Category Archives: ten things Tuesday

Ten Things Tuesday

Ten things I say in class…

1.  I love you.  Now shut up and write.

2.  Really?  No; REALLY?!

3.  How’s that workin’ out for you?

4.  La-la-la-la-la!  Don’t TELL ME these things!!

5.  Read that out loud… do you talk the way you write?

6.  You?  YOU!  Are my favorite kid right now.

7.  Did you read the instructions?  No?  I didn’t think so; go back and read the instructions.  REALLY READ them…

8.  … and what would you like ME to do about that…?

9.  Close your computers.

10.  I love you, too.


Filed under I can't make this shit up..., I love my job, I've got this kid...., little bits of nothingness, ten things Tuesday

Ten Things Tuesday

I try very hard to keep it positive, but here are ten things in my professional life that I could do quite nicely without.

1.  Drama.  I know, I know; I work with teenagers, which means that drama is practically a prerequisite.  I just wish that it wasn’t so profoundly disrupting.  One good freak-out spills over into more spaces than it should.  There’s nothing to be done about it, really – and all the adults in our community handle these things like the professionals they are – but it still bugs the crap out of me (and, if I’m going to be honest, it bothers me more because I can’t keep the kids from suffering at their own hands.  I wish I could make it all better for them, and that’s what irks me the most).

2.  Recalcitrant kids.  You know what, Babies?  Just do the damned work.  Doing the work is MUCH easier than putting up with the shit we give you for not doing it; trust me.

3.  Parents who make my job harder.  There are so many things to add to this category that I’m just going to go ahead and let you fill in the blanks.

4.  Other teachers who make my job harder.  I understand that there are precious few bad teachers out there, and that sometimes the kids think things that the teachers never implied, but I still find myself having to un-teach a lot of negative habits and beliefs.  What the HELL were they thinking when they told my kids that they couldn’t write, or that grammar and punctuation were more important than content, or that the five paragraph essay was the pinnacle of human expression?!

5.  Viruses.  Oh, dear Goddess, but the entire school is a hacking, feverish snot factory.  I’m washing my hands like crazy, chanting hexes, and dousing every surface with Lysol.  I WILL NOT GET SICK… I WILL NOT GET SICK…

6.  Standardized tests.  Look; if pretty much every ethical educator agrees that there’s almost nothing of value in standardized testing, then why the HELL do we still do it?  We’re gearing up for the fall round of tests (math, and reading and writing; science happens in the spring) and I’m prepping my “taking a standardized test is exactly like playing a game” lesson yet again.  Really, all I do is teach the kids how to read the questions; there’s nothing in these tests that asks these kids to demonstrate anything of value about who they are as students, so they may as well learn the “tricks” and play the game well.

7.  Pointless workshops.  I have to go halfway across the state tomorrow to attend an “orientation workshop” for a program that I’ve been involved in for the last two years.  I don’t even get a meal out of it; I’ve been told to bring my own lunch.  Yippee.

8.  Printers.  A student brought me this the other day, and I think it’s SPOT ON (particularly the part about not being able to print a black and white copy because the printer is out of magenta ink).  GAH!

9.  Crappy internet connections.  I love the platforms that we use for our classes.   I don’t love it when we can’t access them because the internet is being fussy.  This becomes a bigger issue the more we rely on online communication and e-copies of materials.

10.  Drama.  This time, the drama is coming from an adult.  It’s not that big a deal – this person is someone I don’t have to deal with very often – but every time I do, I leave the experience feeling drained and defensive.  I need to figure out why that is and learn the counter-spell.



Filed under colleagues, dumbassery, failure, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., parental units, really?!, ten things Tuesday, Yikes!

Ten Things Tuesday

The “tour my room” edition!

1. Here we have a poster that my sister gave me. It is a compilation of simple wisdom offered by the Dalai Lama, and I love it.

