A Teacher Has to Entertain Herself

Well, it’s finals week at my university. It’s hard on the students, but it’s also tough on the teachers. We’re all busy; we’re all stressed. Therefore, I have to think of ways to entertain myself and keep myself sane this week.

In my college composition course, our final exam ended up adding up to 99 points. Normally, I would just give my students the 1 point. However, this time, I made them earn it. They were instructed to draw a picture of me to earn that last point.

It was hilarious to watch them when they read that last question. The tense shoulders loosened. The giggles began. And then, as they seriously began their artistic work, they all started staring at me in order to really capture my likeness.

The results made my day.

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I suppose she thinks more of me than her poor drawing skills will allow her to express.

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This is the Asian me.

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That is some curly hair, and those are some big ol’ eyes!

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In the running for my favorite. I am a queen! *flips hair dramatically*

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I think I look like another race in this one. Like my ever-present podium?

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Good ol’ “no nose Ashley”

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Apart from the football player shoulders, this it’s pretty good! (I’m going to have a complex now…)

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I had a LOT of stick figures like this one.

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No arms and no nose, but I love this one.

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This one is probably my favorite. One question though- do I have a tail??

Oh man. I love my college freshmen. Now I think I can survive the rest of finals week.
Be sure and tell me which one is your favorite!

I’m Sorry I Wasn’t in Class but…

Today I received the most epic e-mail since the interwebs have been created. I mean good. I mean I have reached the zenith, the culmination of my teaching career with this e-mail.

I teach at a small university. I ask my students to e-mail me when they miss, so I know that they didn’t just blow off my class and also so they can see what assignments they missed. Today, I received an e-mail from a quiet student, who I’m not sure I’ve heard say ten words since the semester started in late August. He wrote this very formal, professional e-mail. As an English teacher, I appreciate a student taking the time to do that. He apologized for missing class and went on to tell me why he missed the class:

“The reason I missed class was because I had diarrhea.”

Wait! He just told me he missed class because he had diarrhea?!

Did this just happen? Did I really just laugh so loudly alone in my office? Can I look him in the face on Wednesday without crying with laughter?

He went on…

“I’m sorry I couldn’t word that to make it less awkward.”

Uh, yes you could have. You could have said:

-I’m having stomach problems.

– I’m experiencing digestion issues.

-My intestines are hurting.

– I have a tummy ache.

Can we work on synonyms in our next class? At least he spelled it right, I suppose.

Well, I’m not going to work tomorrow, because I have diarrhea. Or just because I can’t deal with freshmen.

Journal Topics for Writing Class

As a writing teacher, I love having my students write in a journal for the first 5 minutes of class. It establishes a routine of how we will begin class each time and also gets them in the habit of writing. I find that the only time most students write is for formal assignments. Journal writing can help them experience writing their feelings and thoughts on papers, knowing there is no right or wrong answer and knowing that their grammar won’t be corrected. I have my students buy a composition notebook and only use it for journaling. I collect it every Wednesday (for a Monday, Wednesday, Friday class) and give 2 points for every journal entry completed. They can not make up journals once I have collected them for the week. (This saves me from grading 30 journal entries for each student at the end of the semester!) This is an easy yet useful way to get points. It usually ends up to be about 70 points at the end of the semester.  I also make it a response journal. They write and I respond. It’s usually just 1 sentence asking a question or making a comment, but they know that I read it and care about what they write. Sometimes it creates whole conversations and really helps you to learn about your students. I actually enjoy grading these! So that’s how I utilize the journal writing process in my classroom.

Here are some topics I use for my freshman composition class, but they can also work for ESL writing classes, who would also benefit very much from journal writing:

– Why is writing important?  (this is always my first  AND last  journal topic)

-What is your biggest fear?

– What is your  favorite childhood memory?

-What is the most appealing non-physical quality of the opposite sex?

– What is one thing you would change about your personality?

-What is one thing you wouldn’t change about your personality?

– What is the one country you would love to travel to and why?

– Do we depend on technology too much?

– If you were stranded in a foreign country with no money, what would you do?

– Is lying ever ok?

– Do you believe in ghosts?

– Tell about a time when you got undeserved criticism.

-Does racism exist today?

– If you could live in a different time period, which time would you choose and why?

– Explain why attitude is everything.

– What do you use to make a first impression of someone?

– What’s something really good that has happened to you lately?

– Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

– What is your life motto?

– If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

– Tell me about your hometown.

– What makes a person dependable?

– How have you changed since coming to college?

– If you could go back in time and meet any person, who would it be and why?

– If you had to live outside your home country for a year, where would it be and why?

– Describe the most interesting person in your family.

– Describe a funny moment in your life.

–  How does the media affect our body image?

-How do smart phones affect relationships negatively?

– Do you think the phrase “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is a good way to live?

