goodness, life, martial arts, school

The rapid-fire beauty of October

This past October was insanely busy.  I wanted so badly to write a post about the pumpkin carving and all the pumpkin-themed food and drink I’ve been making and enjoying, and all the awesome friendships that have been developing for me lately.  October was amazing, actually.

I invited a ton of people to the pumpkin carving and got about 50 people, including a bunch of foreign students who had never experienced Halloween pumpkin carving shenanigans of any kind.  Success!  Their pumpkins were awesome!  There was one Japanese woman who I befriended when she got lost on campus looking for her husband’s law school orientation who came to carve with her husband and a friend in tow.  They were amazed by the others’ pumpkins, and when I mentioned that I knew what sugoi means (amazing) due to watching so much anime, that’s all they could say, lol.  There were a bunch of different circles of friends there, and they all mingled well (although whenever my family comes, they tend to sequester themselves in the kitchen, which they did this time too… *sigh*).

the results of a successful visit to the pumpkin patch

the results of a successful visit to the pumpkin patch

The party was fantastic.  I made a huge pot of pumpkin drink and left it on the stove for people to enjoy.  It was empty by the end of the night.  There were two dozen carved pumpkins in all, I can’t believe I didn’t get any photos!  I was sick and too busy hosting and enjoying everyone’s company.  Of course there were a couple board games going on at once (Zombicide and Betrayal at House on the Hill).  A bunch of my friends from the dojo came and played Betrayal (and beat the haunt by cheating, lol).  It’s so great to hang out with them outside of the dojo, and apparently this is a new development.  Once most of them had left, Dojo Happa and I stood around chatting by the front door while a large group played Cards Against Humanity on the floor next to the piano.  We were chatting about how nice it is to see everyone outside the dojo, and he said, “Yeah, it’s awesome, we didn’t use to do that.  It’s because of you.  Oppa Sensei didn’t used to come out like this, now he comes to everything.  He was at the pumpkin patch, he came out tonight, he comes out to eat with us.  He’s not doing that to see me, it’s you!”  We laughed about my tendency to bring people together and make people laugh.  He seemed really appreciative, and it’s so nice to hear in so many words what I try so hard to do.  I really enjoy their company.  One of them (Senior Ecuador) invited a group of us to his parents’ house in the valley after the pumpkin patch to have a late lunch/early dinner of mostly Ecuadorian food with his folks, who could not have been nicer.  Earlier in the month, I had him over to get drunk and watch Hansel & Gretel, which wasn’t actually as bad as we expected.  He and Boyfriend actually kinda liked it, but they’re idiots, it was total trash 🙂

The founder of the martial arts style I’m studying now (Kaiso) had his 65th birthday party mid-month, and although it was expensive, it was a really fun time to see everyone dressed up and happy.  We had sushi and really good shabu shabu, and some amazing cake and green tea ice cream (which I got totally busted for scarfing down before we all had to leave in a rush to walk Kaiso to the valet and see him safely off).

I had a bunch of presentations and projects due within the last two weeks of the month, which coincided perfectly with the huge event my office hosts every year where thousands of people visit campus to participate in our programming, so that was pretty stressful, but I’m either getting awesome at handling stress, or getting better at handling my work load because October wasn’t nearly as emotionally/mentally draining as I thought it would be (though it felt super rushed all the time).  Also I was sick for the first time since I quit Karate Job.  Worst.  Timing.  Ever.

So... something to shoot for at next year's pumpkin carving

So… something to shoot for at next year’s pumpkin carving

A couple days after the pumpkin carving party, I went to a Danny Elfman Concert with Diminutive Friend and German Friend, which was amazing.  Although I’m not a huge fan of concerts, since there’s not much to come away with other than the music, which I already have access to and enjoy whenever I want.  Still, it was Danny Elfman’s first concert in something like two decades, so it was very exciting.  Loads of people in the crowd dressed up in what can only be described as a hodgepodge of steampunk, goth, circus, Halloween gear, and they all looked great.  And I kinda lost my shit when Danny Elfman came out and sang, “There are few who deny at what I do I am the best, for my talents are renowned far and wide…”  I knew he would sing that first!  And not just because it’s Jack’s first song in Nightmare Before Christmas, but because those lyrics are perfect for a comeback concert!