(sorry about the glare. Go here to read the full text…)

2. Here’s one of the many magnets with short, thoughtful sayings I have posted around the room.

3. … and another. (Honestly? I think this one is my favorite)…

4. My dragonfly coat hook. I tried to not buy too much stuff for the class with my own cash, but I needed something dragonfly. It was an impulse buy; I saw it while I was in T*rget looking for something else.

5. PLANTS! I went on a buying binge when I found very healthy plants for five bucks each at a local greenhouse. My room is now filled with plants at just about every compass point.

6. A William Shakespeare action figure. I shit you not. Suzanne gave me this one. I have another at home, gifted to me by Kizz, I think. He came complete with the book and quill pen; how cool is that!

7. The bookcase Buddha. He’s tucked serenely and unobtrusively in the corner, and there he’ll stay, reminding me to breathe and allow my students to come to their highest and best selves by their own paths.

8. My fish! Remember my fish? We’re down by one – the little goldfish is missing and I suspect that she fell victim to the school of tiger barbs in there – but those who remain seem happy and healthy.

(wow; that’s a rotten picture. Use your imaginations, would you, please?)

9. BOOKS! I mean, really; I’m an English teacher – what did you expect? The truth is that I have FAR more books than I have shelves on which to put them, but I’ll be remedying that soon enough.

10. O’Mama gave me this poster last year, and I’ve been dying to put it up ever since. Now that the room is mine, up it has gone!

(again with the glare; go here to read the full text)

I LOVE the space now; it feels clean and airy and ready for community!


Filed under fun, I love my job, little bits of nothingness, Teaching, ten things Tuesday

Ten Things Tuesday

Work-related randomness!

1.  I’ve had a TON of things to write about over here, but I’ve just not found the time to do it.  I’ll try to get here a bit more regularly; things are happening – exciting things, even – that I want to let you all in on!

2.  I was practically eager to get back to work after the holiday break.  I found that I missed my students and the things that we do together.  I was delighted to go back to work on Monday, and it was fun to hear all their stories about things that happened to them during our vacation.

3.  Knowing full well that this week would essentially be a wash (while the kids got used to getting back into a regular schedule and, you know, thinking), I planned a pretty “easy” week.  My I/II kids are working on getting ready to participate in our local Poetry Out Loud competition (which is happening Monday) and my III/IV kids are going to do a month-long investigation of film as literature.  We started with the Cinderella story this week; they read several versions of the story and we started watching Ever After today.  They’ll see The Karate Kid on Thursday while I’m away at a workshop.

4.  Speaking of the Poetry Out Loud competition, I brought a guest speaker to school this morning.  One of my former students is neck-deep in the slam poetry scene in our area, and he practically JUMPED at the chance to come to school to perform for and talk to my class.  I invited my colleague’s class to join us, and all the kids were enthralled for the whole hour and a half that Beau talked to them.  He delighted me as a student when I had him in my first semester at TCC, and I’m incredibly proud of him now.  He’s poised, articulate, creative and, well, just awesome, and I’m so glad he agreed to come to school today.  He’s totally going on my guest speaker list; we’ll do this again the very next chance I get.

5.  I’m terribly excited about the Film as Literature unit I’m doing with my III/IV kids.  I’m looking forward to seeing some really great films (Amistad, Secondhand Lions, Nuremberg, Ever After, The Karate Kid, I, Robot, and possibly Timeline) with these kids.  We’ve spent all semester practicing critical thinking skills; I’m eager to see how well they can apply those skills to their viewing practices, as well.

6.  I’m going to three professional development workshops being held at Local U this week and into next.  It means I’m going to miss three days of classes at CHS, but it’s going to be totally worth it; my colleague will take my I/II kids into her class (we’re all working on literally the same thing, anyway) and my III/IV kids will be viewing movies and working independently for the time I’ll be away taking more than nine hours of FREE professional development workshops.  One does not say “no” to free professional development hours, especially when the workshops are interesting and relevant to one’s practice.  Plus, they’re feeding me lunch!  Score!

7.  I still don’t know what I’m going to be teaching at CHS next semester (which starts February 1st).  I know I’ll be teaching something, but exactly what is still a mystery.  It turns out that the school did not get a grant that we’d applied for a month or so ago, which means that my director is going to have to scramble to make the money work.  I don’t really care what she pays me; I just want to teach.

