02 December 2010

"I've made a huge mistake."

As the journalism adviser over the last few years, setbacks have come to be commonplace. No matter how great the staff -- and each year's staff has been great in its own way -- various things have happened, some the fault of the students, some the fault of me, some through nobody's fault but the fallibility of living in a technological age, that have forced the Brave Times to publish an issue after the scheduled deadline. It stinks, and nobody is ever happy when that occurs. This is why getting an issue out on time is considered a celebratory event. Everyone pulls together to create a product that close to 3000 people see on a regular basis and it takes a ton of hard work and dedication that doesn't always come together, so we rejoice when it does.

This is a result of a Google Image search for
"I've made a huge mistake." I don't understand
GOB Bluth's use of the Apple or Microsoft logo.
This year, I've had the most motivated group in all of my years as the Brave Times adviser. Part of this motivation exists intrinsically in each member of the editorial staff, as they are creative go-getters destined for success and great things. However, the other aspect of their motivation exists because I made a short-sighted promise, which is the reason for the Arrested Development quote that serves as the subject line. See, I knew these students were motivated, and I figured I could play on that by promising that if they made each of the first semester deadlines that I would do a backflip.

Adhering to a fairly regular work out schedule for the last five years or so has allowed me to get into decent shape, but the last time I played organized sports was back when I participated in Little League when I was still in middle school. Little League isn't really demanding or rigorous either, at least not the one in which I participated. Suffice to say, I am in shape, but I'm not athletic. Backflips are something athletes due: gymnasts and stuntmen and acrobats and mixed-martial artists after winning a fight; those guys do backflips. I've never attempted a backflip in my life save for when I was standing in a four foot deep swimming pool. Granted, it's been on my bucket list for awhile, but it's a frightening endeavor, what with paralysis a viable consequence of the attempt.

The staff of the Brave Times have been aware of these circumstances, and yet they've still hit every single deadline for the semester right on schedule with the final issue of the calendar year due to be put to bed tonight and published tomorrow.  This has never happened before in my tenure as adviser to the Brave Times. Ever. There were years that the staff stuck pretty closely to a schedule, but not one staff has managed to follow through on an entire semester's worth of deadlines. It's a commendable feat, and I'm pretty proud of them, even if their motivation has been to see me commit to a comic pratfall that might make me lose the feeling in my extremities. They've even gone so far as to label the checklist for the issue the "Backflip Deadline." Now I have to follow through with a backflip attempt. My wife is worried about me.

I've made a huge mistake.

On Monday and Tuesday, you presented your individual mythology research projects. I was impressed with most, not so much with some, but never disappointed with the results.

Wednesday, we began to discuss the qualities of an epic in anticipation of reading excerpts from Homer's Odyssey. You needed to finish reading the introduction (ending on page 908) at home, which includes information on the build-up to Odysseus' journey back to Ithaca.

Today, you participated in a small group quiz by summarizing in 3 to 5 sentences an assigned section of last night's reading. We then went on to discuss your summaries. Next, our coverage of The Odyssey began. The layout of the story is surprisingly non-linear, as the first half is told in flashback as we join Odysseus towards the end of his journey home. We'll only be reading excerpts, the first of which is the one dealing with Polyphemus, the cyclops.

You received the portfolio guidelines for the lit project on Monday. Hopefully, everyone has held on to their assignments from the lit project over these last few months as it was one of the big points I've harped on since its inception.

We then continued to read Beowulf, concluding it on Tuesday. Beowulf experienced the thrill of victory  by defeating on Grendel's mom and decapitating the already-dead Grendel and then experienced the agony of defeat by losing to the dragon. The guy deserves some slack, though, as he put up a valiant effort in his mid-70's and FOUGHT A DRAGON. It's pretty remarkable, really, and easy to see why the Anglo-Saxons revered the dude. Also, there's always the possibility of a Wiglaf spinoff. That guy has franchise potential written all over him.

There is a bonus assignment dealing with Beowulf on the Files page called Beowulf Revisited. It'll be due December 13 and have a value of up to 40 points. Last year, a student completed this assignment by re-imagining Beowulf's adventure as a series of tweets. Thinking outside the box like that is the best way to go.

Wednesday was reserved for peer editing. I gave those of you who brought a draft the Peer Edit Guide. Those who didn't bring a draft were labelled disappointments. Let me clarify here, too. This is not a difficult paper and should represent your best possible work. I would hope that bringing a draft to class is not completely out of the question, especially since the sole purpose is to improve what you have before turning it in for a grade. It's disappointing to me when students don't take advantage of the opportunities they have to improve, especially after hearing the question "How can I improve my grade?" so many times prior to the fall break. It's also the reason why I'm now more disinclined to offer bonus assignments through the blog. The Beowulf assignment will be a litmus test to see which students are really serious about improving prior to the end of the semester.

Today, we went over last minute questions for the big culminating paper due tomorrow. I am genuinely looking forward to reading these as it's as much a reflection of me as it is you. My goal is for everyone to  have improved over the course of the lit project, whether that's as a reader or a writer, preferably both. The plan is to get these papers graded by December 13, if not beforehand. My wife will be gone all day on Saturday for a work training, so in between stretches to limber myself up for my backflip attempt next week, I want to read as many of the papers as I possibly can that day.

After the Q&A, we started talking about Chaucer. He's often compared to Shakespeare, and I enjoy my basketball analogy enough to repeat it here: Chaucer is to Shakespeare as Dr. J is to Michael Jordan. The former introduced something to his respective fields (iambic pentameter and poetry to English, the slam dunk to basketball) while the latter perfected said something. While we won't be spending much time on Canterbury Tales, I really hope you take a liking to it because fart jokes never get old.

No comments:

Post a Comment