Friday, October 12, 2007

Blood All Over The Page


In my entire teaching career, I have taken one course dedicated to teaching. Taught by a lively eighty year old woman who still did ballet exercises every single day, she tried to take us through all the new-fangled methods of positive reinforcement and so forth, all the while stifling her impulse to say, Get the switch, if things weren't going our way in the classroom. While I remember my teacher quite well and the essays we wrote for her (this was my very first attempt to write about my rape which resulted in some terrible melodramatic garbage on the page to which she responded very kindly with things like "how appalling!" and "such are the depths of misery in men"), I can only remember one piece of advice. Never ever grade in red. It upsets the students, she said, according to new research. They need to feel loved. Blood all over the page is not love. Try green or purple.

It wasn't much to go on, but I held onto whatever thin reeds I could. All my preconceived ideas about teaching were knocked out of me by my first two classes, all plagued with the usual problems and a stalker of epic proportions that saw Victim written all over my forehead. These were the days before Columbine and all the school shootings that were and will be to follow, before disturbed meant "heavily armed" and before students started reporting creepy, squirrelly behavior in all its forms. My teaching has changed a lot over the years, but I still don't use a red pen. I don't have any green or purple either, but black works just fine. And with my teacher of yore, I would agree -- there's enough blood on the page without adding to it.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"The job of the writer is to make revolution irresistible.” Toni Cade Bambara

Cocktail Hour
Drinking movie suggestion: The Apartment

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy birthday to my friend Tim in Texas! And many happy wedding wishes to Charles (of Razored Zen) and his new bride Lana!

18 comments:

Rodney Dangerfield said...

The colors of that dress are starting a revolution in a certain body part of mine, if you know what I mean.

Herman Northrup Frye said...

As an English major and a professor of English, I'm quite familiar with the theories of "color" to grade papers. After all was said and done, I ended up using a black ink pen for papers in blue ink and a blue ink pen for papers in black ink. I must admit that my career was no great shakes, but I won't blame it on the color of my editing marks.

Charles Gramlich said...

In graduate school we had a faculty member to oversee the TA's and he occassionally gave us some hints about teaching. He also gave us some books. I remember McKeachie's "Teaching Tips" as one of them, and I still refer to that book. Other than that we didn't really have any kind of teaching about teaching.

Oscar Winner said...

That's a great drinking movie suggestion, Michelle, if it's the same Billy Wilder flick I'm thinking about. Jack Lemon was one of a kind. Throw in a kicker like the inimitable Miss Shirley and you've got comedic fireworks. Excellent suggestion.

Dominick Dunne said...

OJ, Robert Blake, and now Phil Spector. I think I'm beginning to see a pattern. It's enough to give my diary the hershey squirts.

Pikey said...

the first poem i wrote was for show & tell in 2nd grade, the teacher took it from me & wrote all over it with a red marker- she sent me to the principle's office, & he wrote on it again with more red........he wrote my mother a note and suggested to her that we work on my depression- i didn't write again for many years- i believe that was the beginning of my "feeling distant from the world"

Ropinator said...

Well, I think teacher's job are like police officer's. Teacher's are usually not liked (especially maths teachers) and it is true with police officers. At least in Hungary.

Cheri said...

I'm with Pikey on writing in my public school days. In 9th grade I wrote a short story about 9 or 10 pages long for a project for my English class and even though my teacher loved it, the school psychologist thought that I was a sociopath and tried to get my parents to take me into counseling. My mom told them that I was just creative and didn't keep mutilated animals in a box in my closet.


I got them back later when I did my last project on cremation and walked the class through the process with photos and extreme details. A few people left the room, disturbed, but no letter came in the mail to my parents that week.

the walking man said...

I am still waiting for one graded paper, no matter what style of writing it was fro you Michelle. God damn I even had to look up my grade on the school website...I don't even remember what my first piece of creative writing was other than my old man burned it while I was in boot camp..unlike Pikey i don't feel distant because of an event i am distant from most people because except in the most superficial way i don't understand them.

Remember Cheri, Michelle, Pikey and Charles, fuck even you Ropey I said most people...you lunatics I understand very well and happy fucking..anniversary Charles.

I have been in teaching situations just not where papers had to be graded and i found that a lot of them with the questions they wanted answered just couldn't get it.

the walking man said...

Rodney i am sitting here listening to sly stones extended version of sex machine and now that it's been almost a year ...well you are still a disgusting piece of trash.

Paul said...

myCajunQ
HotRockinMama
FoxlyLadyD
R2C2Shazammmmm!

rodney dangerfield said...

Saying disgusting things is what teaching at Macomb is all about. Just take MY creative writing section and you'll learn that.

There's a reason I get no respect from Michelle.

And it's not these harassing remarks I say to her, or to other students of either sex, if you know what I mean.

Ugis

the walking man said...

Sorry dickhead but I am just fine as a proud college drop out and taking YOUR creative writing class I am sure would only re-enforce that. I can not respect anonymity in any form even in the putrid,,,it's like excrement...ya' know shit is still shit no matter what you do to it.

whitenoise said...

I guess I live in a bit of a bubble. As a training captain, I teach as well, but my students are highly motivated. Noboby likes criticism, but I keep it positive, and we're all working towards the same goal.

Even still- there's some psychology involved; Boosting those whose confidence is waning. Shutting down the cocky ones, trying to keep everyone focused.

Getting outside of that bubble, you raise many issues in a short discussion. I was on the periphery of a school shooting in 1974. Some of the older brothers and sisters of my classmates were injured or killed. It's something from which a community never fully recovers.

And, the rape... Even as a husband and father, I can only imagine. I'm sorry for you...

The real Rodney Dangerfield said...

Tsk, tsk, tsk.

the real rodney dangerfield said...

I need help, if you know what I mean.

But until then, I'll continue to embarass myself in front of the faculty who read this page. Michelle is being too kind by not making a fuss, if you know what I mean.

Pawlie Kokonuts said...

Ever since I was a teacher (1970-75), I have almost never used red. I learned the hard way (too many shattered spirits). Now it's typically green or purple. Like our house.

Anonymous said...

Rodney D. True, that you have made some eyebrow raising, lip quivering, tear rolling comments in your classroom, I have first hand experience wittnessing this, me thinks you don't give yourself the creds your due.
The fact that your egotistical, chauvinistic, cruel, and quite often single-minded, which contributes to your charm, these attributes are often overshadowed by your...well... unique style of brilliance. However, not just academic brilliance. Your lessons of life inspired me and allowed me to grow. Furthermore, I met Michelle once, and unless things have changed in the last couple of years, anotherwords if you've gone from bad to very, very bad, Michelle had several good things to say about you as a teacher. As a man, well we did not discuss. However, I don't need someone else's OPINION to change what I already figured out.
As far as the faculty's opinions are concerned...well, most of them are stuck behind the barriers, the structured wall that Macomb created, and they are afraid to cross thoses lines for fear of repremand. That is why I respect people like you and Michelle, the two of you don't fill the mold that you are EXPECTED to. Besides, the Ugis I remember wouldn't give a damm what anyone else thinks. You always marched to your own tune, and taught me to do the same. I truly hope that is still your MO.

chameleon