8.  Being a teacher is sometimes (okay, quite often) awesome.  I just bought 6 brand new books for $3 each through a publishing company that wants us to buy our books from them.  They sell exam copies to teachers in the hopes that we’ll find something we like and place a bulk order.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they hear from me again sometime very soon.

9.  Two separate people gave me posters for my classroom for Christmas.  I will buy frames for them (because I think taping posters to the wall is tacky, and I know I can get poster frames for 5 bucks each at the Christmas Tree Shops), but I’ll have to wait a bit before I can hang them; I still don’t have my own room.  My dearest wish is that, by the start of the next school year, I’ll have a space that’s just mine.  While I don’t mind sharing my space with others (in fact, they’re sharing their spaces with me), I really do want a room of my own.

10.  I discovered, just recently, that my style of teaching has a name (who knew!?  Not I!).  What I really want for my new classroom (when I get it) is a big oval table that we can all sit at as a class.  The scheme we’ve got now is that small groups sit at separate tables, and while I CAN make that work, it’s hard to keep everyone focused on the group as a whole.  Anyway, I’m going to be putting out the call to those of my friends and colleagues who have a knack for getting good stuff cheap (or free – free is good!) to see if anyone can score me a big ole dining room table big enough to seat 12-14 people.  I have NO idea how I’m going to get it up to the fourth floor (or through my classroom door, for that matter) but I’ll worry about that when I get there.  What I know for sure is that I definitely want to figure a way to get my classroom more together than I can manage if everyone’s sitting at separate tables.

Happy Tuesday, Everyone!


Filed under colleagues, critical thinking, film as literature, fun, I love my job, little bits of nothingness, Local U., Poetry, self-analysis, Teaching, ten things Tuesday

Ten Things Tuesday

Ten teacher-related things I’ve bought since I got my job.

1.  60 books for my students.

2.  A new pack of these pens.  These are, without question, my MOST favorite pens in the whole world…


3.  Great Books for High School Kids; A Teachers’ Guide to Books That Can Change Teens’ Lives.

4.  A bunch of quotables magnets

5.  Another copy of The Book Thief.  I’m starting the novel with my I/II class later this week, and discovered that I’ve loaned my copy to someone but failed to put the borrower’s name in my geeky library software, so I had to go and buy another copy.

6.  …. HUH!  I guess I haven’t spent as much money on teacher things as I thought.  Okay – the rest of this list is strategies I’m using to get myself organized.  For starters, I’ve brought a bag full of sticky notes and binder clips to school.  Homework assignments get a sticky note label and then get clipped together before going in the briefcase.

7.  I have two briefcases, now that I think of it.  One black leather – for Local U. – and an identical one done in camel tweed for CHS.  Having the two separate – but similar – bags really helps me to keep the courses straight.

8.  I have two classes at CHS, and each of them has its own folder in the above-mentioned tweed briefcase.  The freshmen and sophomores are in a green folder (get it?  Green?  As in “new at this stuff”?  I thought that was mighty clever), and the juniors and seniors have a red one (for no particular reason, now that I think of it.  Maybe I’m not so clever after all…).

9.  Mr. Chili designed a PDF of a lesson planning worksheet to my specifications, and that’s what I’ve been using (so far, with pretty great success) to map out my path for the week.  I use the above-mentioned pens to color-code the different facets of the lessons; red for homework, pink for quick writing prompts, light blue for the main lesson, brown for the week’s objectives, and dark blue for the readings and handouts.  I also throw in black for the daily reading time, purple for any special bits (like the weekly word on Mondays), and green for any hands-on activities.  By the time I’m done with them, the planning sheets look quite festive!

10.  OH!  This one counts on both sides of the list; I bought myself a wire file box (much like this one, only in silver) to keep track of the materials I copy for the students.  The box sits on my “desk” (which is in quotes because it’s not really MY desk; it just happens to be a place where I can put my stuff) and contains copies of chapters, peer editing guiding questions, great quotes, and Calvin and Hobbes cartoons.

