Monday, July 25, 2016

Changes in the Life of a College English Teacher

I teach online at 2 schools; at one of them, we receive the course shell with all the assignments already created.  We have no curriculum creation to do.

If I was 20 years younger, this would be a problem for me.  I would want to create the class from scratch.

Now that I am older, I am grateful for someone else having already done much of the work.  Plus, it's interesting to see what other people create.

Recently the English Composition class was completely revamped.  Now, in addition to traditional papers, students have the option to create a Powerpoint and a shorter essay.  They have a choice of topics, one of which could lead to more creative writing (write a paper from the perspective of an inanimate object).

I have just graded their first papers, and they were much better than the old assignment, which had students argue for a change in a law.  Those papers were perfectly fine, but they were fairly standard.

This new assignment led students to interesting places and interesting insights about the power of objects in our lives.  I realize that they seemed fresh because I haven't spent several years reading about the importance of the cell phone.  In two years, these topics may weary me as much as the old one had begun to.

But for now, it's interesting to see the new course--and to think about how much has changed.  Allow them to do a Powerpoint with a shorter paper?  I remember a time when people would have thought of that as taking short cuts or doing things in the classroom because we didn't want to be strict and enforce the rules.  I have had many colleagues who would have been horrified at the idea of people writing from the perspective of a chair or a cell phone.

And yet, it works.  One thing that many of my colleagues lose sight of:  we are not training future English graduate students.  Most of our students, in most of our colleges, are going to have to do very little traditional writing.

But they will have to think in new ways, ways we can't even formulate yet.  They will have to be creative.

Another marker that life has changed:  the newest MLA guidelines for documentation.  My colleagues at my onground school have been discussing this for the past 6 weeks.  Once, the MLA was firm and strict about the way that documentation must be done.  Now, it's much more friendly.

We've seen significant changes in the 27 years since I began teaching.  What will the next 27 years bring?

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