Archive for Pedagogy

Revision, Revision

I’ve spent the few days knee-deep in some heavy-duty revision.  I think that I have revised 10 poems or so to my liking.  I’m also happy to report that some literary journals do get a head start on their reading periods, and I was able to send out four packets of poems.  September is one of the craziest months of the year for me, so if I don’t get poems sent out in August, they often don’t get sent out until late October or early November.

However, revision is not just for poetry.  School starts in a few weeks and I’m in the middle of making some important changes in both my developmental writing classes and my creative writing course.  I just got finished with Tom Hunley’s book, Teaching Poetry Writing: A Five Canon Approach, and I am going to revamp my course according to many of the ideals found in this text, including teaching poetry writing in the context of rhetoric and comp theory.  I actually have more “formal” education in rhetoric and comp than I do in creative writing, so I found Hunley’s discussion of theory refreshing compared to many poetry books which deal with craft, but not pedagogy.

I am also designing a new class for my developmental students.  The class, titled “Sports in Popular Culture” is paired with study skills, reading skills and writing components.  I have plenty of reading material, but I am also using some movie clips.  However, I have been a bit disappointed in the selection of sports movies that contain female characters.  So far, I have one selection: Bend it Like Beckham.  Quite a few years ago, I saw a Lifetime (I think it was Lifetime) movie titled Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.  I like the movie well enough, so I found the book which was a great read, and remains a favorite in my journalism class.  However, the movie has never been released on DVD.  If anyone has any thoughts on movies with women sports figures, please let me know!

Precious Thoughts, Part II

A few months ago, I spoke of my longing to see the movie, Precious. I was right — the movie didn’t come to any theaters even near Jamestown.  But, just the other day I was able to rent the movie, and I was not disappointed.  Not at all.  In fact, I think that the movie was one of the better novel adaptations I have ever seen.  Yes, it is true that the movie did tone down the language and the violence.  It’s also true that the movie does play into certain stereotypes that may make many people uncomfortable.  But I thought the performances were the best — including Mo’Nique’s role at the main character’s mother, who is cruel, but somehow (at least in my mind) comes off as a bit sympathetic.  Has anyone else seen this movie?  What did you think of Mariah Carey?  Did you even recognize her?  As for the ending scene — I was not startled by the content because I read Push, but I bet that people who have not read Sapphire’s novel were a bit shocked.

What I really liked about the movie (besides the main character’s resilience) was the depiction of teachers and social workers caught up in trying to help the many, many victims of poverty.  As a whole, I believe that this nation is very hard on both people who work in social services and teachers in public education, and most people really don’t realize how noble these positions are — and they are jobs with many, many disappointments and little to celebrate. 

My viewing leads me back to whether or not I will ever teach Push again.  The answer is yes — and I don’t want to focus on just the main character, but also the other roles in the novel and the movie.   I want to go back and read Push again through new eyes and think about all the supporting parts.

On a Mission

My colleague is currently teaching an American Literature II this semester (second half of a survey class that many of our Humanities and Education majors take).  Today, I received an email from her telling me that she is a bit dismayed about how many of our students hate (not merely dislike) poetry.  I’m not surprised by her email — or by her students’ reactions.  I have known my students hatred of poetry mostly because I teach creative writing which yes, does indeed, incorporate poetry.  Most of the time I can get them to at least appreciate poetry.  But not always.

My colleague is on a mission.  She wants to post one poem on Angel (It’s our school’s online course management system) for a month to get our students to read more American poetry.  I have lots of poems in mind for her — but for those of you who teach undergraduates (either at the four-year, or two-year/community college level), I would be interested in seeing titles (and maybe links if they are online) of poems (along with poets) that your students have especially liked.  Or maybe…if you can remember the first poems you personally fell in love with, that would be great, too!

Movie Break, the Sequel

Last month, I talked a bit about the portrayal of writers in movies.  Several of you suggested other names of movies that portray writers in today’s society.  During the days that I couldn’t get out my front door because of all the snow, I spent my time catching up a bit on my movie watching.  I loved Wonder Boys — in fact, I went back and reread the novel.   I watched The Dark Half.  So Stephen King.  I liked Stranger Than Fiction.  I also liked Adaptation.   In one way or another, all these films offered glimpses of a contemporary writer’s life — whether it’s academic woes and writer’s block found in Wonder Boys or the challenge of bringing a book to the big screen — a problem explored in Adaptation.  Still, in my creative writing class, I think I am going to show clips from Throw Momma From the Train and maybe Room 1408.   I think I can find short segments from both these films that display problems in writers’ lives — most of the other movies that I watched are a bit too complex for me to make due with just a short clip.   I’m eager to see what my students say about the portrayals found in the films. 

Classes started today; my creative writing class meets tomorrow.  I love the frenzy of a new semester.

Welcome, Winter Break!

Papers are graded, final grades are in.  I’m not officially on break, quite yet — tomorrow I will go in and clean my office, but then I am free for three weeks.  I do plan on making this winter break a working break — that is finish some poems, write some reviews, and get my manuscript ready so it can go out into the world in 2010.

In the meantime, I will also be catching up on all my reading, especially a few early Christmas presents (poetry books, of course) that came in the mail today.  I also have a small stack of books about writing pedagogy that I want to explore.  And speaking of pedagogy, I know that the Internet has been flooded with December sales, but I found one bargain that can’t be beat.  Check out Teachers & Writers Collaborative, which is having a sale — $8 per book — during the month of December.  I’ve already put my order in.

Movie Break

I took a break from grading last night to watch an old favorite, Throw Momma From the Train a movie starring Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito.  I haven’t seen the movie in years, and Anthony has never seen it, so it was fun to watch both Crystal and DeVito in their “younger years” (the movie came out in the late 80’s).  A part of the movie that did strike me (and that I didn’t remember until I watched it again last night) is that Billy Crystal plays a creative writing professor at a community college with writer’s block (the character has writer’s block, not the college). I guess I can appreciate the character more now because I do teach creative writing at a community college.

In a dark/funny sort of way, the movie does explore many issues with contemporary writers including writer’s block, writing vs. art, and idea stealing.  It also got me thinking: are there other movies that show contemporary writers working?  I don’t mean biopics about real writers — I’m thinking of more fictional accounts.  The only other movie I can think of is Room 1408 starring John Cusack.  Yes, this is a horror movie, but at the beginning of the movie there is a touching scene where Cusack, who plays a writer who specializes in debunking paranormal issues, is at a book signing and a young girl comes up with one of his older books she purchased off EBay.   It’s clear in the movie that Cusack now “specializes” in travel books that explore the supernatural, and that he really wants nothing to do with his writing from the past — in this case, a book about a son’s relationship with his father.  I’m sure that many viewers didn’t really get that scene, but I thought it was the best thing in the whole movie.

So, can anyone out there think of movie clips that may show the contemporary writer at work?  Next semester, I’m thinking of opening my creative writing class by looking at some of these scenes to get my students thinking about writing issues….

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