Happy Tuesday, Everyone!


Filed under little bits of nothingness, Teaching, ten things Tuesday

Ten Things Tuesday

Alternately titled; Ten Things I Want My Freshmen to Leave My Class Knowing:

I’m printing this and handing it out on the last day of classes.

1.  The practice of drafting through papers is kind of unique to your English classes.  Almost every other professor you’ll ever have is going to assign you a paper and expect you to do it all on your own.  Never again will you have your proverbial hand held through the paper writing process as we’ve done this semester.

2.  Big words don’t always imply to your teacher that you’re thinking big thoughts.  Make sure that the word you’re using actually means what you want to say, because nothing grinds a professor’s gear faster than an inappropriately used word.  Don’t be afraid to say something simply.

3.  Please, for the love of all that’s holy, use last names when referring to people.  Albert Einstein is Einstein, not Albert.  If a character is typically referred to by his or her first name (Huck, Dorothy, that sort of thing) or if a personality goes by only one name (Cher, Bono), that’s fine, but please call Dr. King Dr. King or Abraham Lincoln Lincoln.  Oh, and Malcolm X?  You may refer to him as X; that’s far more appropriate and respectful than calling him Malcolm in a research paper.

4.  Unless you’re directly addressing your reader – and unless you’re writing a letter or a speech, you’ll almost never directly address your reader in academic or professional writing – do NOT use the pronoun “you.”  Get in the habit of substituting “one” or “people” where you want to use “you.”  For example, “one may experience feelings of lightheadedness and blurred vision just prior to a stroke” is far more appropriate than saying “you may experience.”  While it’s true that *I* – Mrs. Chili – may experience these things, that’s not the point you’re trying to make.

5.  Along the same lines, please be particularly careful that you define who “they” is in your work.  “They claim that 65% of all high school graduates can’t locate Australia on a map” is an unacceptable claim unless you’ve told us who “they” is.  Likewise, if you’re talking about two or more people, make sure we know who the pronouns refer to.  For example, “he stood for peaceful resistance and didn’t hold with his policy of militarism and active revolt” makes no sense.  Rewrite that to say “Dr. King stood for peaceful resistance and didn’t hold with X’s policy of militarism and revolt.”  Much clearer, that.

6.  It’s worth your time and effort to make annotated bibiliographies.  Speaking from years of research paper writing experience, I can tell you that many’s the time that I have needed a particular source, only to realize that I didn’t take good enough notes to be able to find the piece that I was looking for.  It doesn’t have to be all formal and pretty, but do take enough notes so that you can find that ONE sentence that you want to quote to really nail your paper together.  Trust me on this one.

7.  I’m certainly not going to tell you how to budget your time, but you may want to reconsider your habit of 2 a.m.-the-morning-before paper writing, especially in light of item #1 on this list.

8.  Work on developing a professional voice.  It’s certainly fine – and important, I think – that your own voice come through in your writing, but if you regularly pepper your speech with “dude” and “like” and “ya know,” be aware that these might come through in your writing, and that these have no place in academic work.  Don’t be flippant, don’t make claims that you can’t support, and don’t conclude a paper with “and that’s all I have to say about that.”  I don’t appreciate it, and neither will any of your other professors.

9.  DO NOT write your papers to say only what you think your professors want to hear.  Any good instructor will respect your right to express an opinion that differs from one they hold, but only if you can do so in a way that’s comprehensive, rational, and respectful.  I encorage my students to disagree with me – and to go out on limbs they’re not sure will bear their weight – but I do not appreciate students who are contrary for its own sake.  Remember the wisdom of Taylor Mali; state what you believe in a manner which bespeaks the conviction with which you believe it.  Don’t kiss up, and don’t pander.  Think your own thoughts.

