Wednesday, January 23, 2008

more teaching woes

my friend, F, called me yesterday and asked, "how's your class going????"

"it sucks," i told her.

she then launched into a million ways that i could improve my lecture. being a seasoned lecturer herself, F has a million strategies to build rapport with students, to engage them in the lecture, to use technology. in short, she has skills.

yes, the act of lecturing is difficult. but my subject matter is equally difficult. this week i'm supposed to be lecturing about how race and class interact. you know that one affects the other. you know that they work together. you might even be able to point to some examples. but what is the specific argument that you make to students about the intersections race and class.

today i tried to use one of our democratic presidential candidates as an example. i just read an article in The Wall Street Journal about him, and i thought it was an interesting how the authors uses him to signify class division within the black community. according to the article, he just doesn't mean as much to working class blacks as he does to middle class blacks. it's interesting, but unsure of how to articulate the BIG argument around that specific example.

grappling with these issues in a smaller class would be easier because we could have a discussion, but in a class of 90 students, not so much.

that's the thing about being a professor. part of it is the performative aspect of teaching (the "skills" my friend, F, has in abundance). the other part is an intellectual endeavor. you want your students to think critically about issues you discuss in class. however, as a professor, you have to do the intellectual "leg work" to make connections between different bodies of literature. ideally, you present the ideas, and the students take them and think about them. i feel like i'm experiencing a breakdown in how the transmission of knowledge is supposed to occur!

sorry for the rant. only 7 1/2 more weeks of the quarter! bet me that by week 10 i'm going to finally have the hang of things.


Monday, January 14, 2008


this morning when i got to school there was a handwritten note on top of my computer from the building maintenance man. over the weekend, he had tried to hang my bulletin board above my desk. in the process, he accidentally hit a power line. he apologized that there was no power in my office and wrote that he would notify the campus electricians first thing monday morning.

thank God i have a laptop.
and that my internet connection was still working.

i finished preparing my morning lecture on my laptop and emailed it to my office manager to print for me.

when i came back from lecture, this is what the wall in front of my desk looked like.

an hour and a half later, after i'd finished writing a letter of recommendation for a student, but not before finishing my lecture for tonight, my computer battery died. i relinquished my computer to our work study student in the main office, so he could look after it as it charged. i went back to my office for office hours, but fifteen minutes later, the electricians showed up and kicked me out.

my office manager let me into the conference room to work. less than an hour later, another professor showed up and kicked me out because his class was going to meet there.

the electricians were still working (looking for a power board?) in my office, so my office manager graciously shoved some papers to the side of his desk to create a space for my laptop. i finished my lecture notes (he printed them for me), and i decided to call it a day. (until my second class, which started at 5PM).

what a monday! the week can only get better from here...


Sunday, January 13, 2008

teaching firsts

this quarter, for the first time ever, i'm teaching a lecture course. i usually teach smaller classes (around thirty people), but this quarter my department chair requested that i take on this larger course, an upper-division requirement for all of our majors. teaching a lecture course has posed a couple of challenges.

first, i'm still adjusting to the lecture hall. it's not as overwhelming as it was the first day, but it's taken some adjustment. i hate having to use the microphone, i'm still not quite used to all of the classroom technology, and, at times, it can be daunting to see ninety students looking at me and writing down everything i say.

second, the lecture format is VASTLY different from the discussion-oriented classes i'm used to teaching. wednesday's class was one example of having not prepared correctly for lecture. in smaller classes, i can fill the time pretty easily because i'm good at generating discussion about the course materials that i've assigned. lectures are different because there are too many people to really foster a discussion. i have to fill the time talking. i'm realizing that i need to incorporate more visual aids--slides, charts, film clips, whatever. i have to be überprepared.

third, i have a teaching assistant. having a TA is great because she leads discussion section and, thus, fields the majority of my students' questions. she is also responsible for all of the grading, which is a huge help. but! i've never "been the boss" in any circumstance, so it's a little awkward giving directives to someone.

that's the lecture.

also for the first time this quarter, i'm teaching two classes at once. my other course is a smaller class that i've taught several times before. i arranged it this way, so i wouldn't have to teach two new classes at once. hopefully teaching two courses will help me with my time management! ha! hopefully i have time to work on some of my own research this quarter.

hopefully i find something to blog about besides teaching for the next ten weeks!


