Monday, October 26, 2009


In Spanish, at least where I served, gastro bugs or any bugs, germs, or parasites were called "bichos." I still use "bichos" as my generalized term for gastro-bugs and parasites. I called in sick today for the first time in a couple years. My gut hurts in that bichos kind of way; usually, thanks to the Peace Corps, I have a steel stomach, but apparently not today.

I got up, felt ucky, and went about getting ready for school. I made coffee, lunch, and wrapped up my breakfast to take to work (which I don't usually do, but I didn't feel like eating), and showered before deciding that I really didn't feel good.

And once I started thinking that, I wondered if I had a temperature, and almost convinced myself that I did. But I don't think I actually did.

(I don't have a people thermometer; obviously, that fact indicates that I'm lacking in the adult household department somehow. If I had a kid, I'd undoubtedly have a people thermometer. But I don't so I don't. I haven't needed one in years. I do have a meat thermometer, but that seems like a bad idea, one bound to make me feel worse than a mere fever even if I had a fever.)

I spent an hour or two emailing my classes, giving the students some tasks to work on for the next class. I hope most of them do the tasks, but I don't think I'll hold my breath. Still, if some do, the next classes will go a little more smoothly.

It made me think about on-line teaching and how difficult it might be to get students to do the necessary work and make connections. And again, it made me think about auto-didacts and how much work they have to do to really learn stuff. There's a big difference between really learning stuff and just listening to a lecture. And somewhere in between, most of our students learn what they learn.

The activity for today's writing class involved analyzing some film reviews to learn about genre conventions and figuring them out, and then to learn about film review conventions specifically. I have a pretty step by step method of analysis that students do starting in groups, with full class discussion between some of the steps.

I could tell students about genre conventions and how to figure them out, and some students would get it and be able to do it independently.

But actually practicing the process of analysis helps more students actually understand conventions and the process better (I hope).

But still, of course, whether students can do that analysis independently next semester is up for grabs. We all have good anecdotal evidence that what's learned in one semester isn't easily or well retained by most students.

To really get the skills well and fully, most students need some repetition. But how much repetition? And how much should things change between repetitions? (So, if you're writing an essay, you don't use the same essay prompt over and over during the semester.)

So that's what I've been thinking about between naps. Now I'm going to grade for a while, because I know I'll feel better if I get some grading done.


  1. Another thoughtful post, Bardiac. The repetition (in a variety of ways) is necessary, vitally necessary.

    But go grade, and feel better. (And if it makes you feel better, I didn't own a thermMOMeter till last year).

  2. Hope you feel better soon! Isn't it funny how even when we teachers take a day off, we're still working (grading, planning, etc.)? I wonder what it would be like to have a job that never comes home with me.