Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dog Research

I have a couple of houseguests this weekend.   ("Weekend" seems to mean Wednesday through Monday.  I wish that was standard in my life, too.)  They seem to be getting along well enough (they come from different homes and hadn't met before), and they're delightful dogs.  So I decided to take this opportunity to do some serious dog research.  Don't worry, I am IACUC certified! 

And I decided to post the results of my research here, for your edification:

Pre-Semester Rituals

Does everyone do stuff like this?  I mean, some of it isn't ritual at all, but some of it sort of is.

The non-ritual part:  I have to finish up my syllabuses or syllabi (do you prefer Greek or Latin, or does anyone else care?  I don't care, but I don't want to get it wrong), and then get them copied.  I've made up the basic class folders, but I need to staple in class lists and the calendar and syllabus for each. 

I really should buy some clothes, but I think I'll wait a bit until it gets cooler?  Otherwise I'll want to buy a couple short sleeve AND a couple long sleeve tops.  (I have pants enough for both.)

I got my hair cut today.  I'm not sure if it's a beginning of the semester or a my hair's too shaggy for the heat cut; could be both.

I put through my first copy request, and have been getting stuff PDFed, and now I have to finish up and put stuff up on the computer teaching interface with the stupid acronym.  (We're all about stupid acronyms here.  I heard the other day that someone with an administrative role got criticized for not creating an acronym for a meeting room for students.  It's called the Rainbow Room or something, and not an acronym name.  Horrors.)

I'm dog sitting two dogs, both between, say, 40-60 pounds, both very nice dogs, getting along well.  Both of them are also used to sleeping with people, and both a little jealous.  So last night, one dog got on the foot of the left side of the bed and lied down.  The other dog came up towards the head, but before he could get up, the first dog decided she needed to be there instead.  So the second dog went to the other side.

Try to sleep sandwiched between two really warm dogs on a hot night.  I think they'd be GREAT for winter, though!  (One dog finally decided he didn't have enough room, and got off and slept on the floor nearby.)

I partly love sleeping with dogs, but I don't do it often enough these days to get a good night's sleep at it.  And then one of the dogs decided that 6:30 was time for breakfast!  She started wriggling, and then breathed in my face a bit, and I decided getting up was a better option than breathing hot doggy breath.  So I put them out (yay for a fence yard) then got them breakfast.  But the second dog wasn't quite read, so only ate part of his.

I've been feeding them on opposite sides of the kitchen island, so they can't see each other.  But the first dog, she eats fast, and then wants to offer to help the other dog.  He didn't want to eat, but didn't want his food taken, either, so I finally put it up out of reach, and gave it to him again a couple hours later, when he was happy to eat it (and she was distracted).

What's best is when these two decide it's play time.  It starts with a huge THUMP, which prompts me to look up just in case something bad is happening, but it's one of them jumping into that front down butt up play posture.  Then the other thumps, and then they're at each other, mouths open, tails wagging, thumping into play posture every little bit.  If I can get them outside in this mood, they run all around the yard.  Otherwise, more thumping and less running.

I love watching dogs play. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Office Supplies

I think it's pretty common for academics to be, well, a tad obsessive about office supplies.

It's also common for us to be a bit anxious at the beginning of the semester.

In combination, it's downright strange.

Or is it only me?

Last week, I was looking for manila folders.  Each class MUST have a pristine (to start) manila folder.  Some classes need two, but mostly the second one changes because my teaching notes for different texts are all in manila folders, too.  On each folder tab, I write the dept and number of the class, and the section number (if there's more than one).  Then in the upper left hand corner of the outside front of the folder, I write the same information, plus the classroom and time the class meets.  (So that I don't forget in the first week.)  Then I write my phone number, in case I lose it.

Inside the folder, on the verso of the front flap, I staple in (reversed, so the pointy parts of the staples are inside, and two staples across the top) the syllabus and calendar, with the calendar on top, so that I can instantly see what we're doing on that day when I open the folder.  (I restaple when we get to the second page of the calendar.)  On the recto, I staple in (again, reversed so the pointy parts are inside the folder when closed) the list of students. 

