Monthly Archives: January 2008

Grammar Wednesday

Before we begin, please go on over to CaliforniaTeacherGuy‘s place and send him a little love. His dad died yesterday, and I’m certain he’d appreciate your prayers and expressions of support. Go on – I’ll wait…….

You’re back? Okay – so, onward to Grammar Wednesday, the Mea Culpa Edition.

CTG wrote me a note about my last Grammar Wednesday post:

My dear Mrs. Chili,

Here’s a grammar grappler from your very own blog:

Look, I’ve got a lot of real life friends and Blogging Buddies who teach in public schools, and I want you all to know that I don’t hold any of you personally responsible, but I want to know this: how is it that a 20 year old makes it to college without knowing how to make plural possessives?!

According to my copy editor’s eye, I believe some much-needed hyphens are missing. Shouldn’t 20 year old be written 20-year-old?

Don’t hit me, please!


He sent me this note at just about the same time I threw my back out, and I didn’t get back to him right away, causing him to worry that he’d offended me. Far from being offended, I actually LIKE having my mistakes pointed out to me; it’s how I learn. Call me out on my shit, my friends!

CaliforniaTeacherGuy is absolutely correct; I DO need hyphens in the adjective phrase that describes my students. I found this at Washington State University’s website:
Hyphenate ages when they are adjective phrases involving a unit of measurement: “Her ten-year-old car is beginning to give her trouble.” A girl can be a “ten-year-old” (“child” is implied). But there are no hyphens in such an adjectival phrase as “Her car is ten years old.” In fact, hyphens are generally omitted when such phrases follow the noun they modify except in phrases involving “all” or “self” such as “all-knowing” or “self-confident.” Fractions are almost always hyphenated when they are adjectives: “He is one-quarter Irish and three-quarters Nigerian.” But when the numerator is already hyphenated, the fraction itself is not, as in “ninety-nine and forty-four one hundredths.” Fractions treated as nouns are not hyphenated: “He ate one quarter of the turkey.”

So, thanks, CTG, for pointing this out to me. I’ve fixed it in last week’s entry, and will strive to be more careful with my hyphens in the future.


Filed under about writing, colleagues, Grammar, Learning, self-analysis, writing, Yikes!


Lara, over at Life, the Ongoing Education, tagged me for a crazy 8 meme. I’ve done this before on my personal blog, but I thought it might be interesting to try it with my professional life in mind. I’ve taken the liberty of changing some of the questions a little to suit my work, and I’ve left off the last “tag eight people to do this” bit. Ready? Here we go:

Eight Things I Am Passionate About About Which I am Passionate

1. Grammar and its proper use.

2. Education, both mine and everyone else’s.

3. Reading. Not only do I enjoy reading, but I find that I learn a lot from the process.

4. Writing. Sometimes, I don’t know what I think about a topic or idea until I start to write about it.

5. My students. Some of them make me absolutely crazy, but I care deeply about all of them, even the ones who couldn’t give a crap about me or what I have to teach them.

6. Improvement. I’m rarely content with “good enough,” and I try to model for my students that the effort it takes to make something better is always worth it.

7. Standards. I’m committed to making my students rise to the bar I’ve set for them, and I don’t think that it’s unreasonable to set that bar higher than it’s historically been set at TCC.

8. Discussion. I learn so much, from both my students and my colleagues, when I engage them in conversation. The viewpoints and ideas they offer me are exciting and challenging, and I come away from our discussions a smarter, better informed and thoughtful person.

Eight Things I Want to Do Before I Die

1. Earn another degree.
2. Teach at a bigger school.
3. Earn a full-time position.
4. Have an office of my own.
5. Work on a committee that sets curriculum and standards.
6. Take cooking courses at TCC.
7. Teach a Lit. and Film course.
8. Establish a well-founded Diversity Club at TCC.

Eight Things I Say Often

1. “Seriously? You don’t have a pen?!”
2. “Listen up; this is important.”
3. “What do YOU think it means?”
4. “I do not accept late work.”
5. “Remember; films and books are separate works of art.”
6. “Have you done the reading?”
7. “Okay, but how did you get from there to here?”
8. “Um…yeah… NO!”

Eight Books I’ve Read Recently (edited to include short stories and poems)

1. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Lewis Stevenson

2. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

3. Brother of the Mount of Olives by Paul Monette

4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

5. Courting a Monk by Katherine Min

6. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

7. Sympathy by Paul Lawrence Dunbar

8. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe

Eight Songs I Could Listen to Over and Over Again I Use in My Lessons

1. “Cold as it Gets” by Patty Griffin

2. “The Stranger” by Billy Joel

3. “The Soul Cages” by Sting

4. “The Downesaster Alexa” by Billy Joel

5. “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot

6. “Raven” by Dave Matthew’s Band

7. “The Rhythm of Life” by Edwin McCain

8. “Driving the Last Spike” by Genesis

Eight Movies I Have Seen Eight Times Use in Lessons

1. Frankenstein (the Hallmark production)
2. A Christmas Carol (the Patrick Stewart production)
3. Hamlet (the Franco Zeffirelli production)
4. Glory
5. Nuremberg (the TNT production)
6. Mississippi Burning
7. The Last Samurai
8. Ever After

Happy Monday, Everyone!


