This Friday, during my office hour and right before my observation, one of my ENG102 students from last semester stopped by with her outline for a research paper for ENG101. This was exactly what I needed to relax a bit before the observations and pat myself on the back that I am doing a good job, and my old students see me as someone they can come to for advice and brainstorming on papers in their other courses. So Jazmyn and I sat for a hour going over her outline and her paper topic- she is writing a research paper related to a book Hurt written by her ENG103 professor. Since her paper focuses on the undecipherable signals sent to the one-to-be-broken-up-with, or soon to be the Brokenhearted, from the Heartbreaker, I encouraged her to check out my ENG101 class blog, the discussions and readings.
In order to prepare for the observation, I saved the quick write post and the follow-up group work assignment post, in order to not waste time composing the posts in class. Before class, students were asked to read Adair Lara's "Who's Cheap?"and the quick write asked them to describe their worst date as well as state whether or not they gave their bad dates a second chance. Students really liked this topic and the class fell silent, except for the click-clicking of the computer keyboards. After the 10min, which they were given to compose their 'Worst Date' post and post it on they blogs, I asked few students to share, and wrote on the board the reasons students, who volunteered to share their worst date quick write, cited for either refusing as second date or agreeing to give the person as second chance. Thankfully, no one had any horror stories to share, although the boys- they are always the ones more willing to share their writing- had some pretty interesting 'dates' which fit nicely with the reading. As I jotted down the unappealing qualities/characteristics of women, the boys identified in their 'worst date' narratives, I asked leading questions in order to connect these to the double standards like being cheap which Lara discusses in her article. But very few students did the reading, and one student, who sat next to the observer, actually asked his neighbor is she could tell him what the reading was because he didn't read it. Ouch! Yet the discussion did not die, and while girls were a bit resistant to share, the male students turned to the observer- who was a female- and asked her what was her worst date experience. She, professionally but not in a stand-offish manner, responded that she has had so many, she cannot possibly name one. Then students asked me, and as I, in an effort to offer a female perspective, decided to share that once I went out with a guy who got drunk, and on our way home, when we got pulled over, he got arrested and then blamed me for his arrest. And I, being a naive young women, felt bad and helped him pay for the fines related to the arrest (this was an ex, not just a person I went on a bad date with). Probably not something I should have shared, especially with the observer.
For the remained of the lesson- 20-25min- I put students in groups of 3 (1 girl and 2 boys as there are quite a few more boys than girls in my class. And I'm beginning to think it might be due to the masculinities theme of the course?) and asked them to comment on each of their group members 'worst date' posts. The comments had to make a case for why the student who authored the 'worst date' post should have or have not given the date a second chance. In the comments, I also asked students to include references to the Lara reading and a Bordo reading from previous class, as these two readings will appear on the final. Some students tried to incorporate/include some references, but very few did.
Overall, the lesson wasn't a complete disaster and the observer, as she left said it was a great class. But she could have meant that the students were great?
To sum up this very LONG post, although I hoped to get the students to think about double standards, the fact that they didn't do the reading or maybe my failure to emphasize the reading and quick write assignment's connection, foiled my plans a bit. But what I did notice is that students not only took a lot of interest in their peers posts but actually began engaging each other in conversation. What I mean is, students who do not speak very often in class, now began talking with the group members.