Over the semester, the folder accrues all sorts of stuff, and then at the end, I clean most of it out, put in a print out of my excel grade sheet, and stick it in my file cabinet.  (I cleaned out the ones that were more than ten years old this spring, and felt rather liberated.)

Anyway, there were some used manila folders in the department, and they didn't look bad at all, but because I'm weird, I want pristine folders for my classes.  (I don't care so much about text teaching folders, but for classes, I care.)  Today I got an email from out admin assistant to let me know that the new folders are in.  (She takes good care of us, despite all our craziness.)

Then there are pens.  I like uniball white pens.  And I like either dark blue or, for some grading, cheerful colors, purple, green, light blue, and so on.  I bought a pack of multi-colored pens last year, and still have most of them, but I wore out the purple (because it's my favorite journal grading color) by the middle of the spring semester.  Now I have a dilemma.  Should I buy a new multi pack?  Or should I wear out the other colors first?  And why can't I seem to find a pack of just dark blue?  (I like my teaching notes in either pencil, dark blue, or black, or some combination, depending how many layers of notes I have for a specific text.)

Don't get me started on pencils.  They must be mechanical, and they have to have a good feel.  Three or so years ago now, I bought two three-pack of Pentel Client 5mm pencils.  I still have most of them, and there's still one new pencil in the final bubble pack.  I'll probably be fine on these, but I sure hope they still make them!

And yes, I even have strong feelings about paper.  I like narrow ruled paper, white or yellow, on a pad with a fairly stiff cardboard back, and a margin line down the left.  I buy several big packs at a time, so happily I still have some left.  These are for all sorts of notes, class prep, whatever.

Fortunately, I seem at this point in my life to have an ample supply of ready binder clips (small, black, please), paper clips (I like the ones with the little roughness, but standard small size), and staples.

I'll be back later.  I need to go to the office store.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


This is horrid. I'd like to leave.

It's amazing how bad these meetings are.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What Do We Want Out of a Requirement?

I was in a discussion today about some requirements.  You know the sort of discussion.  We were talking about a specific program's classes and how they may or may not fit with some new requirements coming down the line.

I can't help wondering what it is we want students to walk away with from a requirement.  Let's imagine, for example, we have a two course requirement for humanities.

What do we want students to learn from this requirement? 

A way of thinking?  Appreciation?  Disciplinary understanding?

In a 3 credit course environment (meaning three hours in class a week over 15 weeks of a semester), that's bascially 45 total "hours," and probably closer to 40 "hours" of instruction (because there are exams, finals, etc that aren't instruction, and at my school, at least, an "hour" is only 50 minutes).

What is it that all students should learn in 90 hours of classroom instruction?

(Yes, of course there's a problem trying to equate time with learning or knowledge, but there's a relationship of some sort there, usually.  And the 90 hours doesn't account for the additional 2-3 hours of work outside the classroom that we fantasize students will spend for each hour in class.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Canon to the Left of Me

As Chaucer said, more or less, there is nothing new that is not old.

We had a canon discussion this week.  Yes, that canon.

Some people felt that our students don't read enough canonical works, especially by 20th century USian authors.  They meant (in this discussion) that our students aren't reading enough Eliot, Hemingway, Fitzgerald.

And the argument wasn't coming only from where you might expect, either.

But the argument was coming from a sense that there's this unchanging marker of "real" and "value" in literature, and it's centered (in the US, anyway), on a bunch of men writing mostly between the wars (those wars being WWI and II, not Iraq I and II).

Amusingly enough, from the point of view of someone who loves dead white guys, one of those white guys was part of a movement that drastically changed the canon.  Yes, there was a time when Donne and the other metaphysicals weren't the center of the poetry canon.  And then people such as Eliot made Donne and the gang vitally important, and they were.  And now it's hard to think of not reading Donne in any 17th century British context.

On the other hand, it's easy to think of not reading Hooker or Andrews; and Shirley, Beaumont, and Fletcher aren't nearly as important as Marlowe and Jonson these days, though they once were.

I have a feeling that in the next 50 years, there's going to be a fair bit of reshuffling of the canon, and the WWI-WWII folks are going to feel way less important and take up less room in anthologies.