Filed under Blogroll, film as literature, Gay/Straight Alliance, Grammar, I love my boss, Learning, Literature, little bits of nothingness, out in the real world, Poetry, popular culture, Questions, reading, self-analysis, success!, Teaching, the good ones, The Job, writing

Grammar Wednesday


Look, I’ve got a lot of real life friends and Blogging Buddies who teach in public schools, and I want you all to know that I don’t hold any of you personally responsible, but I want to know this: how is it that a 20-year-old makes it to college without knowing how to make plural possessives?!

My plan for this term is to to give my Comp. students spot-checks once a week to see if I can get a baseline for where most of them are in terms of grammar. I want to offer up lessons on the stuff that the greater portion of the class bombs, rather than doing a blanket attack on stuff they may already have. I gave the class one of these little quizes on Monday to see how well they can form the possessive form of nouns.

Can you tell from my build-up that it did not go so well?

I had one student who scored a 5. Yes, that’s right – a 5. I also had a 15 and a couple of 30s, though I also had two perfect scores. Everyone else fell somewhere in the middle.

A singular noun is generally made possessive by adding an apostrophe – s:

my mother’s car

the government’s policies

Alicia’s artwork

All of these things belong to one person or entity – the car is only owned by my mother, we’re discussing the policies of a particular government, the artwork was created (or owned, it’s not quite clear) only by Alicia.

Conveying that something or somethings are owned jointly by more than one person or organization is a bit more work. First, one must make the noun plural in whatever way that happens – by adding s, es, or changing an irregular noun:

mothers children families friends houses

Then, depending on the ending of the noun, we add either an apostrophe OR an apostrophe-s:

the mothers’ group

six children’s coats

the families’ common yard

a dozen friends’ phone numbers

the neighborhood houses’ value

There will be a lesson – and another quiz – in my class on Monday. I’m sad for these kids that they made it all the way to me without understanding this…


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

Day One!


It was a good day – a harbinger, I hope, of those still to come.

I have six students – all women – in my first period literature class. Five of them have been students of mine before, and three of those five were good students, to boot. I left the course outline pretty open so that we could determine, as a group, where we wanted to go in our reading adventures, and we decided yesterday to start with Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s in the public domain, so I’m printing it out for us to start reading tomorrow. I’ve got to use the literature book they paid upwards of 70 bucks for, though, so we’ll plow through some of the short stories and poems next, then tackle Hamlet by mid-term.

My composition class is huge by TCC standards – though, with 26 students, it’s not quite as big as O’Mama‘s biggest class which contains 37 souls – but it’s plenty big enough for me, thank you very much. It’s going to be challenging reading all the work those students create. I suspect that I’ll do a lot of smallish assignments and save the really important ones for the middle of the course so I’m not scrambling for final grades.

Really, though, I think my biggest challenge is going to be remembering what day it is. I’ve worked a Tuesday / Thursday schedule for so long that moving to a Monday / Wednesday one is going to completely mess with my sense of time. As I left campus yesterday, I kept saying to myself “it’s Monday, it’s Monday,” and I’ve been aware of its being Tuesday all day today. I hope it doesn’t take me too long to make that adjustment…


Filed under colleagues, composition, concerns, film as literature, Literature, little bits of nothingness, reading, self-analysis, Teaching, the good ones

A New Term

I start the “spring” term of TCC tomorrow.  I’ve put “spring” in quotation marks because it’s still REALLY winter around here and, technically, TCC has a term that starts in March, too, which is really far more spring-like than it is now.  Everyone else calls the January start the “spring term,” though, so I’m running with that.

I’ve finished a preliminary syllabus for my composition class already, and I’m secretly hoping to scare off a good portion of the class with it.  I figure that if I’m going to be the one who stands up to complain about the lack of academic rigor and standards at TCC, I damned well ought to be the one who stands up and makes her classes more academically rigorous, right?  I’m allowing myself some pretty serious wiggle-room, and I’m considering playing around with the order in which I teach things – giving more time to professional writing and cover letters and trying to train a little narrative distance into my students because everything shouldn’t be a personal essay in the vernacular.

I’ve got to spend some time with the new edition of the literature text, but I’m feeling a little less pressure to map out this class so carefully.  According to my roster, I’ve got six students, and one of them is listed as being on a leave of absence.  Having such a small class gives me a lot of freedom to run the class more like a book club / discussion group, and the more relaxed atmosphere allows for a lot more flexibility in what I assign.