– What do you think about immigration to the US?

– What was your most embarrassing moment?

 

ESL students usually take longer to write a journal entry. They may take 10-15 minutes. So, if you don’t want to spend that much class time on it, you may want them to do a complete the sentence activity. I write this on the board at the beginning of class, and they can either write about it or think about it (usually they choose to write), and then we discuss it, which incorporates the speaking aspect of course. It usually takes 5-7 minutes total. They key is that they only have to complete the one sentence.  Here are some ideas for complete the sentence:

– I get angry when…

– Last summer…

-My parents…

– In high school…

– When I was a child…

– I am really looking forward to…

– My favorite vacation was…

– When I have free time…

– I get stressed when…

– I think people should…

– I see my greatest weakness as…

-I see my greatest strength as…

– Being a friend means…

– I feel lonely when…

– I am most talented at…

– My favorite hobby is…

I hope these were helpful. If you have any journal topics you have used that you found to be quite successful, please share! And, as always, please share via social media if you have some teacher friends you think could benefit from reading this.

Helping ELLs in the Mainstream College Classroom

Let’s face it. Most college professors have no  training in working with English language learners. So in order to help my colleagues better support the ELLs in their classroom, I sent an e-mail to all the faculty and adjuncts with the just a few ways in which they can help these students.

Give extra time to take a quiz or a test.

>For these students, it takes much longer for them to read and comprehend what the questions are asking. If you feel comfortable, please give them extra time.

Do not write in cursive.

> I have had several international students come in and ask me to read the feedback from their teachers at the end of their papers. Most people who learn English only learn print letters, not cursive, so cursive is usually unreadable to them.

Use visual aids, gestures, and write on the board as often as possible.

>Writing key words and even homework assignments on the board is so helpful for these students. Showing instead of only telling can really assist these students as well.

Simplify your language and slow your speed.

>This does not mean you have to “dumb down” your language. Try to use less slang and idioms, which hinder comprehension for these students. Try to watch the speed of your speech. I know I am guilty of speed talking sometimes when I get going in a lecture!

Offer supplementary materials.

>This might be offering an outline of the lecture of a copy of the PowerPoint. Listening comprehension is often most difficult for these students, so they may have trouble catching all the details of your lectures. Introduce them to a top student in the class who would be willing to share their class notes.

Get to know your international students.

>Take a minute to talk one-on-one with these students, so you can gauge their English ability and their comprehension of class material. You may think they are understanding and keeping up, but most of the time, to be polite, they will just nod and pretend to understand. Did you know that in some cultures, especially Asian cultures, it’s rude to tell the teacher you don’t understand, because you are basically accusing the teacher of not teaching well?

These were just a few quick and dirty tips I wanted the faculty to know. I hope you can make use of a few of them too if you have ELLs in your mainstream classroom. Are there any you would add? Please share with others that might find this helpful.

 

Foreign Students, ESL

How I Made my Students Really Mad

This semester, I am back to teaching a composition course for college freshmen. Apart from learning in-depth about research writing, we also read the play A Raisin in the Sun in College Writing II.  This play took stage in 1959, and it focused on an African American family in Chicago. It showed what life was like for blacks in the 50’s and 60’s. I wanted my students to know a little more about the civil rights movement and also the discrimination and segregation of this time period in American history.

To begin the lesson, I asked everyone with blue or green eyes to sit on the left side of the room and everyone with brown eyes to sit on the right side of the room. They were expecting a quiz on the introduction to the book, so they were very confused about what I was doing. I explained that instead of a quiz, we would be working on something else for which they would receive points. I gave the blue/green eyed students a page copied from the dictionary and told them they had to copy it letter-for-letter, word-for-word. They all glared at me with a look that seemed to say -Uh, are you serious? The brown-eyed students seemed scared to get their assignment next. However, they were relieved when I told them they would be working on a word search puzzle about pizza. As they were working, I told them to be sure and find the word pepperoni. I went over to the other side of the room and told that students that they better finish the whole page. I let this go on for about 3 minutes, then I finally allowed them to stop. I asked them how they felt knowing that the other half of the room was working on a different assignment. The light-eyed group said they felt angry at me and at the other group of students. They said they wondered what they did to deserve the terrible assignment. The brown-eyed group said they felt badly but not badly enough to exchange assignments with anyone or to even ask questions about why the assignments were different. I did have one blue-eyed guy ask me why he had to do the dictionary assignment and not the pizza one. It all worked perfectly. I asked my students to relate their feelings and the way I treated them to how Africa-Americans felt in the past. I think it really hit home with them and made a good point.

I then went on to show 2 YouTube videos. This first video really makes me emotional. I really can’t believe this happened so recently in my own country. I can’t fathom why people thought they were better solely based on their skin color. This video is a general overview of everything that happened. It’s about 5 minutes long.