We need to think of the canon as something under revision.  That's scary, of course, because we all spent a load of time learning our field, and the canon in our field, and we don't want that ground unstable.  And it's pretty easy to say that as a Shakespeare person, because I'm guessing he's not dropping out any time soon.  But the people who spent a lot of time reading Dreiser may feel that their time could have been spent doing something else.  (Or is it only me who feels that way about Dreiser?)

And also, how is it that the canon doesn't now include Morrison, Hurston, and Hong Kingston?

We, people who teach English literature, contribute to making the canon through our teaching and research choices, as do editors and publishers (especially of anthologies), testing folks (the folks who test for high school teaching licenses, especially), school boards, and yes, readers.  Of these, there's no reason we who teach in colleges (and who get to develop curricula and make teaching choices) need to be a conservative force in this array.

I'm pretty much on the fringe of the USian canon discussion here, but I have to say, it's amusing to watch the US scholars get on about how we need to teach the canon and know that we don't teach Beowulf, Pope, Dryden, or a bunch of other folks central to a certain British canon much at all.


In amongst this discussion was a colleague of mine who's been spending a fair bit of time over in the administrative fort and has picked up this habit that annoys the dickens out of me.  (Get that, dickens?  Hah!)  Subject X gets mentioned, and zie says, "I'd be happy to engage in a dialogue about X in the future," and goes on.  Seriously?  You're willing to engage in a dialogue?  You and who else?  Can there only be two voices?  And you get to generously decide what we get to talk about?

I feel defeated this semester, and the semester hasn't begun.  I got assigned to a committee (one I can't decline for very good reasons) and zie is also on this committee. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I got my first apples of the season this weekend, and I've been eating several a day since.

Apples were okay when I was a kid, but now they're incredibly superb.  They're the taste of summer in a bite, but fresher and crispier.

Is it different apples? 

Or is it that these are pretty fresh from an orchard?

Or have my taste buds changed?

The apples I grew up with were the red delicious, mostly, and we ate them all year long.  The ones I got this week are zestar, and they're early season apples.  Honeycrisps should come in soon, but they aren't ready yet.

So these are different (quite a bit smaller, the zestars, and not waxed or all red) and haven't travelled very far.  Their skin isn't as thick, maybe? 

I got a three pound bag on Wednesday morning, and the next farmers' market is Saturday, when they might have honeycrisps!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Secret Code

We love our acronymns and code words around here.  We'd rather have an acronym for seven words than a single or two word committee name.  And then there are codes.

I was at a meeting the other day, and afterwards, walked out near someone I didn't know, so we chatted a bit, introduced ourselves.  And the other person asked one of the code words, so I tried to explain.  This is a smart person who's been here a while, but the codes are pretty coded.  I don't know if the people who use the codes really mean them to be as exclusionary as they feel.  (And you know, this is supposed to be the friendly and welcoming midwest, except not so friendly or welcoming sometimes.)  I still don't know codes occasionally, and it's hard to ask what they mean after a certain point (depending on who you want to ask and such).

Codes are like administrator jargon.  It's as bad as assessment codes.  Bleargh.

Does every school do this code thing?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It Begins: Anxiety Dream

I had a teaching anxiety dream just before I woke up this morning.

In it, I was teaching Macbeth on the first day of classes.  Except in the usual dream way, I was doing this in a proscenium arch theater space, where I was on stage and most of the people in the room (about 20, so not many in this massive space) were campus visitors and there were only a few students.  I had a little, teeny white board.

Why I was starting with Macbeth at the beginning of the semester, I don't know.  Nor do I know why I was starting with the poor player speech in Act 5, which is great for setting up mediated information.  But I was. 

I started by trying to get everyone to come sit up on stage so that the space would be more manageable.  That sort of worked.  Then I focused on the metatheatrics, and wanted to introduce theatrical structure.  So I drew a top down view of a proscenium arch and a thrust stage theater structure on the little white board, but it was all glary and no one could see.  And then I turned away for a moment and there was other stuff over the white board, like a movie poster.

My voice was getting ragged in the way it does the first week of classes.  Then a deaf woman wanted me to stop because (as the man with her explained) her hearing aid battery had run out, and somehow I was supposed to do something about it before going on.

