Monthly Archives: December 2006

Adventures in Engrish

I thought we could use a little chuckle today…

About five years ago, MeadMaker gave me a toy for Christmas, which I found again while unpacking things we’d stored in the basement while we had our addtition built. Anyway, he didn’t give me the toy for the toy, so much as he gave me the toy for the instructions that came with it. Seriously, the instructions alone are worth whatever he paid for the thing. Here, transcribed exactly, is the insert that came with the toy:

Roller Ball (Operating Instruction)

Roller Ball can increase your wrist strength by playing for fun purpose. It is popular amusing exercise equipment. For the user in the beginning, practice it at different high speed revolving. After you are skillful, you might grasp the secret to let the ball send out the sound of Bon…At that time, the speed will reach to the speed of 8 cycles per second. You may have a new experience about Roller Ball.

*Cautions for use.

1. Be sure that don’t touch to the ball body when it is at high-speed revolving.

2. Keep clean inside of ball and avoid any minor articles.

3. Keep away from moist and watered places.

4. As it is precisely produced, never fall on hard surface.

Isn’t that just GREAT!? I do have to say that I’m impressed with the proper placement of commas, though I wonder what the “sound of Bon” is, and why it’s something to strive for….


Filed under little bits of nothingness

Last Day

Today is the last meeting of my Public Speaking class.

I’ve lost two students from the class in the last week. One student really should have been dropped from the course; if he showed up, he sat in the back, contributed nothing to the class and never turned in any of the work. I was a little surprised at this, I have to say, because my class was his second crack at a passing p/s grade – he’d failed the course when it was offered over the summer.

The other student who was dropped is a different story, though I’m not 100% sure of what, exactly, his story is. Unlike my other boy, when he was in the class, he was in the class, but he was absent a lot. I don’t know whether his absences were for health reasons, but I do know that, early in the semester, his grandmother suffered a massive stroke and he went home to Michigan to be with his family. He was gone for a couple of weeks, and I’m not sure he felt as though he could recover from that extended leave, even though I assured him that I’d grant him an extension for the course. I’m a little sad to see him go, but I’m absolutely behind cutting the first boy loose.

Today’s class will be the presentation of the students’ final speeches. My group is down to ten (eleven, really, but one girl is pregnant and on bed rest and likely won’t show up today). If I’m doing the math correctly (and, really, that’s never a safe assumption), it should take us about an hour to get through everyone’s speeches. I’ve invited some smart people to come and see the students’ speeches and I wrote a rubric for them the uses as they watch the kids speak. I’m looking forward to seeing how closely my evaluations of the students’ work match with the impartial outsiders’ observations.

I’m hoping for, but not expecting, a pile of papers to bring home this afternoon. I caved a bit and allowed a couple of the students to hand in some of their work today because I really want them to pass the course. I’m hoping they see the opportunity for what it is and take advantage of it, because that door slams shut at 1:00 p.m. today.

I’ve had a great term. It’s been quite a ride, and I’m going to miss some of these kids. I wonder how many of them feel the same….


Filed under little bits of nothingness, Teaching

Same Question, Different Forum

A while ago, I started a conversation in the “old room” about what I’m going to have my composition students read next term. I’m determined that they’re going to read – a lot – and I’m looking for suggestions from you, Loyal Readers, about what I should send their way.

My main motivation for asking you this is purely selfish. I’ve got PLENTY of reading material I could give my students – I’ve bookshelves full of anthologies and short story collections and poetry – but I want to do something different. I want to read stuff I’ve never read before; I want to learn something new.

Now, I’m not even going to PRETEND that I’ve read everything in the books on my shelves; if I could live to 125 and devote the rest of that life to reading, I’m not sure I’d get to everything in my bookshelves. What I AM saying is that I, like most humans, am a creature of habit. I go back to the comfortable and familiar. If left to my own devices, I’d give them the stuff *I* know and love – Hawthorne, Frost, Rilke, Shelley (Frankenstein is my ALL time favorite) and the like. By asking you to make suggestions, I get to share in your reading experience and expand my own horizons. Bringing new material into the classroom also affords me one of my favorite teaching techniques. I love to teach by modeling.