Wednesday, January 09, 2008


this morning, about half way through my lecture, i looked at the 90 students in the lecture hall, and i thought, "would it be the worst thing in the world to send them all home?"

have you ever felt like that while teaching/lecturing? you've come to the middle and you're just out of energy and maybe even out of things to say.

i was talking about thomas jefferson and his internal conflicts as he grappled with the fact that slavery was a contradiction to the ideals of his new republic. i talked about how he justified slavery by espousing the idea that blacks were intellectually inferior, but still had to concede their "humanity."

fun stuff, huh? how could i not have wanted to talk about it for a full hour?

lecture is *hard.* mostly i feel like today was a flop, but there were moments when i felt like i might have said something insightful. i take comfort in the fact that i still have 27 more lectures to go this quarter! 27 opportunities to redeem myself. :P


Sunday, January 06, 2008

project 365, part 2

the following are my favorite pictures from the latter half of the year.


i took this picture while visiting joseph in dallas this month. we went to the old red museum to brush up on some dallas history. :) joseph looooves himself some dallas history.


one of my last nights in austin, my girlfriends and i went to see bob schneider perform at threadgill's. i love bob. and so does olga. we had a great time dancing the night away!


this month i went to pay a visit to my sister and brother-in-law in watsonville. my sister now works for a tomato company, so she always has these beautiful tomatoes on hand.


i took this picture at a coffeeshop in east LA, where they had an altar set up (a little bit early) for día de los muertos.


i took this picture for msabcmom. she and her class had sent "flat stanleys" all over the state, country, and world! i showed flat stanley a fine time in riverside. this was one of my favorite pictures of the month. i liked the texture of the highlander bear.


joseph and i went to see the festival of lights at the mission inn in downtown riverside this month. it was so hard for me to get a good picture of the lights. even at the end of the year, i'm still trying to figure out the settings on my camera! this was one of my better shots that night.

so there you have it: my 2007 in a photographic nutshell. here's to more kodak moments in 2008!


Saturday, January 05, 2008

first week of school

yesterday was the first day of school.

the few days before the quarter begins are always a little stressful. you have to research course materials, write your syllabus, copy your syllabus, copy all the articles you want to assign to the class, and prepare for lecture.

this week was even more complicated because my department just moved into a new building. this has meant that:
  • all of my books and files were in boxes
  • some of my furniture was missing
  • the furniture that i did have needed to be moved around to fit (the smaller) office space
  • the building has no heat until next week
  • the copy machine is on the fritz.
ok. i'm not sure that the copy machine problems were a result of the move, but it was just one more thing to frustrate me this week.

finally, friday morning arrived. i got lost on my way to the classroom where i was supposed to be teaching. it's the first time that i've taught in a lecture hall, the first time that i've taught a lecture, and i was disoriented. when i got to the lecture hall, i thought, ok. it's not the most enormous space i've ever seen. i did, however, have to wear a microphone for my students to hear me!

and i have a teaching assistant.

it's all a little overwhelming.

in any event, it's been a bit of a rocky start to the new quarter (new year?), but i'm sure that everything will be going smoothly in a few weeks.

happy new year!


Thursday, January 03, 2008

project 365

at the beginning of 2007, one of my new year's resolutions was to take one picture a day as part of a photo project i'd heard about called project 365. i usually write (in my journal, on the blog) to document the various moments of my life. i thought that this photo project would be a nice, different way to remember this past year. i also thought it might help me improve my photo skills!

for those of you who followed the project on flickr, you know that i was extremely dedicated the first half of the year. the second half, i faltered. it turns out that my project 365 is more like, project 320. ;) in any event, i wanted to share my favorite pictures from each month.


these happy face cookies are from smith's bakery in bakersfield. every time i go home i like to have one. i thought they looked pretty cute on the bakery tray, waiting to be purchased. :)


i took this picture in boyle heights, just outside my friend's apartment. i thought this mural was great.


joseph sent these roses to me at the office in march. it was one of my sweetest day that month.


i took this picture at central market when i went to austin this month. i think that we were grocery shopping for my friend cristina's birthday party. i snapped this pic in the produce section. i liked the way the light was hitting these chiles.


this accordionist is part of a local band named "mula." they performed at the ethnic studies senior award ceremony.


i took this picture while on vacation with my family this month in cancún. this pier was just outside the hotel where we stayed.

more pics of the past year to come!