Friday, April 23, 2010

Dr Van and Dr X's Bricolaging

On Tuesday night, Dr. Van posted a query to any/all of us for a joint exploration of "bricolage" identity. Since I had already separated Thursday's class to do a review + reflection with my "Sex and the City" (ENG 101) students, I decided to revise the day's lesson to include Dr. Van's request.

I settled on four activities for the day: 1. a general class discussion on "what we (should) have learned so far this semester" based on reviewing our class packets and the Sex and the City Ning. 2. A "Looking Back" activity in which my students visited the "Woman Trouble" (ENG 099) Ning, commented on one student's rough draft, and then posted a blog entry in the Sex and the City Ning explaining what they had learned from the experience. 3. A "Looking Forward" activity in which my students read Dr. Van's explanation of cultural bricolage and her blog instructions to her students in the capstone course World Literature Written in English (ENG 295) and then responded to one of the World Lit students with a bricolage of their own that included one further dimension:  gender (since Sex and the City is all about gender issues). 4. A wrap up where we discussed how it felt moving from a Basic Writing course to a capstone course.

Logic for Interaction/Learning Objectives
The "Looking Back" blog was called so because the 099 rough drafts my 101 students were critiquing were responses to the same prompt as their own Paper # 2, which they had written a week ago and for which they already had my feedback. The logic behind the setup was 1. I wanted to see if there was an appreciable difference in the way the 099 students responded to the assignment, as compared to the 101 students. 2. I wanted to see whether first-hand familiarity with the assignment and its requirements made a significant difference in the critiques my 101 students wrote. 3. I want to see whether this "retrospect" might help the ENG 101 students when thinking about and revising their own papers (revision are due May 3).

The "Looking Forward"  blog was meant to give students a sense of what they might be doing in a year (or two). Since during the general class discussion we had already talked about their common aversion to reading critically and annotating and about the fact that they would probably have to overcome this aversion to be indisputably successful in their courses, it was interesting to see how Dr. Van's blog instructions drove that lesson home, as her introduction to her blog instructions included two lengthy and somewhat complex quotes from a New York Times article and words and phrases such as "bric-a-brac," "bricolage," and "how Eurocentrism continues to play out in identity formation in post-colonial cultures." At the same time, however, the assignment was meant to help my students to feel empowered by not only having them answer the same question as the 295 students, but by further contributing the the World Lit conversation of self-construction by adding the dimension of gender. Now, my 101 students are no experts on gender yet (quite a few, for instance, believe that their chosen/ perceived gender has no effect on them whatsoever), but they are beginning to understand that the construction of gender is an important element in the production of power (as a matter of fact, that's what the next 101 unit is all about, so that is another way in which this assignment "looks forward" to what is coming.)

What Actually Happened
The whole lesson went smoothly until the internet (or was it the MAC lab? or a combo?) decided to mess with us just about  when we were in the middle of responding to Dr. Van's students. Some posts did not seem to be going  through, others took forever to load, etc. I quickly suggested to my students that they copy their posts to MSWord and save them until the system came back, so that, in the end, all of my students were able to post all responses and all blogs. Still, all the troubleshooting took a considerable amount of our time so that I was unable to do the wrap-up (which, one could argue, was the most important piece of the lesson). I plan to follow up on our lesson on Monday--their memory will not be as fresh, but what can one do. I am starting to be of the opinion that our computer labs are more a hassle than they are worth--perhaps I should just ask for these activities just as homework, as others are doing.

Sample Interactions
Two101-099 interactions:

Hi Hanifah
My name is Virginia and I was asked to read your paper by Dr. X, I can tell that you have some great ideas like how important it is for young adults to educate themselves about sex but I can also tell you have some trouble with phrasing your sentences correctly and that English is not your first language. Don't worry, English is not my first language either, I was in ENG99 too and I thought I would stay there for ever but I passed and its all fine and you will be too. What I did was try to read as many books and newspapers as I could and highlight words I didn't understand and look them up later. It helped me a lot and you can try it if you want.
 Hi Johanes, my name is Crystal :)  I read your paper and I would like to share my suggestions with you. I believe you had some very good ideas in your first draft. It was nice that you included personal experiences in the paper. It was also good that you expressed why it is important for kids to have sex education. One thing I would like you to work on is referring to the website and why you chose that one. A good sentence to help you with that was when you wrote "I have read this website, and they can make a safety way to satisfy their pleasure and save a human life." I think if you keep writing about that and be specific, it will help your paper show why Teen Talk is the best website. :)
One 101-295 interaction (only one because they are long):

