Monthly Archives: April 2008

Something to Think About, Part II

I’ve done a little thinking about this – thank you all SO much for your comments, please keep ‘em coming – and I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. Recognize that the jury is still out – I’m not sure I ever really make my mind up about anything (I think a closed mind is a terrible, terrible thing…):

* I can completely understand Kizz and Elena’s comments. It’s important to me that I set up a classroom environment that is safe and supportive, and I can easily see how my using old student emails would undermine those efforts.

That being said, however, I think that the emails that I’ve chosen to highlight are so far out of the realm of believability that it would be hard for most people to be overly concerned. I receive tons more email that are mildly annoying – along the lines of “hey mrs chili could you plz tell me what the homework was cuz i was asbent yesterday” – that I just let fly right past the guards.

Despite the image that I might portray here, I’m not a wicked grammar witch. I don’t correct my friends’ grammar, I don’t go around in the comments correcting incorrect comma use, I don’t roll my eyes when someone makes a spelling mistake. Want to know why? Because I’m a human being, not a dictionary or a style guide or a computer. I make mistakes, too.

My readers – and my students – rightly get the impression that I eat, sleep and breathe grammar because of the environment I’ve set up here and in my classrooms. That’s what I do HERE. My students are with me for eleven short weeks, and my job is to get them closer to understanding the rules and conventions of clear and proper communication during our brief time together. The things I write here are centered around the work that I do as a teacher, so of course I’m going to be focused on rules and conventions, and on noticing when they’re being ignored (or outright butchered).

THAT being said, I think it’s important for people to understand that this is not the ONLY part of me. I’m not the Grammar Gestapo. I’m sorry if ANYONE feels intimidated out of leaving comments here. While I recognize that I can’t control my readers’ feelings about my work and writing, I also don’t want to stifle anyone’s desire to communicate because they’re afraid of me. I don’t correct comments unless someone emails to ask me to do that (I find all KINDS of mistakes in my own comments on others’ sites that I don’t see until AFTER I hit “publish,” and I’ll email the blog author to ask them to fix my gaffs. California Teacher Guy has done that here, too – see above, re: human). I’m far more interested in getting a dialogue going than about whether or not all the commas are in the right places.

* I’ve been wondering why it’s okay for me to use shining examples of student work, but not the duds. I feel as though the pendulum has swung pretty far into the “we only want to accentuate the good – if we ignore the bad long enough, it’ll go away” mentality, and that’s not serving anyone. I’m betting no one would have objected to my using positive examples of really stellar student writing, and I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the attitude that goes alone with that.

* I DON’T ridicule my students. While I may go a bit overboard here, that is my right – this is my forum and it’s the perfect place to let off steam; it’s safe, it’s anonymous, and I get to hear back from other teachers who experience similar things, so I know I’m not out here alone – I never, EVER do or say anything even REMOTELY disrespectful in the classroom (or in the real world, even). You’re just going to have to take my word on that.

* Finally (for now, anyway), I think I’m going to continue to use the handout, at least for the short term. One of the most important points I try to get across to my students is that it is vitally important to understand what kind of image they make for themselves; I want them to be aware of how they seem to the professionals they’ll be dealing with in their careers.  I want them to start with me.

The head chef tells the story of a young man he had in the culinary program a year or two ago. This boy worked hard in his classes, earned decent grades, and wanted to do his internship at the Ritz in NYC. He worked diligently on his resume, wrote a great cover letter, and sent the packet off via registered mail. Then waited. And waited some more. Finally, after a few weeks, he went to Chef and asked him why he’d not heard back from the restaurant. Chef knew the manager of the place (Chef knows EVERYONE who is ANYONE in the culinary business) and was told that the student HAD been called. The manager reached the student’s voice mail (can you see this coming?) and heard “Hey, I can’t come to the phone. Leave me a fucking message and maybe I’ll call ya back.”

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I Need Some Inspiration

It’s time for me to change the display in GSA’s case, and I need help deciding what to do.  I had Black History Month stuff up in February, and a display to raise awareness of the violence that’s being perpetrated against GLBTQ folks up in March.  I need a new theme for April, and I’m coming up empty.  Any suggestions?

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I Guess it’s NOT Settled…

Betsy, it seems, is serious about contesting her grade.  I called in to the college this morning to get our fax number so Eddie could send me something, and when Joyce in the registrar’s office answered the phone, she said “OH!  CHILI!  Your name’s already come up this morning!”

Uh, oh.  That can’t be good.

