Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In which being a shameless hussy in the classroom pays off

I must confess that I was a shameless hussy with my class last week. And my seduction plot worked brilliantly.

Given the leaden quality of my classes during the first few weeks, I have been striving to affect a turn-around. It has been working, slowly but surely, thanks to things like a venue change which put us in a room that had not only moveable desks, but enough room for moveable people and for me to access the blackboard without crash dieting.

But still, I was not satisfied. Too few people were speaking during class. Too many people looked like they'd just been confronted with a Jello mold in which a misguided chef had suspended flake coconut, pineapple, and anchovies. Many more looked like they were on sedatives.

So, last Thursday, I:
1) Bribed people into speaking by offering candy to those who commented in class (thanks, Bellwethr!)
2) Confessed that I have started martial-arts training
3) Sang this traditional ballad
4) Demonstrated my (limited) skills in poetic scansion and showed them how to scan, too, and
5) Read Middle English verse aloud.

Basically, I put on a bit of a one-woman show.

I promise that every single bit of this really and truly was relevant. In other words, I did not mindlessly pander: I mindfully pandered. But yes, most assuredly, I did pander.

I could tell that it went over well: that was easily the most satisfying class we've had, with the students piping up all over the place to say Interesting Things. People actually seemed to enjoy scansion--perhaps because they finally got it and it no longer seemed equivalent to decoding the Rosetta Stone.

And, today, the momentum continued. When I handed discussion over to my students with only a bean bag to guide them, they asked Smart Questions and gave Smart Answers, each to the other. For more than 30 minutes. And two of my students spoke in class for the first time without prompting.

But the real moment of joy came at the end of class. A very shy student came forward to tell me that she had been thinking so much about the ballad I sang that she bought an album by Jean Ritchie over the weekend, and that she had been able to bond with her medievalist sister for the first time in ages by talking with her about Middle English verse.

So yes, there are moments that make it worthwhile, despite all that the Ms. Entitlements of the world can do.


P.S. And TGB gets much love for running my copies for me before class, when I was so manifestly overwhelmed. Ain't life grand?