Yves Cloarec

  • Dear Ray,
    Many thanks for your comment on my post: You are absolutely on target in your observation that these students expect (and in some cases think they can demand) a trophy, as if just registering for the course and showing up to class from time to time is all that is required.
    I do agree with you that such expectations are galling, but I…[Read more]

  • Long ago and in a place that seems further and further away the older I get, I befriended the oral surgeon who operated on my jaw. She had—it seemed to me at the time magical—ability to anticipate the next spike of […]

    • Dear Yves,

      It sounds like we think alike. I have been teaching Comparative Literature 102W for the past five years (I can’t believe I’m beginning my sixth year next week), and my attitude towards students of the ilk you describe above has both changed and hardened over time.

      I feel many students have been groomed since they first entered the schooling system to expect a “trophy” for participation rather than earning one. I explain to such a student that they would be better served by changing classes, since their grade in my class will be assigned based solely on the turned in written work.

      That, plus I would most likely internally fume about the sheer gall of such an expectation/pronouncement on the student’s part.

      -Ray

    • Dear Ray,
      Many thanks for your comment on my post: You are absolutely on target in your observation that these students expect (and in some cases think they can demand) a trophy, as if just registering for the course and showing up to class from time to time is all that is required.
      I do agree with you that such expectations are galling, but I am not entirely certain that we (as cogs in “the system”) are not partially at fault as well. Parents, educators and the media reinforce the idea of education as a practical tool for socio-economic advancement; very few of us, it seems, seriously attempt to advocate a life philosophy of knowledge for its intrinsic value (a hard sell, I grant you). We scaled back the foreign language requirement because it is not perceived as “useful” to speak another language given that virtually the whole world speaks English. And, unless, you are a History major, it is conceivable that you could graduate from Queens College without having been exposed to the myths of ancient Mesopotamia, the Greek Miracle 2,500 years ago, the Han Dynasty, the Moorish scholars of Grenada, The Revolution of 1917, European Colonialism…or any other of the hundreds of “bits of knowledge,” absent which I cannot conceive one might consider oneself “an educated citizen of the world.”
      For me, it comes down to the question: what kind of doctors, engineers, architects, accountants, lawyers… does a public university hope to produce?
      Me, I hope to be treated only by doctors who—among other things—read poetry and know that acupuncture was practiced 8,000 years ago.

  • Alexander,
    Thank you for that comment. You are right to point out the Year Of… initiative. It is an excellent initiative, with an ambitious mandate and impressive breadth and depth. But I find it lacking in two ways:
    1) to my knowledge, attendance/participation by undergraduate students is neither for credit nor mandatory. At best, the…[Read more]

  • It was with a curious mix of pleasure and surprise that I received today an email—which most of you will also undoubtedly have received—from Queens College President Matos informing me that

    “[…] Queens Col […]

    • Yves, it is indeed appalling that QC, located in one of the most diverse counties in the country, effectively got rid of the foreign language requirements. Perhaps the Year Of… initiative, which spotlights a particular country, is meant to be a suitable substitute for asking students to learn new languages.

    • Alexander,
      Thank you for that comment. You are right to point out the Year Of… initiative. It is an excellent initiative, with an ambitious mandate and impressive breadth and depth. But I find it lacking in two ways:
      1) to my knowledge, attendance/participation by undergraduate students is neither for credit nor mandatory. At best, the events attract interested faculty, graduate students with nothing better to do, students from the country being highlighted (if the event is at a convenient time) and the occasional undergrads who would rather attend this than sit in the library as they wait for the next class.
      2) for all its “internationalizing” aspects, this initiative is still what I call “cultural sampling in translation.”
      Do not misunderstand: I am a translator, and I affirm that cultural sampling in translation is absolutely better than no exposure at all–and certainly a great place to start; but I believe that as an institution of higher learning we would want to set the bar just a little bit higher than “it’s better than none.”

    • Dear Yves:

      I am also appalled by the non-requirement of any foreign language requirement at QC. Exposure to languages (*any* language other than one’s native tongue) empowers the student to appreciate other cultures in this globalized world we live in. Although I am not what would be called fluent by any means in other languages other than my native English, I have studied several European languages and a few non-European languages on my own over the years, and as retired Distinguished Professor Gregory Rabassa once told me, I would not starve if dropped somewhere other than the United States.

      My studies have allowed me to read the Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin, speak to a cab driver in Galway, order a dinner with a bottle of wine at George V in Paris, and ask directions of a passerby in Madrid, amongst other minor feats.

      I hope President Matos indeed does reverse the language non-requirement post haste.

      Regards,
      -Ray

  • As an instructor of College Writing, I am struck by what expectations are placed upon our students in terms of the types of essays we ask them to produce and the level of academic savvy we presume they should […]

  • Yves Cloarec commented on the post, The Red Balloon, on the site Teaching Circle 2 years ago

    I showed this film to a “Writing About Film” E-110 class. I was most pleasantly surprised by the students’ overwhelmingly positive response! Granted: what’s not to love about this short film? But I expected them to find it quaint or dated; it turns out Art is timeless, isn’t it?

  • Andrea,
    Thank you for sharing that experience. I cannot tell you how many different ways I have tried to come at this issue:
    1) Speeches
    I make multiple speeches about these classes not being product but process-oriented; How the goal is to become better writers in general, and better academic writers in particular; How a grade is not a…[Read more]

  • It is no longer simply grade inflation; the issue is the spiral.  You know what I mean: QC Freshmen arrive in our classes “hooked” on A’s.  They’ve gotten them in every subject in High School.  The students are, fo […]

    • Yves:

      I once tried to give feedback on lesson plans that students wrote without giving them a grade. I figured the feedback I provided was more valuable to them and would help guide them in writing better lesson plans. The students were given one week to resubmit their work for a final evaluation and a grade. The students drove me crazy because they only wanted to know what their grade would be before they had to submit it again. They figured if the grade was good enough, they wouldn’t bother redoing their work. I told them that if they wanted to be a great teacher one day, they should focus more on how to improve their skills and less on what kind of a grade they received. Now, I just give them a grade on their lesson plan the first time (and there are rarely any A’s at this point) and let them decide if they want to resubmit it to be evaluated a second time. I like to think they care about improving their lesson plans as they hone their craft, but in the end, it is probably just to get a better grade!

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!
      Andrea

    • Andrea,
      Thank you for sharing that experience. I cannot tell you how many different ways I have tried to come at this issue:
      1) Speeches
      I make multiple speeches about these classes not being product but process-oriented; How the goal is to become better writers in general, and better academic writers in particular; How a grade is not a reflection of one’s abilities or lack thereof etc.; No matter: they have been trained to follow the grade and–as your experience above related–to make arithmetic and probabilistic calculations as to whether the effort expended will be worth the potential grade increase.
      2) Not grading until after we have reviewed all the commentary together (so time-consuming!)
      3) Having them grade themselves, based on a) my commentary and b) the rubric I handed out at the start of the semester. Some students are incapable of objectivity, while those with low self-esteem invariably and entirely underestimate their grade…
      Maybe a radical proposal?: Make the CW1 and CW2 (at least those, and maybe the other 100-level W classes) strictly PASS/FAIL. Would this remove the extrinsically-motivated, grade-based, obsessions? Just a thought.

  • This is “All About Yves.”  (Pronounced the same way, but definitely NOT the Bette Davis Movie.)

    Greetings!  My name is Yves Cloarec.  I am an Adjunct in the European Languages and Literatures Department, as we […]

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