Original post from 295 student, Dominik:
32 Flavors and Then Some -
I immigrated to the United States at age nine so my identity was not yet formed and Poland had a very slight effect on my upbringing. My formative years were spent in Queens. Let's put it this way: I moved here and spent Sundays in the Bronx with my family at a block party hosted by my father's Puerto Rican co-worker, gobbling up rice and beans and not thinking anything of it that Spanish, or Spanglish, was the predominant language spoken then. I forfeited the religion of "my people" (Catholicism) for Hinduism and then Buddhism, all the while settling into neutral Agnosticism as of late. I make a mean curry and can differentiate between the various spices I buy at Patel Bros. in Jackson Heights. I'm equally comfortable browsing Chinese supermarkets as I am the aisles of Stop 'N Shop.

To think of it, I think food is a major impact of globalization in my life. I know how to properly eat sushi, can handle the spiciest curries with the best of them, feel equally comfortable devouring pounds of meat at a Brazilian steak house but can just as easily settle for a vegetarian Thai meal. I'm partial to South African wines but love cachaca (Brazilian rum) and sake. After living in southern Africa my whole perspective changed; I've participated in traditional African religious ceremonies, learned that international borders are usually not set in stone (at least not in Africa), and even learned a new way to interact with people. What I found interesting is that in southern Africa when you speak to someone, they acknowledge what you're saying with a hum after each sentence; total opposite of our American way of speaking where we try to convince others to see our point.

But even though I'd expanded my idea of culture there are still certain attributes of Polish or European culture I could never erase. While I am not Catholic, the Black Madonna - Poland's patron saint - has always been a work of art I admired in paintings. No matter what I always take my shoes off when I enter someone's house and I could never go for more than two days without ingesting some sort of pork, a staple in Polish cuisine. I'm also aware of the way I speak to elders using appropriate language to denote a distance or a respect for their position and feel uncomfortable calling my elders by their first name as in the Polish language there are certain words one uses to refer to someone from an older generation.

Perhaps being a chimera of "cultures" might present a problem with being understood anywhere else BUT in New York City. Here, it's expected to be able to freely flow from one cultural circle to another and I pity people who lock themselves in their own cultural bubbles afraid to peek outside.
         Response from 101 student, Devanis:

Hi dominik. This is a very interesting blog. This is my mine.

I am originally from Colombia, Barranquilla, and I think gender plays a big role on society. Barranquilla is full of machismo attitude, in where machismo is the way to behave, and to prove your masculinity. Moving to New York City when I was ten years old changed my cultural affiliations completely, and gender never affected my decisions anymore. For example, I would only eat Colombian food such as rice, beans, steak, a lot of Caribbean food. Since I moved, I developed a different approach for food. I am a big fan of Hindu, vegetarian, and Italian food. In addition music taste also changed. While many Spanish people listen to their folkloric music, I have never liked it. My favorite bands or musicians are Rock’ Roll figures such as U2, Nirvana, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, and Alanis Morissette. I have also expanded my way of thinking of religion. I was grown up as a catholic and being taught the whole idea of marriage based on catholic religion. By having a global education, especially in NYC made me change all these beliefs completely. In a way, I feel that I have taken off a huge weight off my shoulder. Something that I have changed is what I watch. For example, I watch a lot of global movies from Spain, France, and Italy. If I was to worry about my gender, I would not be able to watch them. For example, I am a fan of Pedro Almadovar’s movie. He is a controversial figure, because of the theme of his movies. For example, he directed the foreign movie “ All About My Mother” which won an Oscar award in 2000. In my case I appreciate and admire have watched global movies because they expand your knowledge. I appreciate the fact that everything I heritage once, have changed completely because I created my own beliefs, my own global culture.
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Reply by Dominik:
I can relate to your approach to culture, I think most immigrants can. I'm from Poland originally so traditionally Polish culture, like many South American cultures, is based on Catholic values along with a healthy dose of machismo. My family has never really been traditional nor did they stress our culture when we moved here; I think this is why I have become so fascinated with other cultures. I think moving to America doesn't erase you nor your culture but enhances and expands it. As for the role of women, my father moved to America four years before the rest of my family arrived so my sister and mother played a pivotal role in my upbringing. I equate women with leadership rather than submission. I absolutely LOVE Almodovar's movies. All About My Mother is great but my favorite is Volver. 
If you are interested, links to the blog instructions are below

Looking Back Blog
Looking Forward Blog

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