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Were my professor's words in regard to child birth stories cruel and demeaning? - Page 2

post #21 of 84
Below is a link to an oversimplified summary of some of the copywright issues a site like this faces. It doesn't directly address the question of whether it's ok for anyone to re-publish or use someone else's "regular" email; however, it indirectly addresses it by pointing out that sites such as this should have a policy on who has the copyright on members' postings. This implies that the default assumption is that any writer/artist/creator retains a copyright. (I'll get back to this a little later).

One recommended approach is to leave copyright ownership with the poster but create an implied license for other members to re-post as long as the original meaning is retained. Which raises an interesting question of what policy, if any, MDC has on this particular issue. The MDC copyright policy being discussed here doesn't cover this. My guess is that it is part of the User Agreement.

Returning to the question of whether and when copyright protection attaches to an ordinary electronic document such as an email, my understanding is that digital works are protected when saved in some sort of tangible medium, such as CD, DVD, etc. Since MDC has no way of knowing whether the original writer has protected their work the safest policy is to prohibit the "re-publishing" of a work in whole or in part but rather to allow a summary or recap.

Additionally, due to privacy issues and the potential for claims of libel or slander (by the author's subject, if not the actual author) then the copyright issue cannot simply be resolved by having the MDC poster identify and credit the author.

Note, at the dawn of the information highway the law seemed to err on the side of "fair use" and tended to assume that anything distributed in electronic format was intended to be re-published, re-distributed, etc. Probably because it was so easy to do and hard to prevent. The emphasis has shifted, probably in the interest of encouraging freedom of expression, creativity and the dissemination of ideas.

One more thing to keep in mind, as unlikely as it may seem that ordinary electronic documents like letters and emails would routinely be kept in tangible format I imagine that a fair number of people routinely save all kinds of documents as a back up. Furthermore, in the world of academia, (which is the OP's situation) you never know who might be saving any or all of their work with the intention of re-working it and putting it a paper, article, book, etc.

Franklin Pierce Law Center
http://www.piercelaw.edu/tfield/copynet.htm

~Cath
post #22 of 84
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by onlyboys View Post

What I told my students was this: write even a first person account of something in 3rd person (he, she, it). With that distance, add information enough to make it not a journal type free write. Make stuff up, get crazy with it. Make it interesting and insane. Pick a particular object and insert it in a meaningful way. In short, take the basis of the story which would come from a free write (like what you have there) and make it someone else's story. Give it a twist, give it a climax. Make me CARE like you care about this.

If I were your instructor, I would return this assignment to you also. I would tell you the things I wrote above, and ask that the next draft be bolder and written in 3rd person. (You might revert back to first for the final copy, or subsequent drafts, but I would want to see it in 3rd). I would encourage you to tell a different story if you could, or write another essay about a completely unrelated topic. Or write it from the perspective of the surgeon. (This is a good idea, I think.)

But, here's the kicker, I would have told you this PERSONALLY. And, if I needed to say it 15 times then I would because it's important that you feel safe in my class. This was a huge thing to share with someone, and I'm sorry that she treated you like that. Yes, it's tough to be a writing teacher, but she shouldn't have forgotten that she was teaching real students for whom this story was incredibly wrenching.



Sorry this got long. I guess I miss teaching writing more than I knew!

Thanks for the advice. If I had written the paper in the 3rd person her rant might have been worse. This is the only essay that must be written in first person and any deviation might have caused her to burst a blood vessel. I will use your advice while working on my rewrite. I know that she is going to expect a rewrite that is completely different, per the syllabus, so I left plenty of room for revision.
post #23 of 84
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all the different opinions. I am going to write her a clear concise letter once the class has moved on to the next assignment. I do not want to vex her further. I also realize that as a person, she is cruel and demaning based on even an even more recent experience. I know what to expect from this instructor. I need an A and nothing less so I will tolerate her for this course.
post #24 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by piad View Post
Thank you for all the different opinions. I am going to write her a clear concise letter once the class has moved on to the next assignment. I do not want to vex her further. I also realize that as a person, she is cruel and demaning based on even an even more recent experience. I know what to expect from this instructor. I need an A and nothing less so I will tolerate her for this course.
This is probably a wise move. But please take it one step further AFTER the class is over. Save the communications and document your experiences with her. Once she has turned in her grade and can't harm you, then please take the whole thing to the dean or department head with the clear state objective of insuring that future students are treated with more dignity. Of course, this assumes that you will not encounter her as a teacher again. But if you can, please try to help the next class.
post #25 of 84
See, the thing that really bothers me about this is that the telling of birth stories is marginalized in our culture. I mean, every newspaper and tv program has a sports section. And birth narrative is a way that women connect with one another, a way we form community. As such, I think that birth narratives are an important part of our lives and our identities as women.
post #26 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by subrosa View Post
See, the thing that really bothers me about this is that the telling of birth stories is marginalized in our culture. I mean, every newspaper and tv program has a sports section. And birth narrative is a way that women connect with one another, a way we form community. As such, I think that birth narratives are an important part of our lives and our identities as women.
I respect this as your feeling, but I also find them boring and/or disturbing. They don't connect every woman. I'm the only one of my friends with children and likely always will be. They don't care about the story of my children's births, and I don't blame them. That single day was not, for me, the most exciting thing that will ever happen. I adore my children, but I don't need or want to talk to anyone about the process from going into labor to delivering the babies. Labor and delivery were a means to an end for me; I gained nothing from the experience except the babe at the end.