10.  Remember that you have my personal email address.  USE IT.  Just because I won’t be your teacher after the 15th doesn’t mean I stop caring about what happens to you.  I will happily proofread your drafts, offer suggestions on where and how to look for good sources for your research, and teach you about the proper use of commas and apostrophes.  I’ll still be here, all you’ve got to do is shout out.


Filed under about writing, compassion and cooperation, composition, critical thinking, ethics, Grammar, great writing, Local U., self-analysis, Teaching, ten things Tuesday, the good ones, The Job

Ten Things Tuesday

I read “The Things They Carried” with my lit students yesterday (well, with the ones who showed up, anyway) and was reminded of how visceral and present that story can be.  O’Brien is deft and effective in his storytelling, and I was moved, yet again, by this multi-layered, thought-provoking war story.

O’Brien tells his story though the description of the things that a platoon in Vietnam carried with them during their experiences of this war.  Very rarely – in fact, only once – does O’Brien actually describe the character of the men; instead, he tells us who they are and what was important to them by describing the things they thought were important enough to bring with them into battle – and the things they had no choice but to carry – and the respective weight of these things; the weight of ammunition, the weight of memory, the weight of rations and responsibility.

In homage to the tale, here are ten things that *I* carry with me as I make my way through my world.

1.  I carry my wedding rings and the promises that they represent.  My marriage is the single most important thing in my life, and I am never without the physical representations of that relationship.  I carry with me a deep and abiding respect for my husband, as well as a profound and unspeakable love.  For the magnitude of the commitment and responsibility, the weight is effortless and I will happily carry it for the rest of my life.

2.  I carry my cell phone.  The gadget represents much more than my ability to stay connected at will with anyone, it also represents safety, information (I have an iPhone, and thus can access internet and maps and music and…) and reliability (I would be a wreck without the calendar feature).

3.  I carry my children.  Not literally, of course, but they are an inexorable part of who I am and are integral factors in how I make decisions.  I want to be a good model for them for a kind, compassionate, considerate, capable woman, and it’s because of them that I make many of the choices that I do.

4.  I carry my driver’s and teaching licenses.  The driver’s license is predictable – I’m betting you all carry one of those – but I tucked the little card that came with my teaching certificate in my wallet because it represents an accomplishment that I was never quite sure I’d reach until I was almost there.  Which leads me to…

5.  I carry a tiny but nagging insecurity.  I’ve not quite managed to fully silence the monsters of my past, and every once in a while a little voice escapes from the closet to tell me that I’m just kidding myself and everyone around me.  The only thing that voice doesn’t demean is my acting abilities, it seems, for it tells me now and again that I’ve got everyone fooled.  I’m getting better and better at ignoring the voice – and the more I ignore it, the quieter it gets – but it’s still there.

6.  I carry my friendships.  Most of the time, this is an easy burden to bear – I have wonderful friends who give me far more than I feel I give in return – but sometimes I find myself carrying this load a bit too heavily.  I’m still working on negotiating the place a few friendships have in my life; I’ll get the weight settled eventually.

7.  I carry a sense of justice, and that I am part of a larger whole.  This is a hard one to describe without coming across as all airy-faerie, but part of my yoga practice involves my recognition that I belong here – that I have a right and an obligation to participate fully in this life – and that my actions, words, attitudes and behaviors matter to more than just my immediate circle.  I try to be mindful of the kinds of ripples I start in the pond, and try to make sure that the energy I send out reflects the highest and best I have to offer.  I speak out when I see injustice – I will not sit down and I will not shut up – but more than that, I try to always be aware of what I may be doing, however unintentioned, that may be perpetuating an injustice.

8.  I carry stories.  Song lyrics, novels, films, short stories, t.v. episodes, poems; I continue to amass a library of experiences that I can bring to bear on my life, and that I use to make sense of the world around me.  I love to think and talk and argue and ruminate about stories and what they mean beyond the plot, and I carry a respect and admiration and affection for the people who engage my thinking about stories.

9.  I carry a love of language and a curiosity about its use.  I carry a desire to continue to learn – I am shamelessly greedy when it comes to knowledge; I can never have enough.  I carry the two-sided belief that I am both incredibly smart and never smart enough; that where I am right now is pretty darned good, but that I can always be more and better than I am right now.

