Tag Archives: Teaching

The syllabus I can’t give you.

Inspired by Sonya Huber’s (2014) Shadow Syllabus, written as a free-writing exercise for myself, with an eye to adapting it for use in my writing courses.

  • This is your map for getting an A. You’re the driver, and I call shotgun, making me your navigator. I’ll tell you exactly how to get to where you’re going, but over the lulling hum of your engine, you might have difficulty hearing me.
  • You are guaranteed to get lost.
  • When I was in college, I was always lost. When I reached grad school, I realized being lost is a luxury you will one day lose.
  • There’s this ancient Greek myth, maybe you’ve heard of it, of a hound destined to always catch its prey and a fox destined to never be caught. The paradox of their mutually excluding abilities annoyed Zeus into turning them both into stone, and then into stars, where they continue this fruitless pursuit.
  • I’m sure I bookmarked this reference, so now of course it’s gone, which is a lesson in saving your sources with a citation manager, now.
  • Those who strive for As usually don’t get them, and those who abandon the hunt, in favor of seeking knowledge, of seeing how deep an empty foxhole goes, usually do.
  • You will think it’s easy for me to say this. I don’t have scholarships riding on this. I don’t have families, histories, homes to extend or transcend. But I did, once.
  • “You never had control,” shouts Dr. Ellie Sattler. “That’s the illusion!”
  • Also, that’s the syllabus genre, which is why I’m always, resentfully, retooling mine.

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Salting the earth with hypocrisy.

It’s the last week of classes, and my course announcements, as usual, have stacked up like this:

Hey class,
Due to travel hazards/laryngitis/an ongoing family emergency/my sick cat, I will be unable to attend class today. As such, I will record a lecture in advance of our meeting time and hang out in the chat room during class to field any questions you might have about the material. As always, you can email me directly with comments.
Best,
Prof. Mani

Also featured are stories of delays: #NJTransit and #PennStation have trended at least twice this month due to massive breakdowns, delays, and crowd control issues. After a NJTransit train derailed on Monday, April 3, damaging switches and rails, train delays and cancellations, platform crowding, and overflow trains infected the entire week, including the Tuesday and Thursday I commute to Rutgers for a 2:2 course load. At Penn Station, Amtrak, LIRR, and NJTransit were all affected. According to news reports and angry commuters on Twitter, the less crowded Penn Station’s platforms and trains looked like this:

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That’s hours of delays, jostling shoulder to shoulder on the platform, followed by a standing-room only commute for an hour on the Northeast Corridor.

Thousands of commuters were doing this, so I couldn’t say it wasn’t doable. But I didn’t do it. I cancelled my Rutgers classes that week, citing only my concerns that I wouldn’t arrive on time, and we wouldn’t be able to hold class anyway.

This was true, but it wasn’t the real reason.

Coincidentally, after I returned to campus I heard from a former student that I have a reputation for canceling, and I’ve been trying to dismiss my concerns about it because I’m not sure I get to be defensive. Like a good faculty member, I am dishonest with my students about my reasons, despite insisting they be honest with me about theirs. I lie because, as long as I can power through without dying mid-lecture, the truth sounds like an excuse. I’m in pain. I’m exhausted. I just can’t.

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“World Go Boom”

Prior to diving into the murky waters of my qualifying exam period, I thought I would share the lesson plan I used during a mock class tailored to a portfolio assignment. As I hadn’t seen the instructor’s syllabus, I planned a lesson around conceptualizing the portfolio as a material artifact whose message could be manipulated through organization on the small and large scales. I had 40-45 minutes for the lesson, so the plan itself crams a lot more in than I necessarily got to. Still, the gist of it was that I used a mashup video to provide a conceptual foundation for thinking through the arrangement and narrative arc of the final portfolio.

The video can be found here. The full lesson can be found here. Feel free to use wholesale or adapt (attribution appreciated).

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