Curriculum Design 👩‍🏫 Meaning Making

I taught today at Fresno City College, 6PM-9PM. I do that weekly. It’s been one hella semester.

In My Life Today 🐠 Mad Hexagon Plans 🦐

Our 20g hexagon fish tank will begin cycling tomorrow, boosted by the gravel, aquarium decorations, & used filter from our 10g Aqueon tank. My goal is to succeed at a fishless cycle over the weekend, so when the dwarf mexican crayfish pair arrive in the mail next week, they have a water-tested, relatively safe home.

I certainly don’t want the crayfish to feel as bullied as the one in this YouTube video:

I planned on letting the pair live with just a few livebearer poop-making buddies at least long enough for me to get a good idea of their personalities, rather than barraging them with so many fish.Although, if after our mad scientist chemistry experiments on the hexagon water, we discover the water is dangerous, then our 10g is technically underpopulated—and the only current occupant who might bother the miniature crayfish is Benjamin Franklin, the betta—so I think our back-up plan is solid, too.

As part of this Grand Master 20g Hexagon Quest—ex., I still need to buy lily bulbs (and cat food) at Petco, and I have two bubblers, but only one non-plant decorative to hide them—but rather than following through with my plans…, I’d intended to spend more time preparing, well, for the tank-preparation ritual tomorrow.(preparing for preparation!—that’s when you know you’ve transitioned from hobby to special interest!)…

But I fell down a rabbit hole of reflection writing, including sketching, chart making, and 2,025 words of anecdotes and analyses,…That sounded like I wear thick-rimmed glasses. I swear I paid for the sweeter glasses. in response to the technology unit in Rereading America, the text-reader I’m prototyping for my logic and rhetoric class.Also, normally, I’d feel guilty after failing to follow through with my daily itinerary… except the train wreck happened over a rabbit hole of reflection writing. Talk about an awesome problem.

Lately I’ve felt emotionally disassociated with tiny things—as I zoom out to re-design my life at a macro scale, in response to reading Designing Your Life, then thinking about these blog posts, the handwritten composition journals, the ink sketching— like “Oops, I didn’t go to Petco,” “Whoops, forgot to call Dad again,” and the loudest anxiety-blooded monster that comes around every March:

“I really need to get on my taxes.”

I don’t plan on staying this zoomed out of everyday life for terribly long—I need to live in the present moment to truly prototype joyful writing, after all—but while I’m in this frame of mind, I can’t help but notice my depression is quiet.

Disturbingly quiet.

Like, all I hear from lately is anxiety, tooting its five-hundred horns about its six-thousand problems.

And the weirdest thing is, even though I spent more of the day playing around with Rereading America, and formulating essay writing prompts, than I did, well, anything else, I finished my brainstorm by designing a lecture that was so YouTube-heavy, we had no time for textbook discussions—those would have to be delayed until next week.I have too many foundation blocks to lay down, too many videos to show my class about relevant, rhetorically challenging 21st-century conversations…

This is why teacher autonomy is so delicious.

Workview 🎇 Let There Be Purpose! 🎆

Last time I blogged about my mentor-specific Workviews, then explored my love for emoticons with my Mentor Rule #2, “Grading should be fun.”  Now I’d like to look into Mentor Rule #3:

Assignments are assigned to achieve meaningful goals.

The reason why I revamped my class tonight—from an article-driven, group-based chat, into a YouTube-driven, paired-up discussion—was so I could collect additional data on individual student interests for paper topics(This unit’s topic is a researched review of an app or YouTube channel.).

I meant to collect enough data in my previous class, but after the 2K of reflection writing, I realized too many students were emotionally disconnected…from the idea of an app—the “so what?” argument—which meant I needed to a) expand the paper prompt to include YouTube channel reviews, (or any tech-based review, really…,) then b) give them the space to explore that new medium, so they have the chance to write a review with meaning, personal value, and ideally, growth..

So after exploring different channels from my YouTube subscriptions—while that might sound like a wee bit of a self-centered method for introducing YouTube, you have to understand, because I’m on the autism spectrum, I can sell the hell out of things I’m interested in, but in exchange for my superpower to make special interests glow, I do a piss-poor job teaching how to argue about topics that lack jazz, lack tail-spin—, I prompted students to explore YouTube based on their passions, their curiosities and ideas.

Then submit a 3-sentence review for homework the following week.

That 3-sentence review(And the pre-write process they’re supposed to complete on the same handout…), should help students who were “meh” about apps—yet think “that’s neat!” when I show them intellectually provocative YouTube channels—become emotionally invested.

And that’s the first critical element of a meaningful goal: student investment.

Teaching Philosophy 🎀 Find a Few Fucks to Give ✨

You need to convince a student wholly—through pathos, ethos, and logos—that they simply must embrace their academic quest, or they’ll lose an adventure of a lifetime. To do that, you don’t give them an easy-to-grade assignment, then bark, “It’s your job to do this.”

You do not make a student conform to a class.

You conform the class to them.

You can see how, through the K-12 lens, this PoV may conflict with Common CoreBut I’m sure there are also some creative curriculum writers out there who envision a Common-Core-friendly classroom matching a student-designed model. If that’s you, do inner city schools a favor, and publish your work. Get it out there. Today. Make student-designed curriculum available, as much as possible, if for no other reason than to shepherd that form of curriculum design..

After you help students find something worthy of investing several weeks of pre-writing, drafting, research, and more drafting, they will transfer their passion about their paper into fuel for your classThey will trust you more. They will know, you’re on their side..

But first, they must feel passionate about their writing topic. Even if they don’t feel passionate about the act of writing itself, they must want to give writing a try.

When I think of meaningful student goals, I also consider these two qualities of lesson design, which aren’t as vital as a writer’s passion, but still big players in the writing process:

  • Your student needs to feel smart{end-text}
  • And I use the singular, “student,” because you need to understand, if 24 of your 25 college comp writers follow along with your class-wide conversation about gender-normative thinking, or superintelligent AI, then 24 of your 25 college comp writers will be prepared to complete whatever writing prompt you throw in front of them about gender-normative thinking, or superintelligent AI; meanwhile, the other student is lost, and is set up to fail at a major task like a paper, which could snowball into failing your class, which could result in a community college drop-out because, “Eff it, I don’t want to deal with another English class ever again.” The need to feel smart can truly be that fragile. …So throw a YouTube background-knowledge-normalizing party once per unit, and you’re good, hurray!{end-tooltip} about a topic before they’ll form an opinion. If they don’t like the topic—but they feel confident enough to talk about it in casual group conversation, anyway—they’ve a much higher likelihood of succeeding at an essay than, say, the student who is super-excited about the idea of technology (or whatever unit), but doesn’t have a lick of an idea about “what to write.”
  • Your student needs to feel heard,{end-text}Fortunately, most students don’t need you to throw a ball of blue or red ink all over their essay; they just want a few high-quality observations about the state of their writing voice, their strengths and weaknesses. They don’t need a lot of feedback on any single assignment, but they’re sometimes offended when you return an assignment with nothing written on it at all, so you end up responding to more assignments than you’ll ever receive adequate pay to grade, because you must write on ALL THE THINGS. {end-tooltip} which means quality and quantity are important in the grading and commenting process. You can’t very well tell them that an essay is a conversation if you, their audience of one, isn’t conversing with them.

So because you need to write on ALL THE THINGS, don’t assign anything until you can answer the question, “What am I using this assignment to assess?”

Busy work is a thing of the 1980s; if there isn’t a point to asking a student to perform, other than to pass time, you need to give your curriculum a re-visit. Like defibrillation may be necessary.
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