And then I woke up and immediately thought about what a bad choice it was to start with Macbeth, and especially to start in Act 5 rather than with the messenger stuff in 1.1.

I guess the semester really has started for me.  But I have to say, as anxiety dreams go, this was pretty mild.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Service Announcement: We Are (Probably) Not Our Students

I'm enjoying reading peoples' thoughts on how to best mark student papers, but Fie's response below got me thinking that it's the beginning of the semester and time to remind myself (and maybe some others) of this simple, basic thing.

I'm not my students.  I wasn't my students even when I was a student.  Not most of them, anyway.

1)  My subject was (relatively) easy for me.

If you're a math instructor, you probably loved math.  It came naturally.  If you're in this conversation, basic writing stuff probably came easily to you.

I didn't take a single English course in college (the first time around).  Not one.  Not composition.  It was required, but it wasn't required for me because I'd scored above some magic number on one of the entrance exams, so sometime during my first term, I walked into the English department with a piece of paper, then walked a different piece of paper over to the administration building, and voila, 10 credits of English, done.

My current school has a similarly mysterious system for deciding that some students don't need to take our first year composition class.  That means I never, ever see students like myself in my first year writing classes.  (I would have benefitted immensely from taking a first year writing course, however.)

2)  Preparation differs.  Think about where you went to undergrad, and then where you went to grad school.  For me, I went to:

Science oriented R1 (BS)
Community college (took a year plus of classes and became a humanities type)
Regional comprehensive (did the basics of an English degree and some MA work)
Fairly Fancy R1 (phud)

I teach at a regional comprehensive, much like the one where I did some MA work.  I also did a bunch of training in teaching composition there, in a program for people who wanted to teach at local community colleges, which was closely connected with an MA in teaching composition.  That's also where I taught my first classes.

I would say that the level of preparation for college work could be mapped as a U there.  The two R1s were fairly selective, but the others weren't very selective.

What does "selective" mean?

I don't think it means smart.  I think it has more to do with students coming to campus already speaking academic English, or something very near.  My peers entering college with me were mostly white, mostly middle class, pretty much top 10% of their high schools (in an age when the state had mostly pretty good high schools).  Now, the students entering that same school this fall are not mostly white, not mostly middle class (maybe), but they're pretty much top 10% of their high schools.

My current school has lots more first generation college students, lots more not quite middle class students, and we pull probably from the top 30 or 40% of high schools, with other schools in the state taking a large number of the top 10% students.

My students don't speak (or write) academic English with as much comfort as the students who did better in high school.  That doesn't mean they're stupid.  It means they don't speak or read that register as fluently.  The top 10% now probably mirror the top 10% of my peers in their abilities with academic English.

3)  Are students getting worse?

For the reasons discussed above, I don't think my experiences as a student give me a good sense of how other students were back in the stone ages.  But here's a little story anyway:

When I was a senior in an upper level majors class (with about 3 years worth of prereqs), we had to do a paper.  On the day the prof walked into the class with the stack of papers, he gave us a talking to about how horrible our writing was, how bad our grammar was, how dismal the stack was.  We all hung our heads.  Then he handed back the papers, and it turned out mine had an A- on it.  I felt a lot of relief.

A few years ago, I found that paper again.  It was shit.  Total shit.  Poorly written shit.  A senior turning that in to my senior upper level majors class would be lucky to walk away with a C.

I think what's changed is that I see students who come in less prepared for academic English than my peers were and certainly less prepared on average than I was.  But they aren't me. 

I never got to read any of my peers' papers in college, except for my roommate one year who was in composition, and whose papers I'd proofread for her.   I have a feeling a lot of those papers weren't pretty, and wouldn't make me any happier today than they made the TAs of that day.

4)  Frustration Bias.

I think when we're reading student work, we focus on problems, and we find them because we're looking.  How many of you read my piece here and got cranky about the fragments?  I use them sometimes, and here I was using them for emphasis.  They may not have worked perfectly, but I'm willing to bet most of you gave me a pass and didn't actually want to mark "frag" or whatever on your screen, because you figured I knew I was writing fragments and intended them as such.  Do you give your students the same pass?

