Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cell phones in class: I'm the "nice" professor

The semester is upon us again, and that means I've spent quite a bit of time lately revising my syllabi. Most of it is comprised of policy statements, and some of those policies are dictated by my institution (for example, missing 40% of classes results in a grade of FA, or failure for reasons of attendance). Others are my own (for example, I decide what proportion of the grade comes from exams, assignments, participation, etc.).

One policy I have that differs from many of my colleagues is that of the use of electronics. Many professors require students to put away cell phones (and, in some cases, laptops), whereas I don't, except during exams. There are several reasons for this.

One, I just don't feel like policing this. I tell students that if their technology use is disruptive, then they will be asked to put it away - for example, no using their cell phone as a phone. But I have better things to do than to see who is furtively texting under their desks.

Two, they are adults. They need to learn to manage their use of technology and other distractions now. We are allowed to use my cell phone in faculty meetings, after all.

Three, some of them are using them for legitimate course purposes. Some take notes on them. One student this semester takes photos of PowerPoint slides (I don't make the presentations available to students). Students occasionally use them to look up information on topics we are discussing in class. I'm all in favor of this.

So, I'm the "nice" professor who isn't so strict about these things - although I no doubt make up for it in other ways.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Whoa, hey, look at this

I had the strange experience yesterday of being able to do a move in capoeira I hadn't been able to do the day before. We were working on a move that started with queda de rins, an arm balance I actually could do before I started playing because it's basically side crow in yoga. However, we were doing with our legs straight. I couldn't quite get my legs straight and both off the ground on Monday. On Tuesday, I could. (The next step, still beyond me, is caracol, in which you flip your legs behind you.)

I am getting better, and I know this not just because of my own judgment, but because two teachers whom I trust have told me so. This doesn't mean my other teachers aren't truthful, or I suspect them of a dreadful conspiracy to falsely build up my self-esteem, but some teachers are more heavy-handed with the "that's great" as a form of encouragement than others.

Improvements to queda de rins aside, what has changed is not that I can suddenly do backflips and other fancy floreios, but that I've been relearning the basics, correcting a lot of the technical flaws I didn't know were there. For that, most of the credit is due to my teachers. Sure, I show up and practice, but they're pushing me to correct what I didn't even realize were errors or weak spots. That, cats and kittens, is why you can't teach yourself capoeira.

I am excited that many of my capoeira friends will be in town next week for the Capoeira Angola Palmares big event. It will be fun to play against them and to see how their game, too, has changed.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Van Cortlandt trail maintenance

View from Vault Hill by TheTurducken
View from Vault Hill, a photo by TheTurducken on Flickr.
I spent Saturday at Van Cortlandt Park doing trail maintenance. We spent most of the morning doing waterbars and the afternoon removing invasive plants. The latter is quite satisfying, as I don't usually get to go all Kali on things.

This picture is taken from an unusual high point in the park looking southwest. Most of the buildings at the horizon at in the Bronx, but the faintest ones are in Manhattan.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I should probably stop reading advice columns

If you ever find yourself asking, "Why do women…" or "Why do men…," just stop right there, unless the second part of that sentence is a technical biological question. In fact, don't just stop asking the question. Stop dating until you can learn that there is more variation within each gender than between them in behavior.

If you ever find yourself asking, "What does it mean when he/she…" stop right there and GO ASK THE PERSON YOURSELF, not the advice columnist or the entire internet.

And please, Google your question first, okay?