10.  I carry a sense of joy and love and compassion and kindness.  I want the people around me to be at ease in my presence.  I want people to think kindly of me and to be happy to see me.  I want to be aware of the little things that I can do to make others feel appreciated, important, and cared for.  I carry with me an awareness that, every day, I can do or say something – even if it’s just a smile – that will register positively with someone else.


Filed under about writing, admiration, colleagues, compassion and cooperation, ethics, Extra-curricular Activities, film as literature, Learning, Literature, little bits of nothingness, out in the real world, Poetry, popular culture, self-analysis, success!, Teaching, ten things Tuesday

Ten Things Tuesday *Edited*

I’m so woefully underprepared to start teaching my class tomorrow (I’m reasonably confident that, once I hit the ground, I won’t stumble for too long before I get to running, so I’m trying to to worry and stress too much, but still). Instead of bitching and moaning about that, though, I’m giving you ten things that my students – and I – will be reading in the first third of the term.

(I’ve edited this entry to include links to the short stories where I could find them.  For a couple of them (the Staples piece and the Liu piece, if memory serves), you’ll need Acrobat to read the files that the links will take you to.  Happy Reading!)

1. Learning to Read by Malcolm X. It’s an excerpt from his Autobiography (which was written by Alex Haley, which still kind of confuses me. I mean, I understand ghost writing and all, but both Malcolm and Haley pretty much told the world that Haley wrote it, yet they still called it an autobiography. Weird). Anyway, this is a piece about the power of literacy and the transformation that Malcolm was able to make once he figured reading out. Even in prison, he said, reading set him free, and once he learned to read, he never, ever stopped. Powerful stuff.

2. A Clack of Tiny Sparks: Remembrances of a Gay Boyhood by Bernard Cooper. I’ve read this story before, and am eager to read through it again. It’s a richly characterized retelling of Cooper’s attempts, as a very young man, to understand his place in the world before announcing that he was gay. He observes people with such a keen (and, at times, riotously funny) eye, and the payoff at the end of the story is, I think, a whole lot more subtle than most people realize (personally, I think the ending has more to do with his mother taking up smoking again than anything else). This is going to be a fun story to teach; Cooper’s style is really interesting to examine.

3. Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space by Brent Staples. I know for sure that I’ve read this short story before – as a matter of fact, I think it’s true that I can go to my bookshelf and pull up an anthology that has this piece in it – but it’s been so long that it’ll be as if I’m reading it for the first time (in case you’re wondering why I’ve got pieces on here that I haven’t read (or that I haven’t read in practically forever), the answer is because they were on the template that an experienced FE teacher gave me, so I’m running with it. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel in my first semester). If I’m remembering it correctly, it’s about the discomfort and awkwardness of being different in an environment of sameness – being the only black man in the street. If I’m remembering it correctly, Staples also implies that the problem isn’t his – he can’t change the way he looks – but he does have to deal with other people’s misunderstanding of him. It’s a good story, and I’m looking forward to playing with it again.

4. Ain’t I a Woman by Sojourner Truth. Here’s the first story of the group that I’ve not read at all, and I have to say that I’m a little embarrassed by that. (Though it’s entirely possible that I did read it in high school somewhere, the fact of the matter is that if I did, I have zero recollection of it.) I’ve been aware of the story for decades – if you ask me “who wrote “Ain’t I a Woman?” I could tell you that it was Sojourner Truth. I know who she was and what she did, but I’ve never read this piece. I’m looking for it to be another link in my literary armor; it hasn’t been read and taught this long for nothing.

5. Notes of a Native Speaker by Eric Liu. I read this for the first time last week, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. In this essay, Liu investigates the meaning of “whiteness,” and talks eloquently about the intersection between integration and culture. It’s a complex essay, and one that my students will likely have trouble working through, so I’m going to give it to them around week three or so and devote an entire class period to the discussion. I want them to do at least a little heavy academic lifting early in the semester, and this piece is a good place to start.

6. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. This is just an excerpt from the collection of the same name, but it’s a good one (if you’ve read the book, it’s the section where he goes to his first language class and the teacher insults the students as they try to tell what they love most in the world). In it, Sedaris talks about learning a new language with a teacher who clearly loves her work, insults notwithstanding, and about how the students struggle with knowing more than they can express (how many writers experience that feeling every day!). True to Sedaris form, it’s biting and hysterically funny and there are just enough words on the page.

7. Mother Tongue by Amy Tan. Here’s one I’m sure I’ve not read yet. In fact, I think it’s true that I’ve not read anything by Amy Tan, though I do have The Bonesetter’s Daughter in my bookshelves. I can guess what this short story is about, but it’d be better to tell you more after I’ve read the thing; I don’t like trying to make assertions about something with which I have no experience; I’m funny that way.

8. Shooting Elephants by George Orwell. I can’t say with any certainty that I’ve not read this yet; something tells me that I have because I can put my hands on about four different anthologies that have this story in them. That being said, I don’t recall the story if I have read it, so we’re back to the disclaimer from Sojourner Truth in #4. This reading is due for the class that’s subtitled “focusing and developing your theme; description.” I’ve got another piece for description that I want my students to read, too, that I’ll be adding to the syllabus, that being…

9. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I love this story on a number of levels, not the least of which being the way that O’Brien makes a deeply moving and wrenching story into something readable and comprehensible simply by how he chooses to describe things. He fleshes out the people in his story through the things that they felt valuable enough to carry around with them in the jungle during war, and the effect of that literary decision is fascinating to unravel.

10. Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr. This piece will come as the students are learning to formulate – and articulate – an argument. Not too long ago, someone – I believe it was Carson – turned me on to the Letter, and I’ve been marveling at it ever since (I think I’ve read it about a dozen times up to now). It’s angry in a measured, logical way. It very clearly lays out an argument, the counter points to that argument, and a resolution in the form of a call to action. It’s incredibly literate – King quotes philosophers and thinkers from memory (he really did write this from a jail cell, so he didn’t have access to reference materials). It’s a glorious piece, and I’m looking forward to diving into it again with a new group of students.

There are many, many more things on our reading list for the next 15 weeks. Perhaps I’ll make another list as the semester goes on. For now, though, I’ve got some prepping to do. Happy Tuesday, Everyone!


Filed under composition, great writing, Learning, Literature, reading, self-analysis, Teaching, ten things Tuesday, The Job, writing

Ten Things Tuesday

It seems that I’m not the only one disenchanted with students at TCC. My dear friend and colleague, Xena, has been less-than-pleased with the performance of some of her students this term, too.  She tends to handle this kind of thing with a wonderful sense of snarky humor, so here is Xena’s top ten list of answers to the question we all get this time of year:

“What can I do to pass this class?”

1. DANCE! Like you MEAN it!

2. Call upon Jesus and ask him to raise his blessed sandal and shove his holy foot up your ass.

3. Crisp 50-dollar bills attached to all of the work you owe me would help.

4. Tug on your earlobes, pull your head out of your ass, and do your damned homework!

5. Drop and give me twenty!

6. I’ll accept your sworn promise that you’ll never accept a job that requires that you have any kind of important responsibility whatsoever.

7. More homework, fewer drugs.

8. Learn to say these two phrases: “paper or plastic?” and “would you like fries with that?”

9. First, you can bow to my greatness…

10. There is nothing you can do. Prepare yourself for a life in retail.


Filed under ten things Tuesday

Ten Things Tuesday

I’ve been tagged! DrPrezz of  The Doc is In was the first to give me this one (there have been several others since – thanks, you guys!), and it fits nicely with my Ten Things Tuesday theme, so away we go!


1. I am a good teacher because… I truly, truly believe that I teach keys to the kingdom stuff. Everyone can benefit from having a strong, confident command of his or her language, and I give students the skills to get that. I care about what I teach, and I care about who I teach, and that’s a golden combination.