I have students in pretty much every class whose writing style and verve I envy.  Some of them are just stunningly good writers.  But when I'm frustrated at 2am, I'm not thinking about their papers, because I read their papers in about two minutes way earlier in the evening.  I have other students who are "correct" but don't have any real style or life to their writing.   They frustrate me, too, because I can't figure out how to help them.  I don't feel like I've got tons of verve or style myself, so while I recognize it, I can't do or teach it.  But at 2am, I'm focusing in the things that frustrate me most, and that pretty much blinds me to the really good student writers whose papers I'm not frustrated by.

So there's my pep talk.  I should be working.  Welcome to the semester/quarter.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Responding to Student Writing

While the discussion was a little sidetracked here, it was really good, and made me think.  It especially got me thinking about the quality of research behind the argument to leave off marking/correcting grammar on student writing.

So I've been looking for recent research on the subject, and to tell the truth, I'm not finding much so far.

There's TONS of work on second language acquisition.  And there's a fair bit of work from the 1980s or so, mostly on teaching grammar.  There's some work on teaching in secondary contexts (high school in the US, but also elsewhere).

But I'm not having huge luck with finding helpful stuff that's recent, college level, and English primary language learners.

One thing I've learned is that this is a hugely complex issue on a lot of levels, including levels I don't always think about. 

I thought I'd share a couple of helpful essays here, and see what you find and think.

First off, I've found Patrick Hartwell's "Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar" (originally published in College English 47.2 (February 1985), though I'm reading it in Victor Villanueva's Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader (2nd edn, Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2003.  205-233).

Hartwell does a sort of meta-study, looking at what other researchers have found more than on his own.  What really helps me here is that he distinguishes different sorts of grammar.  These are hard to lay out (and I wish he'd done a better job), but here goes:

1)  "the set of formal patterns in which the words of a language are arranged in order to convey larger meanings" (209; here Hartwell is quoting W. Nelson Francis from 1954).  So that's probably what most of us think of as grammar.  It's the whole stuff we've internalized about patterns and word order.

2)  Linguistic description (209; again, Hartwell quotes Francis here)

3)  "Linguistic etiquette" (again, quoting Francis).  This category seems to be where we get the admonition not to use "ain't" and such.  Hartwell notes that this category is "usage" rather than "grammar" in a formal sense  (210).

4)  "School grammar" (210-211), which Hartwell distinguishes from #2 because it's not done in terms of linguistic description, but rather seems to be prescriptive, and based on the sorts of grammar text books that gave me nightmares as a little kid.

5)  Stylistic grammar (211).  I'm not quite sure how this is different from the etiquette one, though.  It seems that Hartwell defines it as "grammatical terms used in the interest of teaching prose style" (211).  So maybe it's also tied into #4.

At any rate, I think what's important here is that we who teach writing aren't necessarily linguists or really good at grammar, but rather we're competent at usage and etiquette.  It's worth thinking, then, as we mark grammar about what we're marking.  Are we marking actual grammar problems, or are we marking our regional (or other) preferences for usage?

Hartwell concludes his article by making two conclusions:  First, his review of the literature suggests that teaching grammar doesn't teach students to write better, and second, his review suggests that we've been (well, in 1987) reinventing the same square wheel for a long time, and we should stop.

Now for a grammar question for you:  Here's a usage thing that sticks with me.  My native usage is to write "X is different than Y."  But I remember distinctly being corrected in a grad grammar type class, and told that I was wrong, and the proper usage is "X is different from Y."  But I've also now heard people use "X is different to Y."  (I think of that as a British usage, but I don't know.)

What would you do?  Which is correct and why?

Let me know if you've found good articles, please.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Long Lost

I have one of those big, extended families, the kind that really benefits from effbee's existence.

A year or so ago, my Mom had lunch with one of my Dad's cousins, and that put me back in touch with her kids, whom I haven't seen in ages.  The elder I saw when we were both in grad school within a couple hours of each other, but I was finishing and he was starting, and in different fields, so we lost touch.  The younger I hadn't seen since I was a young adult and took a short trip to the other coast and visited with my Dad's cousin.

