as a sample magazine created by one student last semester. I also shared that the student admitted it took her a week to format the magazine properly. This tip fell on deaf ears. An additional peremptory warning was that the essay would be run through two grammar checkers and two plagiarism checkers. I also shared that I would send out the magazine with the accompanying essay to all friends and acquaintances who were willing to read at least one.

Again, they unquestionably want to believe this is a democracy. As one student claimed, “Students don’t want to learn, we just want to accumulate the credits.” This is where the war began, so I had to write this disclosure statement.

If you look at the essay/magazine grading rubric, you will have to notice there is nothing there pertaining to the magazine itself other than the word at the top. The word is there just to clarify that the magazine is created from the essay as I mentioned in class.

Some of you are more advanced than others with technology and will have different outcomes in negotiating the magazine. The intention for having you turn in the essay with the magazine was because editing a magazine, to show you the errors, would have been impossible.

The reason for having you create the magazine at all was to expand your thinking and creativity. In the Hungarian educational system, expanded thinking and creativity are in short supply. Students have complained to me about this for over eleven years.

This project was meant to assist you in developing critical thinking skills that still need developing.

You knew about this assignment from the beginning of the semester. If you did not plan ahead to find sufficient research material, this is a student issue.

Please do not insult me by speculating that you or anyone else can send me mediocre, shoddy work and expect to get a gold star.

This is the 21st century, yet Hungarian students are far behind the times of many other countries, not just the US. Before they pointed to other countries where they consider it to be far worse than here, I warned them to ask themselves if this alone makes them proud of their education.

I sent these to educated friends to review. Initially, my reasoning was to brag to others about what my students are capable of doing. In addition to this, I wanted to have an objective point of view about the essay/magazine. Unfortunately, what I discovered was that many of these reviewers were more concerned with protecting student egos than they were in giving an honest critique, but hinted at their concerns. Those who were honest were quite harsh in their comments about the limits of research, the poor grammar, and all of the other issues that I had also identified and marked in the essays.

My hopes that knowing a stranger would read their work, would have pushed them into being higher achievers, never came to fruition.
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