Monthly Archives: August 2007

Just a Tiny Bit of Thinkin’

O’Mama mentioned to me the other day that one of her current students, who happens to be one of my former students, asked her if she would reveal to him the address for this humble little blog.

She declined, of course; Mama knows I’m not in the business of advertising that I have this blog and, in fact, that I make a pretty big deal about NOT mentioning it within a three mile radius of TCC, so I’m not entirely sure how this young man (for whom I happen to have a very big soft spot, by the way) found out that I even keep a blog, but that’s neither here nor there.

I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days now, wondering just how difficult it would be for someone to track me down. Do you know what I found?!

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I may has well have put up a frickin’ neon sign.

My students get two email addresses for me; the one the school issues that is linked to the portal (which is a PITA for me to access and often won’t allow me, as a Mac user, to download the attachments they send), and the email address that I also have linked.. wait for it.. to my blogs. Two seconds’ worth of thinking – and eight letters typed into a Google search window – would net the seeker the addresses to both my blogs AND several of my recent entries (not to mention my Flickr page and the mentions of me that are made in others’ blogs).

This boy is smart, clever, and charming, so why hasn’t he found me on his own already?!

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Filed under funniness, the good ones

Grammar Wednesday

Mrs. Chili is stumped, class, and I’m looking for some clarification.

The other night, I was watching football on television, as I am prone to do this time of year. I’m constantly amazed by John Madden (and not in a good way, either). Here’s a man who makes his living talking – describing people and actions to a listening public. There are SO many other, more eloquent announcers on the air that it astounds me that this man still has a job. Seriously; the guy sounds like a moron.

Anyway, I was sitting there watching the game – it’s pre-season, so I don’t really remember who was playing; I think it was New Orleans and Kansas City – when a player missed a catch in the flat on a third down seconds before half time. Madden comes out with something like this:

Now, if he would have caught that, we’d have a different game here!

First of all, DUH. One of the things that annoys me about this man is his brilliant ability to point out the patently obvious. Second, I’m not sure that the tense he used makes any sense in the way he used it, but I can’t articulate why I feel that way.

It’s the would have caught that made me twitch. That just seems wrong to me, but I can’t find anything in my references to tell me why it’s wrong. Would one of my linguist friends – or someone who paid more attention during the classes where verb tenses were taught – help me out, please?

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Filed under General Griping, Grammar, popular culture

Procrastination

I just didn’t have it in me today to confront Henry about his work.  He didn’t really give me much of an opportunity – he showed up late to class as it was and bolted as soon as it was over – but I’m not sure I would have taken him aside even if he had been on time or lingered after class.  I just wasn’t up for drama today.

There’s always Thursday.

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Outraged

There’s a bumper sticker that I love that says “if you’re not outraged, you’re just not paying attention.” Well, I’m paying attention, and am I ever outraged.

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I went to visit Joe yesterday. I’m going to be having a conversation with Henry about the quality of his work in my class – or, rather, the lack of quality – and, anticipating a confrontation rather than a conversation, I’ve given Joe the heads-up on my plans. I emailed him samples of Henry’s “work” and a synopsis of our last conversation – the one in which Henry was “offended” by his progress report – and essentially told him that I am interested in covering my ass here. I want full transparency on my part so that if (when) this boy comes to my bosses screaming oppression and discrimination, the people in charge will already know my side of the story.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love my boss, but it bears repeating. This man really is wonderful. He’s fair and even-handed, he really listens, and he’s realistic and practical. He doesn’t have any irrational fantasies about what his faculty have to deal with: he’s taught these kids himself and knows full well what kinds of behaviors they’re willing to demonstrate in order to get what they want. I feel very much that Joe respects my unwillingness to bend to the will of the students who come off with entitlement issues or to pass students who’ve not demonstrated sufficient skill in my classes. In turn, I feel that he understands that I am willing to work with students who are responsible and self-aware enough to ask for exceptions to my policies, and who follow through on their promises when I do.

So, back to Henry: I brought in samples of the boy’s work to back up the claims I made in the email. I made the point of saying that I don’t KNOW that Henry’s going to freak out about the zero he earned on his mid-term, but that there’s nothing in my observations of him to date that makes me think that he won’t. Joe asked to see the “writing” samples I brought, then turned to his computer and did some clicking, eventually coming up with Henry’s grade history.

Are you ready for this?

The kid passed composition with a C average. Did you catch that? He PASSED COMPOSITION.

Joe turned around to see my jaw hanging open like an idiot’s. “You’re serious,” I asked; “Henry passed composition?!”

He was serious – Henry’d taken the class last term and passed it. Henry is a solid C student all around, as well.