The second video is about Bull Connor, who greatly influenced the civil rights movement, because of the terrible things he allowed to happen in Birmingham, Alabama while he was the commissioner of public safety for the city. It’s about 10 minutes long and really worth the watch.

After the activity, the videos, and a discussion, I really felt my students were ready to read A Raisin in the Sun and fully understand the context and the time period. I hope that no matter the grade level, this recap of my lesson might be helpful for you to teach about the civil rights movement, especially since it is black history month. Share with me some ideas you’ve used to teach this same topic.

Chinese New Year

I am sponsoring a diversity club here on campus. It’s a new club we’re starting up this semester. To kick it off, we did a presentation today about the Chinese New Year, since today is, in fact, Chinese New Year. It went really well! I wrote it and a student from Taiwan delivered the speech. I think most Americans know nothing about the holiday. Here is the presentation; I hope you learn a thing or two.

Today is Chinese New Year. You didn’t even realize today was a holiday, did you?

Over 1.4 BILLION people around the world celebrate it. It is called Chinese New Year because one of the main places it’s celebrated is in China, but it’s also celebrated in Australia, the U.S, Taiwan, Korea, Canada, Malaysia, and anywhere else that has a large Chinese population.

Have you heard of the Chinese Zodiac? Perhaps you’ve been in a Chinese restaurant and seen a placemat that lists years and animals. This is similar to Western astrology, like being a Gemini or Virgo. There is also a Zodiac sign given to each year. This new year is the year of the horse, or,ma, in Chinese.

Here’s a short video about the legend of the animals in the zodiac.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5aY11MpvsI

There are many traditions that people keep as they celebrate the Chinese New Year, which is also called Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year. The Festival lasts 15 days. Most people have about 1 full week off work and 1 full month off school. How nice!

During this time, everyone travels home to be with their families, just like at Christmas in the US. In mainland China, the population is over 1 billion people, so the trains and buses are so crowded!

Red is the lucky color of the New Year and everything is decorated with red and gold. We decorate with paper lanterns. In fact, the last day of the New Year celebration ends with something called the Lantern Festival. On the 15th day of the lunar calendar, you can go around town and see huge lanterns or light displays. These huge light displays can also be found at temples.

Fireworks are a huge part of the celebration. Did you know that fireworks were invented in China and have been around for over 1,000 years? It is said that we began using them to drive away evil spirits from our New Year. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, you will see and hear so many fireworks.

Hong bao, or red envelope, is used to give gifts of money. This is always done for Chinese New Year. Again, the color red is lucky and also wards off evil spirits. Mostly the hong bao are given to children. This is probably pretty similar to giving Christmas gifts.

 Of course a huge part of any holiday is the food. There are many traditional foods that we eat for Chinese New Year. One of the main ones is fish. The Chinese word for fish is yu. It sounds similar to the word for riches. So, on New Years we eat fish so that our wishes will come true in the year to come. Many sweets are also eaten because they symbolize a sweet and rich life. Can you see that the Chinese really love symbolism? The luck might come from the name, as I already stated or it might even be considered lucky based on what the food looks like.

I hope you enjoyed learning about Chinese New Year.

 

Photo I took in Xi'an, China for New Year 2011

Photo I took in Xi’an, China for New Year 2011

College is a Wonderful Place Full of Candy Around Every Corner (or Advice to College Freshmen)

I teach a first year experience course, and at the end of the course, the students write a paper giving advice to next year’s freshmen. As college freshmen begin to move on campus and start the next phase of their lives, I’d like to share some of this (hilarious) advice.

– “Do not fall in love with the first guy or girl that you meet. That was harder than I thought!”

– “In high school, freshmen get picked on all the time and are thought of as the scum of the earth. However, in college, I have found that the only difference between a senior and a freshman guy is facial hair.”

– “…through a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, actual tears, racism, stares, breaking down, doubt, a car crash, and one concussion later, I have learned to persevere.”

– “You can get a job at the school, like making sure people don’t steal stuff from the library.”

– “The good drink machines are on the second floor. It has all the good drinks and always works.”

– “I still remember the look on my face when my parents left, and I was lost. Now I look back with a smile on my face, because now I have no fears.”

– “…sometimes it was interesting, and I liked it, but other times it was boring and I fell asleep.”

-“Most kids are used to being spoon-fed their whole life, and they really do not know how hard it is to be on their own.”

-“You never think you would miss beating up on your little brother every day until you can’t anymore.”

-“When you’re sitting in bed debating on whether or not to go to class, get up and just go,”

-” I thought if I could go here and become a better wrestler, get big muscles, and possibly a girlfriend in the process, then why not?”

-“It’s nice to have a little brotherly brotherhood.”

-“After extensive private lessons in American Sign Language, I now know how to sign bacon.”