I think that a lot of students come to the classroom under the assumption – conscious or otherwise – that the teacher knows everything. I find that some of my best teaching has come when I’ve been exploring the material right along with my students. Admitting to them that I have no experience with the text we’re working with, and then showing them how I approach new learning experiences and working with them to come to some sort of understanding about it gives them insight into how teachers learn. We may have control of the chalkboard and we may have fancy-sounding degrees, but we teachers are always still learning. Showing students how scholars learn, rather than standing at the front of the class and lecturing about a topic is, perhaps, one of the most important lessons we can teach.

So! I’m opening this question back up in THIS space. I’m looking for suggestions for short pieces that I can give to my composition students starting in January. No novels, please, but short stories, articles, blog entries, poetry, essays, op-ed pieces, songs, news stories – pretty much anything that tops out under four pages is game. What have you read that’s impressed, challenged or changed you? Where have you encountered a turn of phrase so perfect as to be sublime? What’s made you laugh, infuriated you, or brought you to tears? What do you think writing students should read?

(I also want suggestions for audio/visual materials. Art. Movie clips. NPR stories (StoryCorps or This I Believe. I did my Master’s thesis on using film in the classroom and recognize the power that audio/visual media has in inspiring writing, so I’m not limiting my students’ experiences to the written word. I’m taking any and all suggestions, so let ‘er rip!)


Filed under Learning, Questions, Teaching

This is a Test…

I’ve found me a nice gentleman over at WordPress support who has absolutely NO idea what he’s gotten himself into by being kind to me as I fumble my way around this new blogging adventure.

I sent an email to support because my blogroll mysteriously disappeared, and I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out what I’d done to make it go away. After I sent the email, I was poking around and tried something that looked like it might solve my problem, and it did – my blogroll is back! Well, Mark from tech support actually returned my email, saying that he’d checked out my blogs and saw that I was back up with the blogroll. I replied and told him that yes, I’d managed to figure that bit out, but I had a bunch of questions and would he mind being my own personal tech support guy (thereby relieving my husband of some of the pressure of a techno-dummy wife)? Mark said yes, and I sent him a boatload of questions.

I told you that story so I could write a post to see if I can follow Good Mark’s guidance and actually work out underlining book titles in my blog (I should note here that Feather told me first how to do it, but I didn’t understand exactly what she was getting at..). Here goes…ready?

<u>The Scarlet Letter</u>


<u>The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank</u>

Now I’m off to hit “publish” and see if it works!!

**updated** WELL! We can all see how well THAT worked! Seriously – if you’re going to be giving Mrs. Chili computing instructions, you need to talk to her as if she were six years old.

I am pathetic…


Filed under Learning, little bits of nothingness, Questions

I Caved…

While I really, really love the Calvin and Hobbes that I had as my banner, I’d heard enough things from enough people to convince me that I wasn’t really following the rules by having it there.  I’m sad to have taken it down, but I couldn’t figure out a way to have it there legally, so off it goes.

The new banner is a sampling of my bookshelves.  I’ll keep thinking about what to put there long-term (and I’ll take suggestions) but, for now, the bookshelves seemed a theme-appropriate choice.  I really love that I can change the look of the blog whenever I feel like it, and have a feeling that you won’t see the same banner for more than a month or so…

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Filed under little bits of nothingness

Excuse me, Mrs. Chili?

Your geeky is showing…

books.JPGI went to visit my mom yesterday. I was so grateful to have the opportunity to sit with her for a while; she has a particular talent for helping me work troublesome things out and for forcing me, in that loving but oh-so-insistent way she way she has, to clarify my thinking. It was a good visit.

Before I left, she sat me down and asked me how important history is to me. Most of you know – some of you do not – that I was taken in by this woman I call Mom when I was a teenager fleeing an emotionally abusive home. Because of that, I sometimes feel that I have no legitimate claim to a history. She had something she wanted to give me, and she wanted to tell me how to came to her and what kind of path it had traced through my adopted family to come to me. I was all ears.

When she was a little girl, her father would take her to flea markets on Saturdays. It turns out that one of the flea market vendors had a staggering collection of books – thousands of them – and when this man decided to retire from the flea market business, Mom’s dad bought all the books from him (she said that her father’s motivation for the purchase was that he was sure someone had stashed cash within some pages somewhere, but she loved sneaking away old volumes just for the reading of them). When her father died, she inherited the books, and she recently selected a few to pass on to me.

