Monthly Archives: December 2007

Happy New Year!

images.jpgI’m spending this last day of ’07 cleaning out my desk. I’ve recycled old teaching contracts, I’ve reorganized short stories, and I’ve filed away old grade reports. I’m planning on spending a little time this afternoon with the new texts for my classes and thinking about what I’m going to focus on when the courses start again on the 7th.

My professional resolutions for 2008 are pretty simple; I want to continue to learn and to think and to challenge myself. To that end, I applied for – and was accepted to – a summer fellowship at NOT Local State College. The program focuses on teaching the Holocaust and even though I don’t have any classes in which I can concentrate on that subject, I do manage to work it into every course I do teach. I’m very much looking forward to the work – the reading, the studying, the discussion – and am hoping that the experience helps me to become a better teacher… and a better human being.

I’m also hoping to get in on as many workshops, symposiums, conferences, and professional development classes as I can manage. Part of my motivation for this is to keep my teaching certification current (it comes due for renewal in 2009 and, even though I’m not actually using it as an adjunct at TCC, I still want to have it ready should I decide to take the (suicidal?) plunge into public education). I’m also getting that student itch again – I’m pretty convinced that I could be a professional student if given half a chance (and, you know, half a zillion dollars). It’s been almost two years since I graduated, and I’m feeling the need to start studying again.

Finally, I want to put all my materials on my computer.  I’ve got so many steno notebooks kicking around with bits and pieces of my courses in them, and I’m hoping to take a cue from O’Mama and put all of it in files on my computer so that I can just print out a lesson or a unit and go.  I also really like the idea of being able to modify, change, or improve upon a lesson once it’s in the computer without having to make notes or add stickies to the notebook.  I’m hoping that putting stuff in the computer will make it not only more accessible, but also more user-friendly and comprehensible.

I wish all of you a very happy and healthy 2008! See you in January!


Filed under about writing, concerns, frustrations, Learning, out in the real world, self-analysis, Teaching, writing

Checking In

Hi, Everyone!

I’m sorry I missed Grammar Wednesday yesterday; the combination of break, the holidays, and my family all being home has conspired to throw me off my game a little (but in a good way). I’ll pick it back up next week, I promise.

I’ve been thinking about my upcoming classes and about how I’m going to run my hybrid composition course this term. I’ve had hybrid classes before, but I don’t like teaching them; the online component, I think, is never what I want it to be and I’m trying to figure a way to change that. I want the students to have to actually, you know, work, but I don’t feel I’ve got much of a command of the resources available to me on the internet to make proper use of them. This is what’s been occupying my mind lately; trying to come up with ways to use the incredible amount of material and content available on the internet to make my composition class rich, challenging, and interesting.

Any suggestions?

I hope you’re all having a lovely midwinter. I’ll be writing here more regularly now; do keep coming back.


Filed under Uncategorized

Rallying the Troops

My dear teacher-friends, we have a newbie in need! Grab your rulers and rubrics and your favorite texts and gather ’round!


Derek, over at EatsBugs, had a conversation not too long ago with his principal. It turns out that his principal sent the clear message that Derek needs to work on his classroom management skills if he wants to keep his job next year.

While he is understandably shaken by this conversation – NONE of us likes to have our shortcomings pointed out like that – he’s taking it in precisely the right way; he’s using the suggestions as a launching point for making his teaching practice better. He’s not downhearted or depressed or defeated, he’s inspired – he motivated, he’s challenged, he’s stoked, and he wants our help.

I am honored to have you all as part of my community. Among my readers I have a wide and impressive collection of experience – from early childhood educators up through the University level – and in about every concentration I can think of. I have readers who don’t earn their living as teachers, but who are teachers nonetheless. You are all smart and kind and knowledgeable and generous, and I am proud that Derek asked “*chilibringfriends*” That’s you guys. Will you help?

Go on over here and chime in. What do YOU do as part of that amorphous, undefinable skill we teachers call “classroom management”? What challenges do you find yourself facing? What have you got totally knocked? What advice or suggestions would you offer my friend who wants to be the best teacher he can be?

poster credit


Filed under admiration, Blogroll, colleagues, concerns, crossover, frustrations, Learning, Questions, Teaching, the good ones

Santa Hates Bad Grammar, Too

Since I’m running low on school-related material – we’re on inter-term break until the second week of January – I offer this as a Grammar Wednesday piece. A very dear friend sent me an email titled “If Santa Answered His Mail Honestly,” and this was the very first entry:

Dear Santa: I wud like a kool toy space ranjur fer Xmas. Iv ben a gud boy all yeer.
Yer Frend, BiLLy

Dear Billy,

Nice spelling. You’re on your way to a career in lawn care.
How about I send you a frigging book called a dictionary so you can learn to read and write? I’m giving your older brother the space ranger. At least HE can spell!



Happy Holidays, Everyone!


Filed under funniness, Grammar

Proof That I’m Not Just Kidding Myself

Yesterday, during our last class, I asked my literature students if they’d be so kind as to write me a letter giving me some feedback about their experiences in my classroom. I wanted a critique: what worked, what didn’t, what would they suggest I do differently for next term and what would they advise me to keep the same.

I got this letter from one of my A students. While I expected her to be positive about the class – she’d told me many times that it was her favorite this term – I wasn’t prepared for her to tell me that she came away from my class with EXACTLY what I was aiming for my students to know. When she talks about seeing connections to literature in her everyday life, I do a little fist-pump. THAT’S what lit. classes are for, in my opinion; plot and setting an characterization are just mechanics – it’s the theme and the experience of the stories that really matter.

