Monday, May 20, 2013

Gods of the Curriculae, Spring 2013

The After-Finals Party

And so, it is done with at last.  The fanfare has died down, the audience has begun to file out, ignoring the mix of soda and popcorn grease that stick to their soles.  The clowns are taking off their make up, and the musicians are putting away their instruments and bidding farewell to the orchestral pit with well-earned tears in their eyes.

And, ladies and gentlemen, I slept.

Summer has crept up on us all, here in these red lands.  Spring was a delicious tease, but summer is nailing us to the bloody wall.  Summer, with its heat, rain, wind storms, and lack of classes.  And having had time to pour my dripping psyche back into my skull, I would now like to present to you my Gods of the Curriculae for 2013.


This was a tricky time.  None of my professors were easily named, seeming so mercurial across the semester.  It was fascinating getting to know each one, as much as one can in so short a time.  Even the one I knew from a class before I had to give careful consideration before dedicating my shrine to her properly.  And so, without much further ado, I reveal to you the secret identities of these ancient and hoary gods to whom I have been bending knee, within their dark domains . . .

Self-Reprogramming For Fun and Profit (or,"You're Doing It Wrong.")

"Okay, that's all the Freud books, right?"

Mondays were rife with good times and provocation in Self-Reprogramming For Fun and Profit.  I'd gotten the impression for the class description that this would be a class examining cultural phenomena and advertising, as well as current events, to see how they affected and reflected the human mind and society.  Introspection would also be used to better understand how mass media and culture affected us as individuals, and how we as a society affected culture and media.

Instead, it was a class on human development and psychic healing with an emphasis on self-reprogramming, a self-help class with a mouth full of fangs and an unhinged jaw.   Modern humanistic psychology holds dearly to the notion that one should be accepting of one's patient, and in fact there is one theory that says the psychologist should be completely accepting and supportive of the client (if not of what they do), no matter what . . . or else the client won't be at ease enough to completely confide.

My honoured professor missed that memo, I think.

She made it abundantly clear that she cared about her students, of course.  And none of us doubted that her main goal in being there was to help us grow and make ourselves better.  She also made it abundantly clear from the first class that she was right, she was always going to be right, because she was a doctor with many years of knowledge behind her.  And she was very, very comfortable with confrontation.  With being right, no room for argument, and with detractors being wrong.

This makes it sound as if I didn't enjoy her class.  Actually, I did.  She also encouraged others to speak their own minds, and was incredibly encouraging and supportive towards everyone and their goals.  In addition, I have the experience to fall back on for the future, should I council others.  Just as I think any judge should spend time in prison before sending anyone there, so too should a counselor or any stripe spend time being counseled.  We spent the semester studying each other, I think, and ultimately we both walked away richer for the experience.  There were times, after all, where she was right.  She truly is in the business to help people grow, and learn how to heal themselves.  While there were times that my hackles distinctly went up and my tail got all poofy, she understood the value of play and encouraged it, and she did teach very well.

Millennia ago, there was a TV series called MASH, and one of the characters was an army shrink named Sydney Floyd.  Every now and then he would pop by, sometimes to help someone re-thread their heads, sometimes to take five and re-thread his own.  His patients sometimes learned to hate him by the time he was done, but they were always on good terms by the time they parted ways, and his presence was pivotal to several events in the series, most famously a cathartic, bon-type fire.

Thus, she is Sidney Floyd.  Always studying our habits as we studied hers, she showed humor, questions, some confrontation, and bonfires.  Lots and lots of bonfires.

Final Grade: A.

Other People's Writings (or, "Everything is Literature Somehow and I Can Prove It.")

"We hear you, Flaming Spear!"

Tuesdays were Other People's Writings class.  The syllabus was a living document, and the rest of the  class was pretty free-form, including grading.  When a class is set up as an amorphous improvisation, often it's going to be either insanely cool . . .

Or mostly useless . . .

In this case, it was insanely cool.

Guided by his own enthusiasm and love of literature, we started out chronologically with ancient Greece, and ended with A Raisin in the Sun and Sonny's Blues.  The class revolved around comprehension, discussion, and thought-out examination.  He was always encouraging the class to explore the meanings of literature, and to challenge his notions with our own, well-thought out arguments.  We discussed and made journal entries on not only books and poetry but music as literature.  Paintings.  Perhaps even sculpture.