-“Being away from home is hard. Especially 2,355 miles away.”

-“College is a wonderful place full of wonderment, surprises, and candy around every corner. Ok, I lied about that last part.”

You just can’t make this stuff up!

Miss Fugett is an Angel

I can’t get a break in the cafeteria at school. A student is either asking me what they got on the test that they just finished taking 5 minutes before lunch, or they’re trying to put the moves on me. Most recently, it was the latter.

I walked by a table of basketball players, many of whom were in my college composition classes in recently. As I walked to the salad bar, I patted one student, A, on the shoulder and said a general hello to the table. A jumped approximately 10 feet in the air when I touched him. Another student, J, wasted no time.

“Hey. Miss Fugett, you know why A jumped when you patted his shoulder?”

“Uh, no J. I don’t know,” I said a bit confused.

J then went on to say, “It’s because A never had an angel touch him before!”

Seriously?

A jumps in- “Uh, yeah Miss Fugett. Yeah! I never had no angel near me.”

I look at them both and they have the biggest, cheesiest grins on their faces. (I don’t even know what their teammates thought at this point…) And I said, “Guys! You don’t even have me for class anymore. There’s no opportunity for bonus points.” and continued on my way to the salad bar.

Sometimes I wonder about college boys. And apparently sometimes they wonder about me as well!

Goodbyes Are, In Fact, Not “Good”

Saying goodbye is hard. It doesn’t matter how many times in our lives we do it; we simply don’t get good at it. Saying goodbye is especially difficult when you’re not sure if you’ll ever see the person again. It seems like those are always the types of goodbyes I’m saying.

I started thinking about this because, as a faculty member, I have to participate in graduation each May. I have to sit on the stage in my cap and gown and watch each graduate cross the stage and receive their diploma. I’m such a sap, that when a student that I’ve grown close to over the years makes their way across the stage, I have to hold back a few stray tears. That’s just how I am. I’m always thinking annoying thoughts like, “What if this is the last time I see her…ever!?”

My hardest part about leaving China to move back to the US was the thought that I was leaving SO many people that I just knew I’d never see again. And here I am again in a situation like that. Students graduate and are out of my life forever. Some students transfer, and I don’t even realize they aren’t coming back, so I don’t even get to say goodbye.

And sometimes we need to voluntarily tell people goodbye permanently. Sometimes we find ourself in a toxic friendship or relationship, and we must make the decision to tell that person goodbye for good. I find this to be the most difficult goodbye. A graduation or a move situationally forces us to say goodbye, but this is all up to us. It’s hard and usually painful. But, we usually end up being better for it, happier for it, in the end. Time makes us forget people, or just remember them a bit less. And sometimes that’s a helpful thing. A good thing. Goodbye.

Why I Despise the Commuters’ Lounge

I can’t decide if hate, loathe, despise, or vehemently dislike best describes how I feel about the new commuters’ lounge that has so graciously been placed across from my office at work. What I do know, is that every single day something about it drives me a little more insane than I already am. Here is the ever-growing list of reasons why I hate it.

1) It has a clear glass door.

-I always feel like the students in there are spying on me. Even if they aren’t spying on me, they are at least staring at me and some of them very creepily so. One time, a student even pressed his face against the glass and made a face at me. Stop. It. Now.

2) My office always smells like ravioli.

– They heat up their lunches in the microwave, and the smell always wafts into my office. The mix of about 10 meals creates quite the stench. Every other person that walks into my office asks me why it smells like pasta. Doh.

3) The room is not soundproof.

– When there are a lot of people in there, they are so loud that I can’t concentrate to work. The strangest thing though was last week when I sneezed, someone in the commuter lounge blessed me through the closed door. That’s just not right.

4) I can hear you in the hallway too.

– People step out of the lounge to take phone calls so that their peers don’t hear their phone conversations. Well, the problem with that is that they are right outside my office talking on the phone. I don’t want to hear you fight with your boyfriend. I don’t want to listen to you describe your ailments to your doctor. Stay in that room and yak.

5) The sign’s not even spelled right.

– The sign on the door says commuter’s lounge. Is it just for one commuter? Oh how I wish! You could have asked me. I’m an English teacher! Plural possessive=s’. COMMUTERS’. My boss stopped by the other day, and we chatted about that mistake for about 10 minutes. Only English teachers would do that. So, now I have to stare at that erroneous word every dang day. Who should I report that too?

I better stop at 5, because I’m starting to get angry on a Sunday night. I’ll wait until tomorrow morning when I’m across the hall from “that which shall not be named” to get annoyed. If you walk by my office and see me banging my head repeatedly on my desk, you now know why.

Update: A sign of rules was just posted today. The rules are so strange, so you can understand how strangely they act in this lounge! The parenthetical after the PDA rule and the shoe rule are my favorites.

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