But tomorrow, the younger is going to be about three hours away, so I'm going to drive up and have lunch with her and her family.

I'm excited.  She sounds like a cool person on effbee, and I have fond memories of her side of the family, even though it's been forever.

I'm thinking about her grandmother, Aunt Vesta, who was one of the many grandmothers and great aunts at big family get togethers.  And her Mom and uncle, two of the coolest people in our family.

Did I mention I'm excited?  Yep.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Change Your Mind

One of the things that really bothers me about political discourse is when someone, anyone, gets criticized for changing their mind. 

When you have evidence that something is/was wrong, or that something else has a good probability of working better, then you SHOULD change your mind.

I recently went to a talk where the speaker laid out the research about the effects of correcting grammar in student papers.  According to the research (and I trust that the speaker did a good job looking at all the research), it does no good (and may do harm) for an instructor to mark or correct grammar in student papers.  The research looked at lots of different strategies: code and look it up, check and have the student correct it, and on and on.  And none of it, NONE OF IT, actually worked to get students to write better or more grammatically.  None of it.

In the face of that evidence, I'm going to do my best to stop marking grammar and proofreading sorts of stuff, and focus my energies more on responding to ideas and big picture stuff.  I expect that to be hard, because I've spent a lot of time doing grammar and proofreading marking.  But that's going to be a focus for me this semester.

In other words, given a good deal of evidence, I've changed my mind about my teaching practice, and will be trying to change my practice.

I think that's healthy.  I also think it's healthy when politicians change their minds.  Evidence shows that glbt folks aren't dangerous to have in the military?  End Don't Ask/Don't Tell.  Evidence shows that there aren't actually weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, change your mind!

Mostly, I want students to really think about how they "know" what they know, and to be willing to change their minds in the face of good evidence to the contrary.

What have you changed your mind about?

Friday, August 10, 2012


I got an email from a new first year student enrolled in my writing class, just a short email, friendly, introductory.

"Hello" was the header it used.  Unsure about how to address a professor, I bet.

I sent back a friendly email welcoming the student to NWU and making a short, happy comment about one of the details the student gave.

This was a first for me, though.  I don't think I've ever gotten an introductory email from a student before.  I've gotten polite inquiries about class stuff, but not a friendly introduction.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Happy Day!

Day three, and things are so much better today!  We're half way through the day, and the time has passed without my looking at the clock and wishing I were breaking rocks or something.

On to the second half with high hopes!

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

It's a Bad Sign...

... when facilitator B is reading hir email or texting while facilitator A talks

... when facilitator A goes over a short essay we were asked to read for more than an hour

... when the facilitators don't look around at the audience politely trying not to scream and figure out that things aren't going really well

... when I'm becoming familiar with the ring tones of my colleagues, none of whom seem to have turned off their phones or whatever.  (Including me, but no one calls me much.)

I don't think this is just me, but maybe it is.  Maybe I suck at being a student.  I know I suck at having to sit still for hours at a time to listen to people tell me about what I've read.

Blogs and Feeds

Part of yesterday's thing was to teach us about blogs and feeds.  They made us get a google account.  That went well.  Except not for me.  They think I'm a technology idiot, but really, I couldn't remember the password attached to the account I know I have on blogger, not this one, the other one.  And I wasn't going to use this one.

So blogs.  Have you heard?  New sensation.  Or not.

The facilitator (a special tech person) taught us how to add RSS feeds to the page we made, because it will help us manage our reading of blogs and such.  I'm sure it does.

Here's the question I'd like to ask, though.  And I know lots of people use feeds, so some of you will have some thoughts, I hope.

If you do your blog reading through a "feed," are you less likely to comment on the blog?

Do you think that commenting and conversations in blog communities is less lively when people use feeds?

I love the metaphor of "feed" by the way.  It's so passive.  Here, you're being "fed" a list of blogs that have posted recently.

I think part of what these folks are thinking when they suggest having students do blogging is that students will become more aware of audience and rhetorical situations on a blog than in a standard, turn it into the prof paper.  But if they're not commenting on each other's blogs, and not getting comments, it's really not so different from turning it into your professor, right? 