I didn't read this thread until the email was removed, so I'm working on only the gist of what the professor said. It does *sound* as if she was out of line with the way she handled the issue, but I don't think it's unreasonable for her not to want birth stories.

I also don't think birth and sports compare in this sense at all, and I'm not even sure how the comparison was made.
post #27 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrandiRhoades View Post

I didn't read this thread until the email was removed, so I'm working on only the gist of what the professor said. It does *sound* as if she was out of line with the way she handled the issue, but I don't think it's unreasonable for her not to want birth stories.

I also don't think birth and sports compare in this sense at all, and I'm not even sure how the comparison was made.
I read the original. The original was demeaning in tone, not content. Basically saying that while it might be fascinating for you, other readers will just put it aside. Birth stories don't make compelling narratives for anyone other than the woman involved and that she's never read a compelling birht story. Then she went on to say something like "for the same reason, men, don't tell about your high school sports exploits. Your family and friends may be interested we're not." (I'm paraphrasing, not quoting.)

I found her e-mail (a) because she hadn't given these guidelines before the OP sent in her birth story, (b) because of her blatant sexism (women don't have sports stories to share? men don't have birth stories?) and (c) because of her supercilious tone.

She has a perfect right as an instructor to say she doesn't want to read narratives on certain topics. I'd definitely exclude first sexual experience narratives, for example! But she can do so in a way that treats students respectfully. She was not respectful of her students.


to the OP: Send a copy of whatever you send to her to the chair of the department and to the Dean.
post #28 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan&Anna's_Mom View Post
This is probably a wise move. But please take it one step further AFTER the class is over.
Yes. It also occurs to me that she might be in the midst of some own personal crisis, possibly with lack of sleep (and therefore lack of judgment) and that might be at the root of her rude comments. Some of this might blow over by the end of the semester. Or, it might be the case that this is a chronic problem and it will be good to have someone at the university address it. You might also look for a formal complaint policy, depending on how your university works. In the meantime, keep in mind that she's a person too, in case her judgment is clouded by outside issues for a couple of weeks.
post #29 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evan&Anna's_Mom View Post
But please take it one step further AFTER the class is over. Save the communications and document your experiences with her. Once she has turned in her grade and can't harm you, then please take the whole thing to the dean or department head with the clear state objective of insuring that future students are treated with more dignity.
:

The part I still can't get over is how she sent that horrible message about YOUR paper to the entire class! That has to be against regulation, right? (I read the original...it was bad.)
post #30 of 84
Hopping in late here.

1. I'd suggest dropping the "I need an A and nothing less" attitude. Not only do professors detest it (they have offices full of people trying to wheedle higher grades out of them), but the reality may be that you don't deserve an A. If you're working hard, if you're learning, then that's what's valuable.

2. I read the paper and the paraphrase of the criticisms. If the paraphrase is true, I'd say she's essentially correct. You've written a sort of essay for yourself, there. This is important to you. You remember it clearly, and it's important in your life. But unless the writing is specific enough, and unless your voice can carry it well, she's right, it's not going to be compelling to anyone who isn't already interested in births.

If you're interested in writing, and not just in this for the grade, you might want to check out the blog of a woman whose daughter has biliary atresia. I can't recall her name; her daughter's name is Annika. "Falling Down Is Also A Gift", I think. She's a good writer. Most of the blog is quite mundane -- her two little girls dressing up, the dog, the garden, the husband. But stylistically it's nice, and over it all is the dread of every day knowing that her elder daughter's always on the edge of being very sick, and maybe dying. And here and there she writes about the medical twilight they live in, in and out of hospitals, the sorts of treatments and procedures they deal with, the lived reality of it.

