Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thanksgiving with Mom

We bought Mark's mom a new tv for Christmas. She is almost completely blind, but with the larger tv she was able to watch some home video of her parents' 25th wedding anniversary party.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Home, finally

I want to say just a few more things about the conference I attended, and particularly about the conference presentation.

Our presentation was a bit of a preview for an edited book that will (hopefully) be available in November of 2007. It's an edited book on secondary reading and writing, with chapters written by talented and wonderful people on interesting topics. Our presentation was part commercial for the upcoming book and part information on research on secondary reading and writing. My part was on research on secondary writing, and I had three sections:

1. What do we already know about instruction of writing in secondary schools?
2. How does the upcoming book add to that knowledge base?
3. What questions are we (really, just me) still asking?

I tried to make it both interesting to secondary teachers and useful, with a bit of humor thrown in. I DID make my opinion of five-paragraph essays and 6-Traits of Writing painfully clear. After the session, in our discussion time, there was a discussion among several teachers of how assessments in this country, from state assessments of writing to the SAT and ACT seem to push students into formulaic writing. It was a heated discussion among audience members at our session that I was happy to see.

I just wish I were more of an activist. So many teachers tell me that they just go in their classrooms, shut the door, and teach the best way they can. OR they do some kind of balancing act between teaching to the test and good instruction (I've been there myself, so I can really relate).

I want to see teachers banding together and arguing for quality instruction, for learning that indicates depth, and for encouraging the whole child, not just the child's ability to perform on standardized assessments.

Friday, November 17, 2006

What did you say?

English teachers are a funny bunch. There are thousands of them here, and they are all different. Different accents, clothing, body shapes, colors, hairstyles, etc. But they all have one thing in common: They like to talk.

I'm surrounded by English teachers, they all have something to say, and I can't get a word in edgewise. At dinner tonight, the cacophony of voices, all striving to be heard, echoed off the ceiling and smashed into my ears. This went on and on and on, and the whole time, I was leaning over the table, shouting "What? What did you say? I can't quite hear you" to the guy mumbling into his buffet plate beside me.

Fun times in conference land!

Ready to go Conference

Yes, I just verbed a noun. Too bad, Trout!

I have just returned from a walk around the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center. I like it much better from the outside, because there is actual air to breath. Liked it. That may just keep me from going insane here.

On the other hand, inside the massive Disney-like structure, they have ducks. Mallards or some such shit. How do those ducks live all inside?

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Here I am in Nashville, Tennessee, hanging out with 27,000 or so English teachers. That's either someone's worst nightmare or . . . someone's worst nightmare. I've already run into an old friend from grad school (hi Leslie!) and had a nice dinner of fish tacos (they weren't that great). Tomorrow is my presentation and a presentation by one of my former doc students (now graduated), along with a luncheon that features Sherman Alexie. Coolest!
A busy day tomorrow.

Only one little spot to mar my conference happiness. I'm supposed to be rooming with a former student who now teaches in Dubois. She hasn't shown up yet. I'm hoping she didn't bail . . .

We shall see what happens.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006


On occasion, I consider the possibility of going back to teaching full-time. I miss the kids, the focus; sometimes I even miss the colleagues I taught with over the years. I'd like to try out some of the ideas I've developed over the last few years about teaching and see how they work. I'd like to have that great feeling of helping kids develop reading and writing skills and stronger vocabulary, and responding positively to great literature. I miss those things.

Then happens a day like today, when I'm suffering from a bad cold. I can decide to work at home pretty easily, can get almost as much done at home as I could at work (because I don't teach on Mondays) AND I don't have to prepare any sub plans or feel guilty about not going to work.

Flexibility is a good thing.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What's Up?

Several colleagues have asked me recently what's going on with my adventures in geology. Apparently, I haven't been talking about it much. I guess that's because I've realized, in spite of my lack of background in the science, that there's a reason it's a 1000-level class. It's easy. Go to lecture, take notes, go to lab, take a quiz, take a test every now and then . . . I'm learning a lot, don't get me wrong, but this class is just dead easy.

Perhaps things will be different in the spring when I take chemistry. But it also is a 1000-level class, so I'm not sure.

In the meantime, last week was advising week. Advising week is hell, aside from the entertaining moment when one of my advisees described her major (majors changed to protect the innocent):

"Well, I'm a science education major, with a minor in German. And I'm thinking of getting a double major in engineering."

Focus, grasshopper. Focus.