I’m crowing a little by posting this, I know, but it’s so easy to gripe about lousy grammar and apathetic students that I feel compelled to put something positive up every once in a while. Indulge me, please.

Hi Chili,

To start off this letter discussing my experience with Literature class, I’d like to say that I absolutely loved the class. It was easily my favorite of the semester, and the one I was always most excited to go to. I’ve always been one to prefer just reading and enjoying something to sitting down and analyzing it, but I’m not quite so against it anymore. I loved picking apart books and characters and motivations with you and the rest of the class.

I think you made the right decision by skipping over the monotonous and overdone discussion of plot, characters, setting, etc. In discussing the themes, I think we cover all of those things anyway, just not in a direct approach kind of way. I realize we had a really good dynamic within the class, and (just about) everyone was right there for most of it, so we didn’t really need any of that. It’s also possible you might have a class at some point that needs it, but for us, skipping it was a good call.

I absolutely agree with you on the subject of ‘kid movies’ and ‘pop culture’. The fact that you brought both of these into play like you did made the class much more approachable for a college student-and let’s face it, for anyone without a Lit degree. I loved watching The Lion King and picking out pieces that were so similar to Hamlet, and I loved watching The Muppets’ Christmas Carol and seeing how true to Dickens they remained. I think because you were so open to pop culture, the things I learned in your class are going to stick with me for longer than other classes. For example, even just last night I was drawing a connection between A Christmas Carol and Home Alone. A bit of a stretch, perhaps, but there were a few things that were similar. And I love that I can do that now. That I’m that much more perceptive to similarities in themes, and choices made in movie adaptations. I love that you taught me to do that.

All in all, your class was an absolutely fantastic experience for me, and because of that I’m not sure I’d really change anything. You picked great novels and stories for us to read, and the movies you showed us were just right too. I loved the class discussions, and I liked that you had us write reactions right away to a lot of things-that you gave us that time to just gather our thoughts. I’d love to give you some suggestions for future classes, but I can’t think of any. Again, our class dynamic is definitely part of what made the class so special for me, and I think any changes you’d have to make would be based on the differences in classes.

I’m definitely going to miss coming to class twice a week and indulging in all that thinking, and it’s inspired me to really jump headfirst into reading like I used to. (I’ve read at least eight books since Thanksgiving, and it’s been a really long time since I’ve read like that.)

So, in closing, I guess I just want to say thank you. For making your class such a comfortable environment, for really encouraging all of us to get creative with literature, for opening me up to a kind of analyzing I’ve always shied away from, introducing me to the -real- versions of some stories, and just for you being you. Your class was the highlight of the semester, so…keep it up.

Merry Christmas, Chili. I hope you have a most excellent break.

It’ll be a better break for her having sent this letter, that’s for sure!


Filed under Literature, out in the real world, self-analysis, success!, the good ones, writing


Another semester is in the books. I taught my last class of the term this afternoon then went home and submitted final grades to the registrar.

All in all, it went exceedingly well. Of my 13 composition students, only 2 failed. Neither of them failed because of any lack of comprehension or skill, really; they failed because they didn’t adequately demonstrate that they had the comprehension and skill and, as all teachers know, knowing something isn’t enough; you’ve gotta show us you know it. These students didn’t do that; they were content to rack up zeros all through the semester and that torpedoed their final grades. I took them both aside and told them as much, and they both copped to having been lazy this term. Hopefully, they’ve learned a lesson they’ll not have to repeat.

My lit. students didn’t fare quite so well. Nearly half of those students failed; three out of eight. I had two A grades, one C-, two Ds (and one of them was a gift) and four Fs. Of the three, two of them just never came to class and one of them never turned in any work – including the mid-term exam. That girl was a favorite of mine in class, however; she is an energetic thinker who contributed some of the most exciting comments to our discussions. I took her aside and told her how much it killed me to have to record her failing grade. She’s better than this, I told her, and I KNOW that – and she does, too. She admitted to having a lot of distractions in her life this term and I suggested that she try with me again in January. We went to the registrar’s office and signed her up for next term’s lit. class and I’m really hoping she’ll keep up.

It really was a great semester. With one or two exceptions, all of my students were cooperative and enthusiastic, they worked to their potential, and most of them showed some appreciable improvement. Really, what else can I ask for?

I’m done for about three weeks. I intend to take some of that time for housekeeping and holiday preparation, I’ve already set aside some for connecting with friends, and I’m hoping to sneak in a couple of “do nothing” days for myself. I’ll certainly do some planning for next term, too; I want to review some new material for my lit class (I’ll have at least the one returning student) and I’m teaching a hybrid composition course that I’d like to have mostly mapped out before I get to the first class. I’m never confident about teaching hybrids – the online portion of it always makes me uncomfortable – so I’ll take any advice or suggestions any of you have to give.


Filed under self-analysis, success!, Teaching, the good ones, Yikes!

Grammar Wednesday

I’m sorry, Everyone – I’m uninspired today.

A literature student sent me this email this morning:

 I heard this on the radio and thought of you.  The word of the year for 2007 is…..  this.  Go look at this, what has the world come too???

If you go to the site, you’ll see the top ten words of the year, according to Merriam-Webster.   I’ve used half of them – can you guess which?

Happy Wednesday!


Filed under Uncategorized