My Favorite Stereotype

It’s Easter Sunday, but we had our Easter dinner yesterday. Being Atheist, I can cheat like that, and for my Christian friends who joined me yesterday, they get to have TWO Easters, so, it’s a big win for them. But, yeah, I’m atheist, so why did I want to do something for Easter? Well, Atheist Easter essentially meant going to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (holy messianic figures, Batman!), and bringing friends home for Spaghetti and Meatballs and Italian Easter Bread. And that’s why—just cooking that food. Yep, the most stereotypical Italian-American dinner for a very Christian holiday, with a bread that is three loaves woven together to represent the Holy Trinity and colored eggs to represent fertility rebirth.

My sister and I made a dinner of olives, cheese, hummus, breadsticks, eggplant cutlets, salad, and the 2 pounds of spaghetti and 4 ½ pounds of meatballs, and Italian Easter Bread for dessert. It was a lot of food. For 6 people. Yeah, that’s a lot of food, but that’s the Italian-American way. If your guests can move at the end of the meal, you failed them as a host. And I love that. I love cooking in general. It’s like meditation, and very therapeutic, But I also love cooking for people. I host movie nights a few times a year. Since I’ve been living with my sister, we’ve thrown some epic movie parties. I’m single right now, but in relationships…I think my cooking is often what wins the girl over. I remember my grandmother (Granny) cooking epic dinners. Epic and when I am cooking a feast, it feels great.

I don’t believe in a god. I don’t believe that Christ rose from the dead. I do love the stories in the bible, and the mythology of the Abrahamic religions in general. And I love the pagan traditions that the Christian religion adopted. Many of my friends are religious, many aren’t. But I’ve had a Christmas and Easter celebration this year (the Christmas one, we had an Elf brunch and it was spectacular). More than anything else, it’s just great to cook for people, even if it means living up to an Italian-American stereotype, it’s kind of the best one a culture can have.

So, if you are celebrating Easter from the Christian tradition, Happy Easter! Christ is Risen.

If you celebrate the pagan goddess Easter, may Ishtar bless you with fertility!

If you don’t celebrate either, have an awesome day, and find an Italian Market to get some Easter Bread before it all runs out (actually, do this regardless of your religion)

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The Long History of Teachers Complaining about Students – Medievalists.net

I’m glad I came across this today, as I am struggling to find new ways to engage my students in class and outside of it. Turns out, what’s happening now has happened before. Teachers today are not alone in struggling with students (I don’t blame the students or teachers they had before me, I blame No Child Left Behind and Standardized Testing), but teachers all throughout time struggled. I’m just glad I was in school at a time where we had a strong educational system, and had great teachers.

 

via The Long History of Teachers Complaining about Students – Medievalists.net.

Engaging the Audience

One of my lessons in rhetoric deals with visual rhetoric. We talk about the room the class is in, what it says about the college and their learning experience, and we talk about what they are wearing, and the messages they are sending the world. And we get to college professors. I discovered this in an article I read and can’t recall the name of, but it was dead on. Male professors in the Northeast typically wear black shoes, jeans or slacks, and a collared shirt. That day, I was wearing black shoes, jeans, and a collared shirt. Yep. So okay, I dress like a typical male college professor, so what? And for a few years, I just continued to do so and continued with the lesson. And my students would laugh as they realized that all of their male professors dressed exactly like I was.

But over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that my students were not receptive in class, barely spoke, and I’d never see them during office hours. Once in a year, maybe, but I could go an entire term without a student ever coming to my office.  Other professors have also commented on the decline of student engagement. However, something else happened that surprised me. I’m a pretty laid back, casual professor, yet in my student evaluations from the last term, several commented that I was “hard to approach,” and “intimidating,” and “a little scary.” Yeah. I know, I have a physical appearance that is a “well, once you get to know him…” look. But these were students I had for an entire term, and they stayed at that distance for 10-15 weeks depending on the school. Sure, on the first day, I could always see the apprehension in my students, but generally by the end of the first week, they’d realize that “Professor Colombo isn’t actually that scary.” That didn’t happen for Fall 2015. Most of my students stayed intimidated.

Because of said scariness, I decided to do a little experiment. I ditched the collared shirts and traded them in for graphic tees. I wanted to see if I changed my visual rhetoric a little, if it would help my students. And the results are kind of shocking. At once school, I haven’t had an office day go by yet where at least 2 students didn’t come by. For all the schools I teach for, after class, they line up to talk to me and ask for more help, and during class, they’re engaging more than ever before. Sure, it might be harder to actually be scary when I need to, but they’re listening more now.

deadpool

So…graphic tees. They made me a little more approachable and my students are doing better. And now I have another thing to add to that lesson, and my students laugh about it—we talk about the Northeastern Male Professor look, and then I tell them how and why I decided to stop dressing like one, and they were all kind of shocked that students would go out of their way to note that I intimidated them. My personality didn’t change, only my clothes. But it worked. And hopefully it will continue to work.

Now I just need to find more cool t-shirts. During the Week Deadpool came out, I wore a different Deadpool shirt every day I taught, and my students loved it. We talked about Deadpool for a couple of minutes and then they were engaged in the lesson. I wore an obscure Lord of the Rings t-shirt with “Entmoot Maple Mead” on it, and they were trying to figure it out. One or two actually got it, and then we were talking about citation.entmoot

I’ve been teaching for 6 years now, and I’m still amazed sometimes at the little things we can do to help a student learn. And I’m less scary…for now.