2. If I weren’t a teacher, I would be…dissatisfied with my professional life. It seems that almost everything I’ve ever done has morphed into some sort of teaching and I really do love the work that I do. If I couldn’t do it, though, I’d want to do something helpful – something where I believed that I could make people’s lives better.

3. My teaching style is…always evolving. A lot of how I structure a lesson has to do with what I’m teaching, who I’m teaching it to, what time of day the class is – there are a number of factors that play into how I do my job. I suppose, if I were to give myself a label, I’d say that I am most confident teaching in a lecture/discussion sort of setting. I love telling stories and helping students make connections between what I’m teaching and stuff they already know, and my favorite days are the ones where I actually SEE light bulbs turn on over my students’ heads.

4. My classroom is…only a fantasy in my dreams. As an adjunct professor in a tiny community college, I have neither an office nor a particular classroom; I go wherever I’m told to go and I schlep all my stuff with me. If I HAD my own office, though, it would be tidy, stuffed to the rafters with books, and would have at least three plaques on the wall – one that says “Teachers only open the door; you must walk through it yourself,” one that says “Earn it” and one that says “Your ignorance is their power.”

5. My lesson plans…are flexible. If I come in with a particular lesson in mind and another, applicable learning opportunity presents itself at the last minute, I’m willing to alter my course to pursue that other learning goal. I have lesson notes in a book that I go to to make sure that I’m covering the high points, but I’m excited when something organic comes up that we can explore as a class. I don’t like feeling tied to a plan all the time.

6. One of my teaching goals is…to make better use of activities in my classroom. Because I teach in a college environment, I think that the students have an expectation of boring lectures all the time. Because I’ve spent so much of my adult life as a college student, I’ve learned a lot about teaching through… wait for it… boring lectures! I’d like to figure out how to stretch my creativity (and my students’) to include more hands-on learning. Besides, getting my 8:40 a.m. classes out of their seats can only help…

7. The toughest part of teaching is…the kids I can’t reach. I KNOW I can’t reach all of them, but that doesn’t keep me from trying (or from being disappointed when I fail). I spent a lot of time and energy trying to impress on my students how much I care about them and their success, and it’s profoundly frustrating to watch them blow off assignments and fail in spectacular fashion because they don’t care.

8. The thing I love most about teaching is…working with the students. For all the kids who are a pain in my ass, I’ve got at least as many (usually more, thankfully) who are just wonderful. They stretch their thinking. They bring in great experiences and connections that I’ve never considered before. They write to me after they’ve graduated to ask me with help on their resumes. They tell me that they actually learned something from me. I live for that, and I’m lucky enough to have students who are willing to step up and show me who they really are.

9. A common misconception about teaching is…that anybody who knows a little bit about a subject can teach it. I HATE the saying that “those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” That’s crap, and it’s disrespectful to the people who give their hearts and souls to this profession. For most of us – not all, I’ll grant you, but most – this isn’t a job, it’s a calling. We’re driven to teach; we can’t not do it. It’s a lot of hard work, and it requires a lot more time than most people think. “Oh, sure, teachers,” they say, “you work from 7:30 to 2:30 only ten months a year.” Yeah? Spend a week with a teacher and see if you still think that way; there’s planning and thinking and grading, and my work at TCC has me teaching year-round.

10. The most important thing I’ve learned since I started teaching…is to COVER. MY. ASS. I document everything. I’ve learned that it’s a “he said/she said” world out there, and the only way that I can prove MY part in any exchange with a student is to document it. I save emails. I write notes to my students through the college’s portal so I know they receive them. If any kind of trouble starts brewing, or I think that something evil might come with a student, I will give my boss a LONG heads-up: I want transparency on my part so that, if something ugly does come of whatever it is I’m dealing with, it will come as no surprise to the people in charge who will be having to sort things out later.

This was a fun exercise. I don’t like tagging (though, strangely, I don’t mind being tagged), so please feel free to boost this for your own use if you choose.

Happy Tuesday, Everyone!


Filed under Teaching, ten things Tuesday