I don't think blogging generally results from the sort of brainstorming and revision processes that we hope our students will use to write academic work.  It's not that I think all writing has to look like academic writing (see "blog" and "Bardiac"), but I'm not sure asking them to practice blogging will help them write for classes and professional situations.

(Note: I use the sidebar thing, and still sometimes look at what other people have on their sidebars in order to learn about new blogs.  Then sometimes, if someone hasn't posted in a long while, I delete them from my sidebar.  Sometimes, I hope people will start posting again, so I don't delete them for a long time.)

Monday, August 06, 2012

Too Long

Eight hours today.  EIGHT HOURS.  Sitting on my rear being talked at.

45 minutes on the importance of [really basic skill I teach across a number of my classes].  Seriously?

It's not that any of it was bad, but it was too long and too slow.

Four more days. 

I wanted to fold my arms and put my head down on them on the table.  But I have just enough self-control that I didn't.   I squirmed, though.

And when we were supposed to be back at 1pm from lunch, and all but three people were there, waiting, I was ready to go.  Why did we need to wait for three people when 20 were ready to go?  I wouldn't do it in class.

Now I'm supposed to be doing "homework." 

This is one of those workshops that's supposed to help me be a better teacher, and I had high expectations, because at least one of them has done workshops I've found invaluable before, but this was frustrating.  Here's a hint for workshop facilitators:

1)  Don't make people sit for eight hours.

2)  Don't talk at us.  And especially, don't show us a really slow video as a "break" from talking at us, especially if the video is people talking and bad graphics, and way out of date.

3)  Get enough sense of your audience to realize that they've got your point, and move on.

And for those of us at the workshop:

1)  Be on time.

2)  If there's an abundance of research over many, many years, take a deep breath and rethink your practice.  The research shows that teaching or correcting grammar in student writing doesn't help students become better writers.  Further, correcting grammar may dismay students to the point that they don't try to write more complex sentences and ideas, so it may actually hurt student writing. 

3)  Don't share every single thought.

Time for homework.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

On Your Mark!

I've got a week long workshop starting tomorrow, so I feel like a kid the night before school starts. 

I got mowing and weeding done today, shopped for groceries, played with the neighbor's dog.  I still have some reading to do to prep for the workshop (I'm a student, not the leader).

Still, it feels like the end of summer, come early.  I'm a bit frustrated, because I feel like I've spent a lot of time this summer doing stuff for other folks rather than doing my own stuff.  I have done a fair bit of my own stuff, of course. 

The workshop should be good, and useful, and I'm happy about it, except that it feels like the end of summer.

To change the topic, slightly, I noticed recently that I get cranky when I think someone doing formal writing has used "like" where I think s/he should use "as."  Then I thought a bit about how I would explain the difference, and it's tough.  So I looked it up.  And the "rule" is totally not what I would have thought, though I'm pretty sure I reliably use "like" and "as" according to it.  How strange is that?

Without looking it up, can you explain the rule about when to use "like" and when to use "as"?

Friday, August 03, 2012

Not so Random Thoughts

Here's a post about the chicken restaurant with the homophobic, nasty CEO.  It's a smart post, way better than anything I could write.  I thought some of you might want to see it, too.

There are a number of businesses in my area that have donated in big ways to people who want to cut my wages or who say nasty things about educators and glbtq folks.  I figure they don't need my business, and try alternatives.

Some folks I know think that avoiding such businesses is unfair, or mean, or somehow limits the CEO's free speech.  It doesn't.  For one thing, I have a limited budget to spend on things.  I get to choose how to spend my money, though given my limited budget I doubt the businesses notice that I'm not doing business with them.  And when someone in town supports unions and says so publicly, I figure they're likely paying their workers fairly, and I want to do business with them. 

I'm also not the government, and so the first amendment isn't something that applies to me in terms of limiting someone else's free speech.  What I can't do is arrest you, try you, sentence you. 

While I'm at it today, let me say that I'm sick to death of subsidizing religious organizations with MY taxes (supplying them with roads, fire departments, police protection, etc.) while they try to limit my right to privacy and religious freedom.  It's time for religious organizations to pay their share of real estate taxes, payroll taxes, and social security.

