Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Online teaching #2

I was going to write an in-depth reflection about my first online teaching experience, but it will have to wait a few days. Today, the only thing I can say is "OMG, WE ARE IN THE FINALS". Mascherano and Romero, I love you. Perdón Sabella, for everything I said against you. THE FINALS, in Brazil!!! A-R-G-E-N-T-I-N-A!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Online teaching #1

I am half way through my intensive, 6 weeks long, SPAN 101 fully online course. Two very preliminary conclusions.

a) Because I didn't have pedagogical support at all, I read a lot of articles about online language teaching on my own. One of the things that is repeated over and over is the importance of community building, and to design activities to be done in groups. I carefully followed the advice. Well, I am sure it works for a semester long course. But in a 6 weeks course, it is a mess. I started receiving emails from students complaining they couldn't reach their group partners almost immediately (and those were the ones that actually bothered to complete the activity). Sometimes, it was the members of the same group, saying they couldn't reach each other. Six weeks go fast, so I would be very careful asking for activities the students can't complete on their own, because it is hard to come up with alternatives.

b) Organization is essential. I just spent hours trying to find where students uploaded a recorded assignments. Although the instructions were very clear as to where they should do it, half the class managed to upload it in the wrong place. Make everything as obvious as possible, and repeat yourself over and over if necessary. Chances are, somebody will need the triple message

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Online teaching

So I am on week 2 of teaching my online SPAN 101 class. I will write more extensively about it when I finish the course, because so far I have mixed feelings about it. One positive thing is that I am finally learning some useful technology stuff (not technology for the sake of technology, but with pedagogical applications). Also, because my university changed from Blackboard to Canvas, I have been exploring its possibilities. Today, I learnt to create quizzes on Canvas and to apply rubrics to assignments! Laugh all you want, but I am very proud of myself. It was all self-taught!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friendly advice to foreign professors, brought to you by Pearson

"Nunca haga comentarios racistas, machistas, feministas, o que puedan resultar ofensivos para las personas que pertenezcan a otros grupos raciales o sociales." ("[In the classroom] never make racists, machistas, FEMINIST or any kind of comment that may be offensive to students that belong to other racial or social group")*

This was included in a document titled "Sugerencias para profesores del extranjero", ("Suggestions for foreign professors"). The document is a part of the Instructor Resources that come along with a Spanish language textbook published by Pearson. The rest of the document is only slightly less offensive. I just can't...

*Feel free to correct the translation if you don't think it is accurate.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Update on the previous post

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was ambivalent over whether I wanted or not to become Chair of important committee. Well, the situation resolved itself pretty quickly. I will not be Chair. Not because they elected somebody else, but because in an unbloggable meeting today somebody came up with a suggestion that is incompetent and bad for many reasons. Half the committee supported it, and the rest stayed silent. Except me, but nobody had my back. I can't really write too much about it, but let's just say that the election of new Chair is tabled until I don't know when. Furthermore, I withdrew my name from the game: I simply refuse to Chair a committee that is becoming incrisingly disfunctional, and where half-baked ideas are enthusiastically received with no consideration for best practices and proper procedure.

On to plan my literature class for the Fall....

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


This may go *poof* soon, but I think I need to write it to clear my thoughts and get on with what I need to do today.

The Chairship of Most Important Committee on campus is vacant, and there is a decent chance that I become the next Chair. A few months ago I expressed my interest and was enthusiastic about the possibility. It is an incredible opportunity for leadership and for learning more about my institution. I also believe that in certain committees, faculty actually do have the chance to shape and/or influence your insitution future. Also, Now, I am more ambivalent about whether I want the job or not. Why?

1- There is the possibility that I become Chair only because no other member of the committee wants it. It is a lot of work, and many people will probably criticize you no matter how good a job you are doing. That, in itself, is not a problem for me. I know that many members of the committee would welcome me as Chair. But I do know that a few people are trying to convince somebody else to become Chair (this other person is somebody I deeply respect) because they think I do not really understand or completely fit with my institution's culture. That is just code for "that Hispanic lady speaks her mind too often and is aggresive. She doesn't understand that in this country, we are more polite". They are right in a sense. I do speak up when I feel it's necessary. I could even be considered hot-headed for American standards. But I understand the culture of my institution perfectly well. I am just not willing to tone it down (more than what I already have) just to "fit". It really is a cultural clash, in a sense (university politics in Argentina are noisy, heated and can be a contact sport sometimes. That is also how higher education is still free in my country). And I am not willing to let that part of my personality go. At the same time, I am not sure I want to serve in such a context.* Yes, stepping down would mean that I don't want to fight the status quo. But the possibility of burning out and becoming bitter is too high, and I have never felt the need to be a martyr for a cause (I am being hyperbolic here, but I think I am also clear about what I think).

2- As I said, it is a lot of work. Amazingly enough, being Chair comes with a 2-1 course load reduction, so I don't think I would be overworked. I would have time to devote to it. And here is the problem: teaching is my passion. It is the end of the semester, and I have a lot beautiful notes left by students piling up in my desk. This year, a few of my favorite majors are graduating, and I am very proud of them and how I helped them (one, in particular, who went through some really tough times but managed to graduate with a double major and a 3.6 GPA). Last week, my Chair asked me what classes would I give up in the Fall if I became Chair of the committee... and I didn't want to give up any! I am excited about teaching.

3-And yes, I am scared of the possiblity. It means putting yourself out there, and become a target. And I don't know whether I have the personality for it or not. Some people thrive in those situations. Myself? I have never really tested how I would react.

*it is not only that. I have been dissapointed by a few other people I had in high esteem, and who have bend over backwards to justify a few situations I find unjustifiable.

As you can see, some days I want to be Chair of Committee, but others I find myself secretely hoping that they convince somebody else to become Chair. The situation will resolve one way or another very soon, but it has been keeping me awake last week

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pedagogical question

How do you teach an upper-level class where half the class is getting high As and the other is getting mid to low Cs? It is to late to put it to use now, but it has happened to me this semester with my 300-level Latin American Civ class, and I haven't found a solution. The problem isn't their Spanish skills, just that the lower half does not seem prepared for the out of the box, I want you to think and not memorize, assignments I demand from them. The upper half are some of the most brilliant students I have had in a while. But the mix isn't working, and I don't know how to solve the dilemma. And yes, I am tired of suggesting them to make use of my office hours. The only student that took me up has seen amazing results, and not only her motivations but her grades have improved tremendously.