I don't think the grade-school distinctions between narrative and personal essay are terribly useful. If I were the teacher, I'd likely give it back to you for reorganization, paragraph formation, clarity in setting and pacing, cliche removal, and work on dialogue. I'd ask a lot of questions about where the narrator's voice was, and ask you to slow down and focus on experience rather than some long-running set-piece argument you seem to have wrt the needle. And to think about where the focus was when you put the camera on body parts, because the effect gets dehumanized and lurid, just as it does in beginner sex-scene writing. Most of all, I'd ask you to pay attention to the _reader's_ experience, and keep thinking about where the camera and the focus and the voice are.

Writing well about important, ordinary things -- eating, sleeping, having sex, falling in love, having babies, being sick -- is very difficult. That's why people resort to cliche. But your teacher is right; doing that makes it very boring very fast, because it's a way out of telling your own story carefully. So keep in mind that what she's saying, however harshly, is not that your child's birth was boring. It's that the way you told it was boring. And she's probably sufficiently jaded in her teaching at this point to believe that she can say that all day, and nothing will change, and she will forever be grading unreadable papers on My Best Golf Tournament and My Sister's Wedding and My Marathon. (Which means she should stop, because she's almost certainly not being paid well enough to put herself through that.) So she's trying to nip it in the bud, and push you to write about non-standard things.

Keep in mind that it's true: Unless you make it interesting for the reader, you may be telling the story of the greatest moment of your life, but the reader will yawn and put it aside.
post #31 of 84
I'm also dropping in late, and also only got to read the paraphrase of her comments. I agree with mama41- I think that you need to separate her criticism of your writing and choice of topics from what she might feel about your experience.

One thing I would like to point out is that you might not have been the only person to submit a birth story. Consider the following possibility: four women all submitted birth stories. Following that, she decided that this was really too much and that she needed to explain what a proper choice of topics was. It might make it more tolerable to know that the e-mail wasn't directed at you, personally.

If I were you, in class I'd raise my hand and say, "I submitted the story of my child's birth. I don't know if I was the only one, but I didn't really understand your e-mail. Maybe my writing wasn't so good and that's another question entirely but I still don't see why it's not a good topic, or for that matter why sports stories aren't good topics. Can you go into that further?"

You might find out that you weren't the only one, and you will certainly find out exactly what it is about the topic that bothers her. Be prepared to defend your point or keep your cool, though. It will probably start a debate.

But then, I'm a b*tch in classes and I let my profs know what I think.
post #32 of 84
Forgot to say: I don't know what kind of school you're going to, but if it's a community college, the odds are your professor is making about $2000 for the entire semester for that class. By the time class prep, grading, teaching, and answering student emails is counted up, she's probably making less than minimum wage. I stopped teaching cc because, much as I loved my work, I'm not rich enough to work for $3/hr. She may be doing it because she's accustomed to writing paying poorly, she may be doing it in hopes of keeping a resume together so that someday she might get a tenure-track job somewhere (and good luck to her; the competition is staggering). She may be doing it because she just likes to teach and is willing to take the hit. Or she may be doing it because she feels the public schools do such a criminal job of teaching people to write that she has to give what she can.

All things to consider before you go racing off to the dean. I would suggest talking to the prof first -- and, in general, as Mahtob says, separating yourself from criticism of your work. She did not have to take the time to send the email, btw. Plenty of profs get jaded very quickly, esp. in the cc system, and do the minimum required. "Great job! I see improvement! Mumble vague comment. A-" So consider learning to see criticism as a gift and taking what you can from it, practicing separating tone from substance, and considering that you may be misinterpreting tone.
post #33 of 84
Thanks mama41. Teaching English at the CC level is, in many ways, a thankless job. I just got done pouring through my own stack of 32 papers this morning.

Piad -- I didn't see your instructor's original commentary, and thus won't make a judgement over whether or not the words were intentionally cruel. I will agree with others who suggest that you investigate what makes these writings lively and interesting.

I dropped the narrative essay in my course for this reason - students always have fun with it, and almost always fail to convey their narrative in a way that is specific rather than general and lively rather than flat. In some ways this was nearly always a collective failure on both our parts in learning what makes a good narrative essay. Now I reserve the exercise for my Creative Writing course alone, and opt to focus more on rhetoric and construction than what I consider to be the fun essay -- Too many students disappointed me, and I hurt too many students who couldn't divorce their paper grade from a judgement of the amazing experiences that triggered the paper in the first palce.

