Old grey mare…or Milkyways?

So I’m teaching three classes of 1st semester freshman composition and this was the week we learned about the MLA citation system for sources. One of the few things I can imagine that would be more dull and pointless than delivering a lecture on the vagaries of MLA works cited pages and in-text citations is having to listen to such a lecture, so for 5 or 6 years I’ve given my students a themed citations exercise instead.

The lesson consists of a worksheet that contains text about Halloween customs (jack o’lantern, trick or treat) and calendar issues (All Souls/Saints Days, Reformation Day, Samhain) from different sources and directs the students to quote, summarize, and cite the info in various ways. Since the whole thing is Halloween-themed and we invariably do it in October, I also bring a big bowl of Halloween candy and hand it around freely while I scuttle from workgroup to workgroup to answer questions and to point out every last missing comma and period in their works cited pages.* The whole thing is noisy and sticky and not boring and, most importantly effective.

This week, then, I gave the exercise and huge amounts of sugar to three different classes, one on Monday afternoon and two on Tuesday. By the end of the workday on Tuesday, I felt like a discarded candy wrapper without even a lick of chocolate left in it and looked like an extra from a George Romero flick.**

Now, I’ve done this exercise, candy and all, for years, and in all those years of using sugar to push MLA citation information past my students’ blood/brain barrier, I’ve never, ever, been so freaking exhausted afterward.

So here’s my burning question:

Was this year’s MLA/Candy extravaganza so exhausting because of circumstances unknown to me,*** or am I getting old and tired?

Vote today!

*See? however necessary this stuff is, it’s dull, dull, dull.
**Post-Prandial Period of the Putrid Professorate, perhaps
***Global warming, solar flares, angels, aliens, Al Quiada, radiation from genetically modified corn and soybeans, the increased efficiency of teenage metabolisms, the decreased efficiency of teenage metabolisms, delayed millennial social breakdown, man’s inhumanity to man, the Bush presidency….

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5 responses »

  1. Could be the Bush presidency having a cumulative effect on you in this its fifth (Oh sweet Lord Jesus say it isn’t so) year.

    But I suspect it’s that what you’re doing–with the candy and themed exercise–is the pedagogical equivalent of moving a length of chain by pushing, rather than pulling it. Or perhaps moving it by talking nice to it rather than just pushing up your sleeves and pulling it. The next time you teach MLA documentation–and I’m charmed by your devoting a whole week to it–bring in a reasonably fresh whole fish from the local market, head on, and slap the students across the head with it for every missing comma, etc. You will need a new fish for each class section. But I guarantee the info will stick.

    Fish. It really does make you smarter.

    Thus saith 23 years in the trenches.Plus, you can keep the candy for itself. God knows, by week 12 of the semester, one really needs the chocolate boost.

  2. Fanny sez: “You will need a new fish for each class section. But I guarantee the info will stick.”

    See, I’m not getting the new fish thing here. Swatting? Yes, very effective. But, if a new fish were effective, think how much more effective an old one would be: scales, stench, eyes flying about. Combined with an appropriately insane expression on the old pedagogical phizog, this can be an extremely memorable learning experience.

    Give students a new fish, and they remember for a day. Give them an old fish, and they remember for the rest of their lives.

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