Sunday, August 14, 2011

Freshman Book Club

Freshman Book Club meets tomorrow, as a pre-semester kick-off to give the freshmen somewhere to be a eight-freakin'-thirty in the morning, perhaps so that they consider opting out of binge drinking tonight. They will attend a talk by the author of the book, and then after the talk they fan out to the four winds for the small group discussions. I am a small-group discussion leader.

As a discussion leader, my responsibilities are:
  1. Send the group an email.
  2. Evaluate their book reports according to a provided rubric.
  3. Lead a 50-minute discussion about the book.
  4. Fill out a small amount of paperwork.
The organizers of Freshman Book Club are driving me mad. In order to "help" me carry out these many difficult tasks, they have contacted me in a great number of ways with a very large amount of information. They have sent many, many emails. They have sent guidelines and handbooks. They have sent me a link to the Freshman Book Club Blog. They have added me to their BlackBoard site. And, in addition, they wanted me to attend a three-hour training on how to carry out these tasks.

The training was apparently run by the Teaching Well Engagement Enterprise (TWEE). This group seems to believe that no one on campus (aside from them) knows enough about teaching to evaluate papers based on a rubric and to run a 50-minute discussion. Furthermore, they seem to think that the best way to teach people how to run a 50-minute discussion is with a three-hour march through PowerPoint slides. I am mostly guessing on that last part; I did not actually view the video (on yet another site!) of the training and only looked at the slides that were posted on the web. Maybe they did not use slides for the full three hours.

I am getting quite fed up with the endless barrage of information from TWEE. I do not need reminders about every resource that they have created to help me to run a 50-minute discussion about a book that is not at all subtle in its approach to controversial themes and ethical dilemmas. Plus, in the worst case, I can pull out some of the best all-purpose discussion questions: Who in the book reminds you the most of yourself? (This question is great because people love to talk about themselves.) If you could give a piece of advice to one person in the book, who would you give advice to and what would you suggest? (People also like to tell other people that they're doing it wrong and what they should do instead.) How would you turn this book into a movie? (Movies are always better than books! And we could talk about which celebrities we would cast.)

I have a very nice (and legit) lesson planned for tomorrow's session of Freshman Book Club. However, I'm very unlikely to volunteer to help out next year.