Then a couple days after that was Halloween!  I gave a presentation for one of my classes (in full costume, of course-Ren Faire gear this year), then zoomed downtown to an old professor’s class to defend my work (which he loved so much, he’s been using it as an example for current and future classes) and ended up giving my final presentation from his class all over again.  The students asked some really good questions, and I even managed to quote from the article he drew from most and essentially based the class upon, and I cited the page number of the quote.  So yeah, I’m a fucking amazing academic, thanks for asking.

Afterward he and I went out for a drink and chatted for a couple hours about my life, what I’ve been doing, what I will do, and why I’m not staying in academia (he wants me to so badly).  Midway through our time at the bar, I thought, “This is what it must be like to have a mentor.  Someone who knows the framework of your life, and what you’re capable of, and then looks you in the eye and demands that you go further and continue to challenge your self.  This is amazing.”  It was also super intimidating, but he was satisfied at the end of the conversation that I was getting enough stimulation (I convinced him my friends are all geniuses who don’t get drunk for fun, and that Boyfriend has a great sense of humor and is fully capable of keeping up with me), and that my selflessness might not be such a crutch after all (“So explain this to me: You have this sense of giving, this selfless streak coursing through you, but your’e American, and Americans are selfish, so how does that work?  Where did that come from?”  We had a good laugh about that, but he was mostly serious).  I invited him to come see the beehive some time soon, and he seemed enthused.  He’s also stoked to write me a letter of recommendation, and he’s super fun to hang out with, so overall I’m feeling pretty lucky to have encountered him in my life.  We walked by the Mayan on the way back from the bar, and he seemed particularly tickled when I fist-bumped some guy dressed as Deadpool (and Deadpool enjoyed being recognized, of course).  Overall an amazing evening.

And now it’s November and I can finally relax.  I’m feeling less sick every day, I only have a couple more projects to do for school, there’s nothing crazy going on at work (aside from the non-existent job security, bleh), and Boyfriend’s three closest friends are randomly flying into town for four days toward the end of the month for no reason other than to bug him and have fun together.  They’re great people, I can’t wait to see them and watch Boyfriend disappear for a few days into that tight circle of friendship and love.

badness, humor, life, school

My professor sucked

I thought it best not to post this until a couple of weeks after my grades got posted, lest the professor in question do a search and find my blog.  I can’t say I honestly care anymore, so I’m posting it.  Naturally, names have been changed.

My first semester of graduate school is over (except for those two papers I have yet to complete).  Once those are done, I have a week before the next semester starts, at which point I will stop having a life once again, only this time I’m prepared, lol.

The funny thing about learning how to teach is that I’m constantly checking the teaching methods of my instructors.  I took two classes this semester: one instructor was awesome (insightful, encouraging, engaging, the whole nine yards), while my other instructor was… worthy of the anonymous scathing review I just left for him (they could not have been more different.  This semester was weird).  It went something like this:

my professor grading my papers

What are the instructor’s main strengths?
[something about how he got along with another student with a similar upbringing, go figure]

How could the instructor improve?
He should pour himself a stiff drink and read my “additional comments.”

Additional Comments
-He said “friggin a” on the second day of class after becoming frustrated by the questions asked by students (time stamp: between 2:23:40-2:25:13).  The student he said this to was visibly embarrassed.  Toward the end of the semester, that student told me that he was still reticent to speak in this class because of that experience, even though two and a half months had passed since then.

-He did not leave time for students to formulate and ask questions.

-He often spent the first 30-45 minutes of class monologuing about the reading while referring to a PowerPoint presentation, and reviewed the readings almost verbatim.  This is particularly ironic since the necessity of student participation in classroom discussion was often a topic.  We were taught through monologue that we should not monologue a lesson to our students, since this is not conducive to learning. 

-On one occasion, he emailed students 25 minutes before class was scheduled to start that he could not attend, saying he would record the lecture for us to view later.  He sent an email four days later that the lecture was on the website, however it was not.  Two students mentioned that they could not find the recorded lecture on the website two days before class; two more mentioned that they had the same difficulty the day before class, all without response from the professor.  It was not until a student suggested, during class, that he may have uploaded it for private viewing rather than public viewing that he discovered that was the problem.  He blamed the changes made to the online platform.