Spot Check

Recently, some pups were visiting my house, and one of them had a couple small accidents.  (I think it was the small one, given the small size of the spots, and the much larger other dog.  But it doesn't really matter.)

So this morning, I pulled out the carpet cleaner that I got when my dog was getting old and had some accidents.  Then I pulled out the vacuum, because you need to vacuum first, right?  So I vacuumed that part, and then figured that a full load of solution in the cleaner would leave some left over, so I vacuumed more.  Then I cleaned (and both little spots came out).

Then I thought, oh, there are some other dirty spots.  So I vacuumed elsewhere, and cleaned.  And then thought of some other areas, and did the same.  I basically did about a third of the upstairs part of the house.  (Which reminds me that I should check the downstairs for other accidents.)

You know what's horrible?  First, even though the house is vacuumed regularly, and I just vacuumed, the cleaner brings up this horrid muddy sludge stuff.

And second, perhaps worse, despite brining up the horrid muddy sludge stuff, the carpet doesn't look dramatically better.  But it did make me think that perhaps I should do a more thorough job soon, and probably do it a bit more often than I do.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Hard Sell

My eight weeks since my last blood donation were up recently, so I got a call from the Red Cross folks.  Here's how it basically goes: 

Hi, may we speak to Bardiac.

Hi, this is Bardiac.

This is Name from the Red Cross, calling to let you know that you're eligible to donate again.

Great, let me get my calendar.

You know, Bardiac, blood supplies are critical and in critically short supply right now and blah blah.

See, I've already implied that I'll donate, but then they need to go on their script and tell me about the critical shortage of blood supplies.  And somehow, that makes me cranky.  They don't need to convince ME!  I donate pretty regularly.

And I've never gotten a call from them when they didn't say that there was a critical shortage.  It's like there's always a critical shortage in the blood supply and always a crisis in education.  It's the state of things.

But after a while, the critical shortage, crisis sort of thing becomes sort of mundane, as when the emergency danger level is always red. 

And I don't think trying to convince me does much, since I donate pretty much to the yearly limit.  What they need to do is reach people who are qualified to donate (adult, healthy, etc) and convince them.  And I don't know how to do that.

At any rate, the extra good news is that my blood pressure was 116/68.  And I had a pulse, and my temperature was above room temperature.  All good.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Exciting Times in Small Town USA

I went out to dinner with a bunch of friends yesterday.  We'd planned on a certain restaurant, but there were 7 of us standing there, and we decided we'd never get all seated together at this tiny (but yummy) place.  While we were starting to decide this, we were standing outside.

It's a small restaurant on the corner of a pretty quiet street at the edge of the downtown area.

Then I saw a guy on a motorcycle very slowly turn right onto the street, just in front of a car, which slowed radically.  The motorcycle guy basically stopped, and toppled onto his right side.  He was on a HUGE Harley, and then the Harley was on his leg.  (It looked pretty much the same as when a clipped in biker forgets to clip out when they stop, and just falls sort of gently over.  Except that sort of biker isn't on a huge Harley.)

(The car totally stopped, probably ten feet from him, and then went around (because it's pretty quiet).  But it was very clear that the car hadn't hit the guy.)

Several of us rushed out to pull the bike off his leg.  I was lifting on the back, on his sissy bar (is that what they call them on motorcycles?  It's what we called it on old Schwinn Stingrays.).  Other folks were nearer him.  I heard him mumble, and he looked shaky, but he got on the bike.  And just sat there.

Different folks suggested that he shouldn't ride, and we were all a bit concerned.

Then one of the people near the front of the bike told him that he needed to turn the key.  (I thought you had to do a semi-jump thing to start a motorcycle?  Guess not.)  Then he turned the key, and slowly motored off.

The people who were closer said they thought he might be drunk.  I thought he just looked sort of stunned.  But it didn't look like he'd hit his head or anything, nor did he seem to have road rash or scraped clothing.

And then one of the people called the police to tell them that she thought there was a drunk driver.  And, impressively, she had his license plate.  (I didn't even think of that, though I also didn't think he was drunk.)

Evidently, he had mumbled something about how he loved us all, so maybe that helped the people who thought he was drunk come to that conclusion?