The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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email: greg.jackson.edlp@gmail.com,
which works as gregjacksonedlp@gmail.com too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
Book of Concord Selections
Bente's Historical Introductions,
and Martin Chemnitz Press Books

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Freedom - No Longer Tied to the Classroom

I will be able to get more book projects done now.

I was demi-semi-retired, which meant taking all the teaching jobs offered. The problem with working 8 days a week is finding the extra day.

Online classes have increased in number and I may be advising PhD students, so I decided to stop teaching at the local college, a few miles away. So I have upgraded my status to semi-retired.

Teaching undergraduates was a lot of fun. There is really nothing like face-to-face classes. I already had a lot of practice turning angry, ill-advised comments into humor. One of my favorite episodes repeats from time to time - a student argues about my theories of writing (which are hardly original).

I answer, "Only one person in this room is paid to be here. Maybe you should listen to that person."

More than once, the student has said, "Someone can get paid to be here? How does that happen?"

His fellow students answer, "You dummy. The teacher gets paid."

Or, I try to counter worn-out forms of writing by promoting creativity. This will always irritate someone who says, "My last English teacher did not agree with that at all."

So I ask, "And how many books and articles has that teacher published, hmmm?"

"Well, none, I guess."

"I thought so," I answer.

Every so often I had special test days where the students could get candy by answering correctly. This worked out so well that some students  joined our class for a few minutes to snag Snickers, Almond Joys, and PayDays out of the air. I especially enjoyed the young women athletes intercepting the bars aimed at the back row.

For finals I had bags of fresh chips, various flavors, for the classes. I looked at my favorite flavor in horror, at the end of the session - crumbles left. They all laughed. I had two giant bags left in the car.

I banned digital toys of all kinds, which meant they had to listen. No texting was allowed. No Facebooking or Instagramming on laptops or smartphones. Some tried to sleep or slump during class. For that I had a variety of sound effect machines. One was very loud and coveted by other teachers. The other two included a car crash, clapping, a bomb going off, and cheering. When all else failed I simply ordered the student out of the room.

Many claim students have no discipline but I think the problem is spineless teachers, from public school on up. When I began at a community college, the students were steamrolling some instructors about assignments and everything else. I remember one young woman saying loudly, "That's YOUR opinion." I said, "Yes, backed by six earned degrees and six computer certifications." Shoulders slumped. I won.

I had to submit every written assignment to a plagiarism checker, because hardly anyone else does. The public schools ignore the issue. Many instructors do not take the trouble, or they say, "It's part of the culture now." Sad to say, I caught many of the students - some twice in the same class - earning them an automatic fail, a return to the Purgatory of English composition.

Copying from the Net is easy: so is proving it was copied from the Net. Knowing well that no one can accidentally write hundreds of the same words in the same order as another person, I listened to lazy liars deny their plagiarism.

Homeschooled students were easily my best. They listened. They took notes. They revealed an impressive background in reading. They did the assignments on time, and they wrote well - the result of reading so much. They did not cheat to get by.

Being tough on students does not mean being unpopular. They do not respect weak teachers who cave in. The registrar told me at lunch, "All I have to do to fill a class is put your name on it."