I find, in your posted material, the seeds for an effective and interesting narrative essay. Personally, if it had been handed to me, I wouldn't have kicked it back telling you to change topics, but telling you to make it different, make it stand out, from the essays I've already seen.

Good luck. Please don't waste too much time being angry at your instructor -- who likely has their own garbage to deal with.
post #34 of 84
Piad -- a question -- is this an online-based course? Am I correct in my assumption that your instructor used the "Mail" or "Announcement" feature to create an announcement to the bulk of the class in order to convey something about the essays? Have you seen other student essays?

When I'm in a hurry, I'll make class-wide announcements, hitting on basic responses in general to student papers. When I'm not in a hurry, I'll respond to each paper and their author on an individual basis.
post #35 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by mama41 View Post
If you're interested in writing, and not just in this for the grade, you might want to check out the blog of a woman whose daughter has biliary atresia. I can't recall her name; her daughter's name is Annika. "Falling Down Is Also A Gift", I think. She's a good writer. Most of the blog is quite mundane -- her two little girls dressing up, the dog, the garden, the husband. But stylistically it's nice, and over it all is the dread of every day knowing that her elder daughter's always on the edge of being very sick, and maybe dying. And here and there she writes about the medical twilight they live in, in and out of hospitals, the sorts of treatments and procedures they deal with, the lived reality of it.
Ooh, I'm so excited to see another Falling Down is Also a Gift fan here. Moreena is a really good writer with a great sense of humor. This post, for example, made me laugh out loud.

Another blogger who I think is an incredibly good writer (and also takes lovely photos) is Jo(e). She writes about family life in a fresh and beautiful way that always leaves me feeling like I've taken a peaceful walk in a moonlit wood after visiting her blog.
post #36 of 84
I can't see what your professor responded with (it says deleted for copyright infringment) but I hope it wasn't anything too hurtful given the personal nature of the narrative. From a literary perspective I think it's a solid first draft. Being such a personal topic I would feel exposed just submitting it for someone else to read and would probably be more hurt by negative feedback then I would under other circumstances.
post #37 of 84
Quote:
Originally Posted by artemis80 View Post
:

The part I still can't get over is how she sent that horrible message about YOUR paper to the entire class! That has to be against regulation, right? (I read the original...it was bad.)
You see, I've never assumed that the OP had access to all other assignments--sure knowledge that she was being singled out. In other words, I've thought there's a strong chance that there were other birth narratives among the rough drafts submitted.
post #38 of 84
Writing teachers don't always get to read things they find interesting. They made read about the same things over and over. They may get bored with certain subjects.

My reaction to this: Then maybe they shouldn't teach writing. It's part of the job, every job has it's downside.

Professors have the ability to stop assigning personal narratives (because a personal narrative is supposed to be something that actually happened to a person the odds of it being different or exciting are limited being that much of human experience is shared and college students depending on what level the prof is teaching haven't necessarily had time to have a lot of 'exciting' events happen to them.)

From what I've gathered from other posts it sounds like your professor was rude to a class full of people for doing the assignment she assigned. If she wants something different, assign something different. *equally rude to mothers who wrote about their births and people who wrote about their athletic achievements*

Don't wait until the entire class has turned in rough drafts that took a lot of work and make them write a completely different paper.
post #39 of 84
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by claras_mom View Post
You see, I've never assumed that the OP had access to all other assignments--sure knowledge that she was being singled out. In other words, I've thought there's a strong chance that there were other birth narratives among the rough drafts submitted.
It is possible that others had written about the same topic, but I doubt it. My paper was submitted early and the only one. I received an email informing me that my paper was submitted too early. The narrative essay was due on the 1st of March and the narrative assignment was due on February 24th. Both papers were submtiited before February 24th, but I completed the March 1st assignment before the one due on February 24th.
post #40 of 84
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MFuglei View Post
Piad -- a question -- is this an online-based course? Am I correct in my assumption that your instructor used the "Mail" or "Announcement" feature to create an announcement to the bulk of the class in order to convey something about the essays? Have you seen other student essays?

When I'm in a hurry, I'll make class-wide announcements, hitting on basic responses in general to student papers. When I'm not in a hurry, I'll respond to each paper and their author on an individual basis.
This is an online class, and her announcement was sent to the entire classs. Her announcement was made just minutes asfter she virtually chastised me via email for submitting my assignment a week early.


Everyday I receive announcemts from her that were prompted by some error that other students have made. The professor's tone is always the same.

I have taken enough classes to know that professor's are not supposed to be loving caring individuals. Their job is to teach a class, not make friends. However, there must be a level of mutual respect between professor and student and she is not showing that to anyone.
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