She’s given me five books; a copy of American Prose (I’d underline the book titles like I’m supposed to, but I can’t figure out how to do that. Sorry) which was published in 1880 and has a GORGEOUS quote that expresses exactly why I love Nathaniel Hawthorne so much – I’ll get to that in a minute; Victorian Literature by Clement K Shorter (author of “Charlotte Bronte and her Circle”) published in 1897; English Literature by Alphonso Gerald Newcomer (Associate Professor of English in the Leland Stanford Junior University), published in 1905; History of English Literature by H. A. Taine (translated from the French by H. Van Laun), published in 1879; and the piece de la resistance, the prize of the exhibit, is Lessons in English: A Practical Course of Language Lessons and Elementary Grammar by Albert N. Raub, A.M., Ph.D., published in 1880.

I am SO excited to have these books.

Part of my thrill at having them is that they’re so stinking old. While I don’t often value things simply because of their age, I think books are one of the things that I’m willing to reserve a little age-related reverence for. Feather, over at Tatterdemallion, is thinking about how important it is to have a sense of history when one is studying literature (my mom, I think, would heartily agree with that, and would likely expand the direct object of “studying” to include pretty much anything. It’s all about context). I’m looking forward to spending time with these books to see what pieces were included in them, and to try to get an understanding of why the editors thought these were the important works of writing at the time. The books feel, to me, like little windows into the past. They hold clues about what scholars in my field valued 100-some-odd years ago, and that sense of history and connection is exciting to me as a teacher and as a student.

I’m LOVING the English textbook. Seriously – I’m going to photocopy some of the lessons and pass them on to my own students (and give copies to Organic Mama, who’s teaching grammar classes next term). It’s a hoot and a half. It demonstrates how to graph sentences. It defines the different tenses of verbs with examples like (I kid you not); I might see, Thou mightst have seen, He might see. It’s GORGEOUS.

I flipped open the American Prose book to see what they had to say about Hawthorne a mere 16 years after his death. Remember that bit I gave you about my favorite quote from old Nate and why I love him so much? Well, here’s what I found in the book Mom gave me:

He (Hawthorne) had a strong taste for New England history, and he found in the scenes and characters of that history favorable material for the representation of spiritual conflict. He was himself the most New English of New Englanders, and held an extraordinary sympathy with the very soil of his section of the country….One is astonished at the ease with which he seized upon characteristic features, and reproduced them in a word or phrase. Merely careful and diligent research would never be adequate to give the life-likeness of the images…

Yes, indeed.



Filed under Uncategorized

Coming AND Going

Every time I finish teaching a course – whether it’s been work for my internship, an enrichment class for elementary school kids, a volunteer stint at a summer camp, an adult ed. class or any of the courses I’ve taught for TCC – I always come away with a sort of double-edged sense of well being.  Not only have I taught something, but I’ve learned something, too.

One of my cats decided that 5:30 was a good time to wake up this morning and, not being able to get back to sleep, I had a little bit of pre-dawn quiet in which to contemplate my recent history.  I started out by thinking about the fact that my public speaking class has only one more meeting before we bid each other adieu, and I really hope that they learned half as much from me as I learned from them.

They taught me a lot about teaching adults (well, SOME of them did.  The others were really just high school students in older packages).  I learned that it’s important to make accommodations for students who don’t just ask for them, but who demonstrate that they are determined to succeed and can do so if given half a chance – and, usually, it’s only half a chance they’re asking for.

I learned that it’s important to have a work policy that’s extremely well thought out and articulated, or students – not all of them, certainly, but some – will find loopholes and try to manipulate the system.

I learned that I can’t reach every student.  I have one in this class that I lost toward the end, though I could be argued that I never really had him to begin with.  While I’m disappointed at his failure, I recognize it as his failure.  I can try, but I can’t save them all.

I learned that my love for this work really makes a difference to some of my students.  I’ve had a couple of them come to me to say that they want to do well for me because they can tell I care so much.  I can’t begin to tell you how gratifying that is.

I learned a lot about teaching this particular subject, too; I have a folder full of materials that I can use when I teach another section of public speaking.  I learned a lot of important things from my guest speakers.  I learned how important it is to plan out to the end a course so I don’t miss teaching something important.  I learned a little bit more about how to manage a half live, half online course.

All of these are secondary to the larger lessons, though, and the confirmation that I love this work.


Filed under Learning, Teaching