Yep.  Betsy still thinks she deserves to pass the class, so I’ve gathered up all the materials I have from her and am heading to the college this afternoon to deliver them to my bosses.  I have NO expectation that the grade will be changed – neither Joe nor Dean will ask me to do that after they see that not only did I do my job, but that Betsy really didn’t.  Still, it’s unnerving to be so blatantly challenged like this, particularly by someone who so clearly has no legs to stand on.

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Something to Think About

I was given something to think about today, and I want to toss it out to you and see what YOU think about it.

At the start of every term – in every class – I give my students “The E-Mail Lecture.” I’ve been the recipient of some pretty jaw-dropping, astoundingly bad emails over the short tenure of my teaching career, and I try to stress to my students, early and often, that it’s important to comport oneself in a professional manner when dealing with people like teachers, clients, and bosses.

To that end, I give my students a handout that contains some of the winners of my email collection – letters from Henry and Tad and Dave – remember them? Yes, I saved them – they’re pedagogical gold, as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, I cut-and-pasted them directly to a page that I then printed out and offer up to my new students as examples of some of the sloppy and inappropriate communication that I’ve been subjected to.

Up until today, no one has ever so much as batted an eyelash (well, except to proclaim how terrible the email messages are and how THEY would NEVER send me ANYTHING even REMOTELY like that; the lady doth protest too much, but whatever). This afternoon, though, someone questioned the ethics of my using these emails as a teaching tool, and we had a bit of a showdown.

His stance is that these were “private communications” between me and the students, and that I was violating the students’ rights to privacy by using these emails in this very public way without their permission. It doesn’t matter to him that there are absolutely NO identifying clues in the emails – there is nothing to say that Henry wrote this one or Tad wrote that one – none of that matters to him. His thinking is that I’m being unethical by using the emails, and nothing I could say would change his mind.

While he’s right that I don’t have the students’ permission to use the emails, I don’t think he’s right that I’m being unethical. I’ve gone out of my way to make sure that the emails are scrubbed of ANYTHING that could identify the author. I further obscure them by attributing the emails to the wrong gender – sometimes, I’ll say that the email Tad wrote was written by a woman, for example. I believe that it’s true that, with the exception of Henry, all the students who contributed to the handout are long gone from TCC. Moreover, the students who wrote these went through the same lesson that I give my current students about email (though, of course, they did it without the rotten examples). One of the points that I stress – to the point of actually repeating the heading of the section of the handout – is that there is no such thing as private email. Let me say that again – there is no such thing as private email (heh – that’s actually what I say in the lecture). The students know this, and the fact that they’re still willing, after this lesson, to send me such abominable drivel is almost reason enough to use it in public.

Because I started this blog as a forum for discussion and learning, and because I’m always interested to hear what other people think, I’m turning this over to all of you. What do YOU think? I’m happy to entertain both sides; though I do have to say that it would take an eloquent argument to get me to stop handing out the “Fun with Mrs. Chili’s Emails” paper, if someone makes that eloquent argument, I might have to find another way of getting my point across. Still, pedagogical gold is what I’m sayin’ here, People…

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Grammar Wednesday

Oh, how I LOVE California Teacher Guy. He’s SO on my list of blogging friends that I’ll have to meet face-to-face at some point; he’s funny and smart, and what’s more is that he’s rescued plenty of Grammar Wednesdays for me.

My dear Mrs. Chili,

Maybe you could give a spelling tip to the person who painted this sign in Dirty Little Desert Town.

Fondly,
CTG

Okay – here’s how I learned to tell the difference between dessert (a little bit of something sweet one has after dinner) and desert (a usually hot, dry place); I look at the number of S’s in the word. More than one “s” is dessert because – yes, thank you – I’d like more than one dessert, and one “s” is desert because, really, one is far more than enough, don’t you think?

Happy Wednesday, Everyone!

sign photo credit – CTG

dessert photo credit

desert photo credit

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Hold, Please

I’ve got a Grammar Wednesday entry in the pipeline, but it requires a photo and there’s something going on with WordPress’s image uploader that won’t let me insert the picture into my post. I can upload it, change its name and file reference and all that, but when I hit “insert into post,” the control window goes blank and nothing else happens.

I’ll try again to get the picture in when I get back from class this afternoon. See you then!

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Grammar Cats

Humorous Pictures

Grammar Wednesday is on hiatus this week; I’m on inter-term break and am enjoying a little of the time off (though I am planning on getting together with O’Mama this afternoon for some class planning).

The only grammar-related news I have is that Mr. Chili reported, after picking Beanie up from school yesterday, that the sign outside of the paras’ office has been taken down.  I suspect that this is very likely as the result of my harassing them about the damned apostrophe.  My hope, though, is that they’ll make a new sign – a correct sign – and that I can post a picture of it soon!

Happy Wednesday!

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