This is no April Fool The spring 2018 edition of Teach. Write. is launching later today, but I am a deeply Southern soul, so it’s off to church I go for Easter services. Then I will put the finishing touches on the journal and put it out there, so come back, y’all.
Busy grading and working on the new edition of Teach. Write. slated for publication on April 1, but been thinking a great deal about optimal number of students in online writing intensive classes. Below is a link to an article by Wayne D’Orio, an award-winning education journalist, writing for Inside Higher Education.
“Online class sizes: one size does not fit all.”
My favorite comment: “All sources for this story agreed that writing intensive courses demand fewer students.”
BTW—online literature courses are writing intensive if taught correctly.
Just wanted you to know that I posted midterm grades for all my students to see. Of course, because I have open grade books, all of my students have access to their grades at any time in the semester, not just at mid-term. Oh, FYI, by checking the gradebook, any student can see any major graded assignment (and most minor assignments) with a completed rubric or checklist explaining how the grade was calculated (often I include an annotated PDF file for additional accessible feedback as well).
If students complain that I do not give enough feedback, which I hear they are doing quite loudly and inaccurately, please direct them to the individual assignments where they can see all of the work I have assessed as well as any supporting documents. If they have questions or concerns, please encourage them to contact me rather than scrawl rather inappropriate things about me on the bathroom walls. This behavior is costing the college money and cutting into the maintenance department’s bottom line, I have been told.
Students can also, of course, ask me for explanations or help if they come to see me during my office hour or make an appointment. I have always made myself available to students who need help and will continue to do so, but I don’t always have time directly before or after class as I have many classes and other duties, as you know. Oh, occasionally, I am so sorry to say, I must also use the ladies room, though a student once wanted to follow me in there to ask a question. I told him he would have to wait in my office just a minute or two. I trust that was acceptable.
I have been offering the support mentioned above to all of my students for years now and continue to work hard on developing more online resources and updating ones from previous years. If students relate to you any confusing details in any assignments, also which I hear they are doing quite loudly, please feel free to have students record specific information about the assignment in question, including the assignment number, and have them email me that information so that I can make corrections. I can’t correct problems of which I am not aware, you see. I know some students have been saying I must be clairvoyant and have eyes in the back of my head, but I would like to squelch those rumors right here and now. I am not clairvoyant.
In addition, I have always offered an abundance of resources to my students, including thorough explanations and directions for all of my assignments. If students want to know how they can improve their grades, or have been absent from class to go on that cruise with their family, then please direct them to these resources. Of course, you may have to explain to them that there will be no extra credit awarded for opening a resource file. So sorry.
Please know that I care very much about all of my students receiving the highest quality college-level instruction I can give based on my 30 years of experience teaching composition and British literature. When I err, it will never be out of a lack of concern for any of my students but more likely born of fatigue, or short-term memory loss. I am pushing 60, you know.
Any confusing details or dates may even be a simple mistake as I must maintain six or seven online course shells, prepare materials for six or seven seated and online classes, and grade multiple assignments for 90 – 100 students each semester. Don’t forget those pesky contractual “other duties as assigned”–two committees (chair of one), attending national conferences, writing press releases, creating promotional material, planning major events, participating in student clubs and events. Oh, I know, I’m just whining now. Some of those things I choose to do so they don’t count.
Sure, I could make it easier on myself, do less and offer fewer opportunities for my students to practice writing, but I am still convinced after all these years that there is only one way students can effectively learn to compose, revise and edit at the level they need to—by doing it. I know it is shocking for some students to hear that they must write essays in a freshman English composition class (plus revise and edit them too), but my hands are tied, I fear…
by my conscience.
Thank you for your time.
The above piece is representative of work (creative non-fiction) that I would welcome for the spring edition of Teach. Write. Submissions are open until March 18.
The deadline for submissions to Teach. Write. has been extended until Sunday, March 18. I have accepted some terrific short stories, essays and poems from writing teachers around the US and even Australia and am excited about the upcoming edition; however, I would like to get a few more submissions to fill out the journal.
Therefore, if you are or ever have been a writing instructor in any capacity, including workshop leaders, elementary language arts teacher, secondary, college or university level, then I want to see your work!! Click here for the submission guidelines.
It continues to be my belief that submitting creative writing for publication helps us become better composition teachers, especially because it reminds us of the importance of revision and editing.
The spring edition of Teach. Write. is still slated for an April 1 appearance, and I still plan to take copies of Teach. Write. for distribution at the Appalachian Studies Association Gathering in Cincinnati, Ohio. I will be attending the conference April 5-8 and reading from my story “I Have Not Yet Returned,” about a daughter grappling with her father’s mental illness. Three other writers whose work appears in the anthology Unbroken Circle: Stories of Cultural Diversity in the South, published last May by Bottom Dog Press, will also be performing.