I have no idea how this happened, especially if the kid’s work in my class is representative of his work in his other classes. He cannot write coherent English, and I am mortified to think that one of my colleagues thought his work sufficient to pass him. My suspicion is that this passing grade was either a social promotion, the result of threatening on the part of the student, or a weariness of the process and a lack of hope for a better outcome that inspired this professor to slap a C on the report card and be done with it. I had hoped that didn’t happen here (what a naive and silly girl I can be!), but I was wrong. So. Very. Wrong…

I don’t know who that colleague is, but I wish I did. I’d love to find out what about this student’s work earned him a C in a writing class. Truth be told, I also want to know who this professor is so I can know what to expect of students who’ve taken his or her class.

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Filed under colleagues, concerns, frustrations, General Griping, I love my boss, Yikes!

‘Bugs Has Been Writing Poetry

… and some really beautiful poetry at that.  Go on over and check out one man’s way with words…

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Filed under admiration, colleagues, Poetry

I’m No E.D. Hirsch

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of “cultural literacy.”

I think it has to do with the fact that I’m noticing that many of the references and allusions I make to my students as a means of making connections are missing their marks. Really, I’m most often leaving con trails over the poor kids’ heads: these babies have NO idea what I’m talking about.

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Of course, a lot of that has to do with generational differences. We grew up in different times, my students and I – a lot of these kids weren’t even born yet when Tianamen Square went down; they didn’t exist when Challenger blew up, and they have no frame of reference to even think about the Cold War. As a result, a lot of the materials that I bring into my classroom are incomprehensible to these kids because they don’t have the background to make sense of speeches from Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan or Albert Speer.  They’ve not had a good education in history and, I suspect, they’re probably lacking in the other disciplines as well – I can speak to the fact that they’ve been shortchanged in their English education, that’s for sure.

Of course, some of this happens with every generation. I remember my parents talking about remembering EXACTLY where they were when Kennedy was shot, and I remember feeling strangely left out that there was no defining moment for my life like that. Now, post 9/11, I know that it was ridiculous for me to think that way: I understand now that most of those defining moments are marked by profound tragedy.  My in-laws lament that kids aren’t being taught “the classics” anymore and, though they’re never quite clear about what “the classics” are, their point is well taken.  We don’t know the same things – we’ve maybe taken diversity, at least, as it applies to curriculum design, a little too far.

I really believe that, as a culture, there are certain things that we should all be familiar with – things that help to define who we are as a people and which give us common experiences and vocabulary to help us make connections with each other. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that ONLY certain things should be taught to the exclusion of all other things, but I really do think that we wouldn’t do ourselves any harm if we tried to make at least a few things compulsory in school; the Constitution, for example, or certain poems or works of literature; the events of the Native American extermination, the Holocaust, and subsequent genocides that have been allowed to happen in the world; some history of science (I wish I knew more about Galileo, for example, or Copernicus); a better understanding of economics and the interconnected nature of our world today.

I almost feel as though we’re out of touch with one another; that our country is so huge and our reluctance to adhere to educational standards is so great that we’ve forgotten that we NEED common experiences to connect to each other and to feel as though we belong together.

So, here’s my question: If you were the Grand and Benevolent Ruler of Everyone, what things would you make prerequisites of citizenship? If, at the end of one’s general schooling, before one moves to a specialty, there were an exam, what questions would be on it? More importantly, WHY would you choose those things?

Just as a bit of fun, go here to see how you score on various “cultural literacy” tests.

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Filed under concerns, frustrations, Learning, popular culture, Questions, self-analysis, Teaching

The Hits Just Keep On Comin’…

As part of their mid-term exam, my communication students were given a copy of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech and were asked to answer five essay questions about it.  I emailed them after the class in which they received this assignment, reminding them of the questions, directing them to a video link to the speech, and asking them to:

Please be sure that your answers are typed and grammatically clean (full sentences, capital letters where needed; in short, try not to make the same errors I was complaining about on Tuesday).  Your answers must be complete and comprehensive: don’t just phone this assignment in, please – really THINK about what I’m asking you, read and listen to the speech more than once, and give me responses that show evidence of complex thinking.  Wow me with how brilliant you are. 

The first question asks:

Why is Dr. King’s speech so powerful and such an effective piece of persuasion?  Do you think that time has any impact, positive or negative, on the effectiveness of the speech?  Explain. 

Here’s a real, live answer I got to this question:

He uses history a as crutch, and the history of segregation and the pursuit of black people.

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Sometimes, it’s hard NOT to be despondent….

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Filed under concerns, frustrations, General Griping, Grammar, Yikes!