I have NO idea what I’m going to wear tomorrow; I’ve not been in “teacher clothes” for three weeks and getting back into the habit of dressing professionally (and staying sufficiently warm) is going to be interesting.  I’m going to miss my woobie socks.

Ready or not, here we go!!


Filed under about writing, composition, concerns, Learning, Literature, little bits of nothingness, self-analysis, Teaching

Grammar Wednesday on a Friday

I found this bit at Bo’s blog:

“We had 300 people outside, literally freezing to death,” Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton marveled on Tuesday before a crowd in Iowa City.

No word on what she and/or her campaign staff ultimately did with the bodies, or how far along they were when she made the remark.

The Clinton body count is serious business.

I have a deep and abiding appreciation for Bo’s sense of humor.

He’d gotten the quote from the NYTimes website – here, in fact.  Now, I know that the NYT people were quoting Senator Clinton directly, and that one is not supposed to correct the grammar in direct quotes, but come on!

Literally means literally.  Our language uses the term as hyperbole, but I maintain that it’s important to used the word literally when that’s what is meant.  No one, I suspect, was in immediate danger of expiring due to hypothermia (that’s when one’s body temperature is too low – hyperthermia is when it’s too high – I always used to get them confused).  There may have been people in literal danger of frostbite or hypothermia, but that’s not what she said.

Of course, there were other great quotes in the article; it seems that the grueling campaign schedule has taken its toll on the eloquence of the candidates:

“I won’t remember Iowans,” Mitt Romney declared in Altoona the other day before his wife, Ann, corrected him. (He meant that he would “never forget” Iowans.)

Mike Huckabee offered his “apologies” last week over the killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan. (He meant “sympathies,” his campaign clarified.)

Sleeping much?


Filed under Blogroll, funniness, General Griping, Grammar, out in the real world, Yikes!

Getting Ready

pf_1980962teachers-open-the-door-posters.jpgI am able to find the rosters for both of my classes on TCC’s portal, and I see that I have six students in the literature class – though it looks as though one of them is listed as being on a leave of absence – and a whopping twenty four in my hybrid composition class.

It’s going to be a LONG semester.

The lit class is going to be fine. Having so few students means that I can run the class a lot like a book club; we’ll sit around a table and have discussions rather than having the class be a more formal, teacher-directed affair. The casualness of that set up is both an advantage and a liability; much of how friendly and easygoing it will be will depend on the impressions of maturity that the students give me in the first few class meetings. In any event, I’m not overly concerned about the literature class.

No, it’s the hybrid composition class that has me worried. Twenty four students is a LOT of kids, and even if I lose a percentage of them in the first few days of class, it’s still going to be a big class. On top of that, almost all of them are culinary students.

I don’t mean to forward a stereotype here, but my own experience has shown me that it’s the rare culinary student who takes English classes seriously, and it’s an even more endangered species who has the initiative and self-discipline to do well in a class where the student is responsible for more than half of the learning. Since we’ll only meet once a week (and on Mondays, which means we’ll lose a lot of classes to upcoming holidays, not to mention the very real possibility of snow cancellations), the students have to be able to teach themselves from the materials I give them. I plan to give them all the tools they need to do that, but I have no control over whether or not they actually pick those tools up and try to use them.

I’m going to spend a fair bit of time today putting together my syllabi and making sure that I am VERY clear about my expectations for work and behavior, especially from the composition students. I may even invite the head chef to be a guest speaker for the first class, too, just to give the students an impression of how important writing actually is, even to them.

photo courtesy of 


Filed under about writing, composition, concerns, Literature, Yikes!

Grammar Wednesday

This one’s for Auntie.


Two is, of course, a quantity.

I’ll have two desserts, if you please. 

To is most commonly used as a preposition to indicate direction.

Please bring your book to class with you.

I’m going to the store before it closes.

Too is generally an adverb that describes degree or indicates inclusion.

She is too good for that guy.

I thought you were coming, too.

Your / you’re

Your is a pronoun that is used to indicate possession.

Your sister called to say she’ll be a little late.

Don’t leave your socks on the bathroom floor.

You’re is a contraction that means you are.

If you don’t hurry up, you’re going to be late for your interview.

If you don’t want to sit in traffic, you’re going to have to take the back road home. 

Then / than

Then is most commonly used as an adverb that indicates time or sequence:

Put on your snowpants first, then put on your boots.

If you don’t try, then you’ll never know if you can do it.

Than is a conjunction that is most commonly used for comparison or contrast.

She makes more money than I do, but I’m a much nicer person.


These words all serve different functions in the language – there’s a lot more to them than what I’ve given here – but these are the most common uses.

Happy Wednesday!



Filed under Blogroll, crossover, Grammar