-Students’ group contributions were cut short and treated as unimportant.  During a week 8 class (time stamp: between 2hr and 2hr8min), we were told to keep it short, and pretend we were calling into a radio show.  He said, “You got 30 seconds!”  He blamed the length of the class.

-Turning in papers early was impossible to do without being punished.  The class before the due date, we always found a problem with the directions that demanded that I alter my paper and resubmit it.  Inept Instructor marked me down in one instance when he said he would not due to conflicting instructions (when I reminded him, he said he would fix it–three weeks later I sent him an email reminding him that he said he would do this.  Only then did my grade reflect the changes he said he would make weeks prior).  He said he needed to check his rubric to see how many points he allots to each portion of the paper in question, then correct his mistake.  The second time there were problems with a paper I handed in early, I resubmitted the paper with corrections, but he graded the wrong one, and asked me to fix problems I had already fixed (and handed in) a week prior.  He blamed the class for not reading instructions closely enough, ignoring the fact that instructions for the various parts of assignments were often found in different documents, and just as often, didn’t match what the other documents’ instructions.

-He incorrectly pointed out a problem with my APA formatting on a paper (and docked me for it).  When I emailed him pointing out the error, his reply was, “That’s awesome.”  He restored one point to my paper, bringing it from an A- to an A.  I heard from another student in the class that he mistakenly docked her for the same non-issue, and recommended that she bring it to his attention.  I’m concerned about how many other students he may have wrongly docked for this same issue, and how it affected their grades.  Although he changed my grade, he never admitted there was a problem, and dodged any blame for his mistake.

-He sent an email to the class reminding us that there would be no class on Labor Day, which would have been very considerate if he had not sent it at 8:35pm on Labor Day.

-He sent curt emails to the students for not handing in their papers on time, only to discover that he could not receive emails from non-USC email addresses.    He blamed his IT department, and took no credit for the mistake.  If a student were to encounter a problem like this, he would be penalized for not checking our systems beforehand to avoid this problem (we are told, for example, that it is the students’ responsibility to check our cameras and audio setup for problems well before class to deal with any potential issues because if a technical problem keeps us from being in class, we are punished by being considered absent, and receive no credit for that day’s class time).

During the last class, when a student asked where the class evaluation form could be found, Inept Instructor said he had no idea.  He blamed the online platform format for hiding it.  The professor for my other class not only knew where it was, but on the last day of class, directed us to it and reminded us to fill it out.

thank you, interwebz, for reading my mind

-I write this the day after the last class: 1/3 of my assignments remain ungraded.  In addition, none of my class participation points have been posted.  If I have received credit for going to class, I have yet to see evidence of it in the grades section of the online platform.  Of all the forum postings, papers, and class time scores (not counting the final paper, for which the due date has not yet passed), only seven of the 23 scores possible (30%) for this class have been graded and put on the online platform.  When a student asked Inept Instructor a month ago if he would be putting more of our grades up, Inept Instructor replied, “I think you’ve figured it out…I’m slow 🙂 Your analysis papers are graded and posted. I will be assigning individual forum posting and class participation grades.”  The latter statement, at least, has proven to be untrue.  I wonder what he thinks the purpose of the “grades” section of the online platform is, if not to PUT OUR GRADES UP.

One running theme in Inept Instructor’s teaching style was a complete lack of accountability on his part.  Though all these mistakes, both big and small, were clearly Inept Instructor’s fault, not only did he take zero credit for any of them, but the only apology Inept Instructor ever offered was when he apologized for not being able to make it to class.  Of course, he voiced this apology to his camera when he recorded the make-up class, effectively eliminating our ability to respond to him as a group, and sapping the apology of any authenticity. 

I did not find Inept Instructor to be a motivating, interesting, or well-organized instructor.  He did not seem to grasp the concept that, “Just because you’re talking doesn’t mean your students are learning.”  I learned more about what NOT to do in a classroom from watching Inept Instructor than I did from our readings and discussions.  Thanks for a valuable learning experience, Inept Instructor.