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Student Blogs

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A while ago, perhaps about a year, I was wondering if anyone had taken up blogging with their students – or, rather, getting their students their own blogs.  I was frustrated with the fact that blogger, wordpress, livejournal, and tumblr had all been blocked by the school’s firewall.  (Fahrenheit 451 Wall, is more like it.  The other day, I was blocked from opening a student’s essay on irony because she had talked about "The Cask of Amontillado" and used to word "kill" in the summary.  But that rant is not what this post is about…)  Since then, I’ve found Edublogs, which is allowed past the school’s firewall.  It’s basically WordPress and, for the most part, was rather difficult for them to figure out.  I think we’ve got the hang of it now…

However, after they created their blogs and set up their URLs and got everything together, they looked at me and said "Now what?"
"Um…the air conditioning is broken.  Write about how hot it is." I responded…

 Because i hadn’t thought that far ahead.  And apparently, neither has the internets, because I’ve found many and mucho information about incorporating student blogging into the classroom experience.  I already had discussion boards, which the students did regularly, I wanted something that was their own.  And, the blogging that I’ve witnessed from other classes looks more like someone took journal assignments and posted them online – but hasn’t had their kids do much more with it.  There’s also a student blogging challenge, which appears to be more related to fixin’ up a blog than using blogs in lessons.

So far, I’ve done a few things. I’d decided that, since they’re seniors, on Wednesdays, they will use blogs to explore college essay writing – but then I became afraid that someone might steal their precious work off the ‘nets.  (So far, the work hasn’t been precious enough to steal, but, yeah..)  I also decided that on Fridays they would link to and talk about a current events issue – however, so far, embedding video on the edublog doesn’t seem to be much of an option.

So.
I have a teacher blog.
My students have student blogs.
Now what?

About Whiteness/Blackness and Beauty

The other day in my freshman English class, while teaching The Odyssey, my students perused through pictures in the text book. They often giggle at the urn depictions – mainly because of their flat appearance and the way that people’s heads sometimes appear to be completely unbound by the normal limits of human anatomy. They go “ewwwww” when they see the naked Cyclops and they marvel over early 19th century depictions of the sirens.

And I’m used to most of the comments.
But one, in particular, disturbed me. Well, no, actually, it intrigued me AND disturbed me.
It was in reaction to this picture. That is a picture of the Enchantress, Circe, who was supposedly beautiful, alluring, and kind of evil. She turned Odysseus’ men into swine (admittedly, they acted like swine anyway, so they kind of deserved it) and kept Odysseus for her own for quite some time until he had to beg her to leave. And even though Homer calls her a “fair-locked” goddess, that’s the picture they chose to use.
Which is important, considering that one of my students – one of my incredibly intelligent, well-spoken, well-read, and usually thoughtful – looked at the picture and said “Isn’t she supposed to beautiful, or whatever?”

“Yes…why?” I replied, thinking that he was going to comment on how he didn’t think she was that pretty. They often make comments about what they think is and isn’t pretty – as if I care. Instead, he said something even more…interesting.

“Then why does she look like an African?” I cocked my head and looked into his brown eyes, which he promptly buried behind his brown hands when he realized his error, as four of his best friends – all Black females – swooped down upon him.

“What is your problem?!” they shrieked. “What are you trying to say? That because she looks African she can’t be beautiful?!” I didn’t even need to step in! Even some of the White females in the class jumped on him. “Would you say that to your MOTHER?!” the asked. The White males stayed out of it.

“I mean…” he struggled to explain, “I thought she was Greek! I just meant…why didn’t she look White! Why does she have to look like….one of them poor Africans you see on TV? She doesn’t just look African, she looks like, Somalian or something.” He said all this with a pained expression on his face. He realized he’d messed up and uncovered some deep truth about his culture that he did not want to admit. He hurriedly tried to cover it back up. “Doesn’t she?” he pleaded.

“Well, she does look poor,” one of the girls conceded. I pressed her for more information. “Well, because she…just…looks like her hair is in rollers or something, I don’t know.”

“So..because she looks Black, she’s ugly and poor…okay…I see how it is…And you all said that you didn’t buy into those Cinderella stories,” I tsked at them, reminding them of how we’d read five different “Cinderella” stories and how I’d argued that stories like these helped shape their own ideas of beauty – blonde haired/blue eyed and the like. “Okay, we’ll leave C alone about it…for now…let’s move on to our review session…”

What a teachable moment.

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So, I haven’t updated my livejournal in a long time…mainly because I’ve been a little crazy with grad school. I had four papers due in four days, and honestly, I don’t care that I didn’t get an “H” (High pass) in all of my classes, because it was all I could do to actually finish the semester having done most of my assignments. I definitely did not manage to do all of my assignments, and to anyone who has I give a hearty congratulations.
However after ending school on Dec. 6 and promptly heading off to Boulder for about week of much needed vacation, I feel a little better able to cope with “extraneous” things in my life, such as Livejournal and Facebook.

Word.