In August, one of the editors of the collection informed authors that the book was selling well, being used as a text in a couple of college classrooms, and that readings were planned not only at the Appalachian Studies Association Gathering, but also in Knoxville, Tennessee, and at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.
I am excited to be a part of the conference and am looking forward to attending other sessions about teaching and writing in the Modern South. For distribution at the conference, I will also take copies of both editions of Teach. Write. as well as information about my musical A Carolina Story. I was looking in the program and even see some opportunities to perform a song from my musical at several open mics planned around the city, so maybe I will brush off the old guitar and practice.
Then work up the guts to risk making a fool of myself to promote my art.
Oh, well, we’ll see how it goes.
Hope to see your work in my inbox very soon!!!
The primary mission of the community colleges in the state where I teach is the following:
The mission of the … Community College System is to open the door to high-quality, accessible educational opportunities that minimize barriers to post-secondary education, maximize student success, develop a globally and multi-culturally competent workforce, and improve the lives and well-being of individuals by providing:
- Education, training and retraining for the workforce including basic skills and literacy education, occupational and pre-baccalaureate programs.
- Support for economic development through services to and in partnership with business and industry and in collaboration with the University of …System and private colleges and universities.
- Services to communities and individuals which improve the quality of life.
For whom, then, were community colleges created?
They were created for those high school graduates who can not get an education any other way or were unprepared for the rigors of college, for those young high school graduates who want a four-year degree without crushing debt, for those who are the first in their families to attend college, for young adults who spent their first years out of high school seeking direction and are now ready to commit to their studies, to those who were unsuccessful at their first attempts at higher education and need a fresh start.
Community colleges are for parents, especially those with few resources, who want to make life better for their children, for workers languishing in low-wage jobs who want opportunities for advancement, for the veterans who have served their country and now need the country to serve them, for the unemployed who need to be re-educated to enter a new field.
These are the people who should be the primary focus of the community college.
But these days, I have to ask, are we straying from our mission?
According to an article on Education Insider, entitled “Should High School Students Take College Classes,” over 70% of high schools in America offer some sort of dual enrollment program and with good reason. The article enumerates several seductive benefits including
- increased rates of enrollment at four-year institutions
- higher GPAs in college
- decreased cost of a college education
- impressing college admissions officers by suggesting persistence and initiative
But, and it’s a big but, only if the student is adequately prepared, and I will add mature enough, for the hardships of completing demanding college courses at the same time he or she is enrolled in college preparatory high school classes, which can also be demanding. According to the article,
Even the most socially well-adjusted and academically talented high school students can struggle with the unique pressures of college… It’s important for students to understand the demands of just one college course.
Is it fair to a 16 or 17-year-old who is navigating the physical and emotional stresses of late adolescence to compound the difficulty of this time with the stringent demands of college-level courses?
I freely admit that some of my dual-enrolled students have been my best ones, largely because they were indistinguishable from their classmates in appearance and levels of maturity, often times more mature than their college-aged classmates.
Yes, I have had some very good high school students who make very good grades and whose behavior is very good. And I have also seen some of them stress unnecessarily over minor grades that carry little weight. I have seen them put inordinate pressure on themselves to make A’s and dissolve into tears in my office over the demands of sophomore-level survey of literature courses that they simply were not emotionally prepared to handle.
Even the most mature and successful high school student may not be ready to navigate the pressures of college. Think how many post-secondary college students struggle emotionally in their first year, many dropping out.
Therefore, if you are a parent who is rightly concerned about the cost of education and are considering dual-enrollment classes, please ask the following questions:
- Is my child adequately prepared, emotionally and academically, to take on the demands of college-level classes?
- What will my child’s rights and responsibilities be when in a college classroom?
- What are my rights and responsibilities when my child is taking a college class?
- How involved can I be without interfering with my child’s college experience?
- How will I and my child react if he or she receives a less than expected grade on an assignment or in a class with demanding material?
- Do I expect my child to work as well as take high school and college classes?
- Is this dual-enrollment program right for my child?
- Should my child take more than one college-level course?
- How much help with my child’s classes, from the high school, college or myself, will be too much and negate the benefits of the college experience?
- Does my child want to take college-level classes or would she or he rather have a less rigorous junior and senior year and enjoy social and extra-curricular activities?
- And something many people don’t know to ask: Am I aware of the potential NEGATIVE effect on college admissions if my child takes too many classes? Some college-level credit can be a good thing when applying to colleges as it can show initiative and resilience; however, too much may be detrimental, as noted in the article mentioned above:
- Parents, counselors and teachers might encourage their students to take on a college course under the assumption that admissions officers look favorably upon applicants with postsecondary credits on their transcript. In fact, many college admissions officials are concerned some high school students are spending too much time in dual enrollment programs, in effect ‘dropping out’ of life at their high schools. This may act against students’ admission chances at colleges that highly value community involvement.