Take chances.  Make mistakes.  Get messy.

He . . . is Ms. Frizzle.

Final Grade: A.

Why White People Suck II (or, "The North Won the War and the South Won the Peace.")

"The history of the United States is the history of the debate over the definition of Liberty."

I was lucky enough to get a class with the same History Teacher I had for Why White People Suck I.  Picking up with the American Civil War, we studied and examined history from reconstruction through the Nixon administration, and then read the chronicles and studied as much as we could up to present day.  Alas, when history is too recent, the repercussions of pivotal actions still cannot be seen, and the causes are at least in part only guessed at.  Indeed, just how pivotal an action will be is yet to be determined.  But we did out best, bearing this in mind, and read up through modern day.

Her enthusiasm and her love of Socratic circles are undiminished, as is her dedication to the ideals of history, knowledge, and the joy of learning.  Two tests, two essays, tons of discussion and a variety of summaries later, the class is done, and far too soon.  I'm going to miss this class most of all.  Seriously, if I could have kept taking it through the summer I would have.

I had given her a god-name before, but the first day of class she brought to my attention that her high school students gave her one the year before, and she found it amusing.  I should have seen it myself, really.  After all, what other master teacher is small, more agile than he should be, inspired by wisdom and history, older than all his students combined and still going strong . . .?

"When 600 years you are, look this good you will not!"

Judge her not by her size.  She is Yoda.  And she will crush you to the wall with her historical knowledge.

Final Grade: A.

Paper Writing For Careers and Colleges (or, "Commas are of the Rakshasa!")

". . . and now edit . . ."

To put this class into perspective, the entry I showed you on the Butter Battle Book was an assignment in this class.  On the up side, the Professor encouraged people to think about new things.  One assignment was a research paper on our own career paths.  Another was a film analysis using Campbell's Hero Cycle and Archetypes.

On the down side, my first major paper was brought from an A to a high C because of comma use.  In general, writers and those who teach writing fall into one of two camps.  First, there are those who love commas and think that the semicolon should be pulled out of the keyboard and thrown away.  Second, there are those who love semicolons and think that commas are an abomination to humankind . . . and therefore should almost never be seen.  Ever.

She is solidly in the second camp.

Angry Thor wallpaper (click to view)
"My grade was dropped down to WHAT?"

On the other up side, she is more concerned with the overall learning experience than testing her students to destruction   So we were allowed to rewrite papers to show our growing understanding.  Which means I not only got a good grade, but learned from the rewriting process things that will benefit me in my paper-writing on future campuses for years to come.  All I needed was a few extra sets of arms and a half-dozen machetes.  Right.  I'm on it.

She delights in challenging all her students think they know.  She finds new weaknesses they didn't even know they had and explodes them, and so the weak points are strengthened.  And for all that she may seem exiled for a time, and her lessons mastered, she will somehow return to trouble her students in new ways, forcing them to learn more.  She . . . is Loki.  And though I have not seen Ragnarok, I will freely confess as I sit before you now that she smacked the hell out of my happy rainbow bridge.

"Next paper, I'm focusing on the Works Cited page.  Better brush up."

Final Grade: A.

And so, thus concludes my gazette on my professors for this semester.  And to Professors Floyd, Frizzle, Yoda and Loki, if you should ever read this, I thank you for your teachings.  In the meantime, for those of you keeping score, this also means I got my 4.0 GPA.  Come the fall, I'll be taking Spanish and Algebra, and will be much less focused on grades for a while.  But I wanted to hit that mythical "FOUR" at least once.  Partly because I never had before, partly because I've been told not to bother trying . . .

"Hah.  Told you."

. . . and partly, I will confess, as a middle finger to the system that keeps trying to kick me out.

The 4.0 managed to bring my net GPA up to a 2.06, and in theory that eliminates the various probations and other strangeness that has surrounded me this last year or so.  In theory.  In effect, we will see what happens next and I will keep you appraised.

Sometime again,


No comments:

Post a Comment