If dual-enrollment is not right for your child, you can still save money on your child’s education. Consider the following:
- Monitor your children’s academic progress but let them manage obstacles on their own –ask questions about school, look at homework, read and learn along beside them.
- Show an interest in all school activities.
- Seek a tutor for difficult subjects–my father found a math tutor for me through a local college at no cost to us. I made an A in geometry that year. The only A in a math class that I made in high school.
- Begin searching for scholarships early. If you know the academic or athletic requirements that will give your child the best chance at gaining the scholarship, you can use those standards to help motivate his or her performance in the classroom and help the student choose appropriate classes and extracurricular activities
- Encourage your child to pursue community service opportunities. Many civic organizations offer scholarships to students who are active in the community. More importantly, service to others develops character and helps children become more externally motivated, so important in these “me first” days in which we live.
- Apply for summer programs at a nearby college–more and more colleges are offering “college experience” programs for sophomores and juniors to ease into the college experience without the demands of college-level assessment.
- The list goes on and on.
Having completed a Masters in English Education, been certified to teach English and German (6-12) in four states (Ohio, Colorado, Georgia, and North Carolina), taught in both private and public high school as well as having spent 23 years at the college I now serve as both an adjunct and full-time instructor, I have come to the conclusion that dual enrolled students can be highly successful in a well-conceived and administered program that offers a true college experience, but only if they are properly prepared both academically and emotionally for the experience .
Economists and lawyers like using words like “nonpecuniary.” Perhaps to keep from falling into cliche; however, if the cliche fits…and when it comes to education, it certainly does–Education should not be all about money. Amazing thing is, even economists (those trusted above all others in our society these days) frequently do studies on the benefits of various aspects of our lives that do not involve money but make our lives better.
One such study, “Priceless: The Nonpecuniary Benefits of Schooling” appears in the Winter 2011 edition of the Journal of Economic Perspectives. Philip Oreopoulos and Kjell G. Salvanes, economists at Toronto University and Norwegian School of Economics respectively, explore the nonpecuniary benefits of schooling in a well-researched article (32 pages with 142 citations) that offers compelling empirically-based evidence that the more schooling individuals receive not only benefits them economically (p. 159), but also in a myriad of other ways, including
- higher employment prestige ratings (p. 163)
- higher job satisfaction (p. 163)
- higher O*Net (Occupational Information Network) achievement scores (p. 163)
- lower unemployment (p. 163)
- better physical and mental health (p. 167)
- lower divorce rates (p. 167)
- lower smoking rates (p. 170)
- very low arrest rates (16+ years of schooling) (p. 170)
All of the tables including relevant data show statistics before and after conditioning for income with the same result of increased rates in these various areas as education increases.
Oreopoulos and Salvanes do report some predictable negative effects of higher levels of education, including time constraints and increased stress (p. 171). However, these aspects of higher education are greatly mitigated by the numerous positive effects, including those mentioned above, as well as less tangible benefits, including improved parenting (p. 167), higher levels of trust (p. 167), increased patience (p. 170), and even higher levels of happiness (161).
The authors conclude that more qualitative research needs to be done concerning pecuniary and nonpecuniary benefits to higher education, but their research indicates, as these two lauded economists say far better than I could, that the non-tangible benefits of a higher education beyond a two-year degree exceed even the economic benefit:
In our opinion, the estimated returns are too large to support
the theory that most students are optimally trading off costs and benefits when deciding how much education to acquire. Some people are missing out on significant welfare-increasing opportunities (p. 181).
Many students may be myopic. Parents with teenagers can attest that
youth are particularly predisposed to downplaying or ignoring future consequences…. When teenagers and young adults make their choices about school attainment, it may be especially easy to see the immediate costs and harder to grasp fully the long-term benefits. Exploring these issues more thoroughly would shed further light on the overall education attainment decision-making process and help identify ways to make individuals recognize the large returns from schooling. Large amounts of money appear to be lying on the sidewalk. Of course, money isn’t everything. In the case of returns from schooling, it seems to be just the beginning (p. 181).
On a more celebratory note, I have mentioned in my blog before that I had a piece published in the anthology Unbroken Circle: Stories of Cultural Diversity in the South. Since publication last May, several colleges have begun to use the anthology as a text in courses on Southern literature and culture.
Several months ago, writers included in the anthology were asked if they would like to participate in a panel discussion at the 40th Annual Appalachian Studies Association Convention. I am happy to report that the proposed panel session was accepted by the association, so four of the 26 writers, including yours truly, as well as editors of Bottom Dog Press in Huron, OH will travel to Cincinnati to attend the conference. I will be reading from my story, as well as discussing the meaning and inspiration for it. Of course, I will be part of the Q&A after all writers have completed their readings.
The conference is during our spring break in April, so my intention is to take along some copies the new edition of Teach. Write. to share with editors and publishers, so there isn’t a better time to submit to the spring edition. Submissions are open until March 1.