Friday, November 30, 2007

Meangrump Jerkypants

That's right. That's me. Or at least, that's my Grinch Name.

And oh how I am feeling like Meangrump Jerkypants Bitchswamp Alligatorgirl.

Seriously. I am a bit hungover from drinking margaritas last night (only 3! so how can I feel so crappy? except that it WAS tequila, and lord knows tequila doesn't like me very much), so perhaps that has something to do with it.

But also I'm raging over some of my students not following directions on their assignments.

Read the syllabus, darlings. Really. When I say that you should turn in a draft, all previous notes and drafts, and a LETTER OF REFLECTION ABOUT YOUR PROCESS, I seriously mean it. I do want you to write a letter of reflection. And I want you to print it out. And I want you to turn it in. Really.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Finally home, after . . .
  • teaching two classes today (with a couple of seriously annoying students who apparently didn't want to take advantage of the time I gave them in class to work on HUGE projects)
  • several phone and in-person meetings
  • grading like a demon to get ahead for next week, when I'll be looking at an immense stack of unit designs to grade
  • meeting a friend (and then several other friends) for margaritas and Mexican food
  • watching our womens' basketball team win over a team that beat us twice last season

I realized at the game that I hadn't posted, and since I'm so close to being finished with NaBloPoMo, I couldn't let that happen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Math Issues

OK, so the homework problem for the last couple of weeks in my geology class (that's a sophomore-level course I'm taking FOR THE FUN OF IT!) has involved calculating the diameter of the asteroid that probably hit the earth at the boundary of the Cretaceous/Tertiary periods (called the K-T boundary) based on the amount of iridium in the K-T boundary layer, the density of the iridium, etc. Lots of dimensional analysis, really. I've been fretting over it, but finally sat down today with a "more knowledgeable other" who helped me figure out how to get there from here.

It is a lovely feeling to be learning something new.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Heart Methods

As the fall semester is winding to a close now, I've been giving some thought to how I will teach my classes differently next fall. The bulk of my teaching occurs in the fall, when I teach my two methods courses; I do teach at least one course in the spring as well, and I supervise student teachers, but my two methods courses are the centers of my heart, so to speak.

To imitate my students, "I heart methods."

One of the teaching techniques that has been working well for me the last two years has been in my junior-level methods class, which focuses on teaching writing. This class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Tuesdays, we do the normal college class thing -- read chapters and articles, discuss them, do assignments, etc. On Thursdays, however, we workshop. Students are assigned to write three pieces through the course of the semester: a book review, a memoir, and a set of three poems. We spend Thursdays writing, peer and teacher conferencing, reading our works aloud, and doing mini-lessons. I've been quite happy with the way this has worked, so -- except for a little tweaking -- I'll be leaving that one alone.

My senior level class, however, is a different story. This class focuses on teaching literature, and I have yet to find a textbook that I like for the course. I've been fairly unsatisfied with this semester's textbook, as have my students, and so I've decided to imitate my success with the junior class and to create a literature workshop that will be engaging and will provide a model of the kind of teaching they could put into practice.

I haven't thought it through carefully, yet, but here are some initial thoughts about how the workshop might look for that senior class:
  • I will choose a type of literature and focus on that during the semester. I've been thinking about environmental literature or perhaps magical realism.
  • We'll read at least one novel and supplement that with other texts, such as young adult literature, poetry, art, etc.
  • We'll use some online functionality, though I'm not sure yet exactly what. It will probably involve our course wiki, at the least. Perhaps a webquest? I'm not sure.

And that's all I've got! One thing is certain, and that is that providing structure and a format for some kind of reflection piece on how this might translate into teaching junior high or high school English will be important. I've learned that from my experience with the junior class.

If any of the internets have suggestions for literature/approaches/assignments that would fit into these quite broad genres, I would be happy to hear them!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Whirlwind and Thankfulness

Today was a bit of a whirlwind. First day back to work after a long Thanksgiving that involved lots of driving, a prospectus defense that was a bit shaky, my last geology lab of the semester, and ... that's it.

But since the Thanksgiving season has come and gone, I thought this might be a good time to make a list of what I'm thankful for (some serious, some not so).

* The way my fabulous partner in life, Footslogger, seems to know when I'm not up to planning and cooking. He takes over and I love it! Tonight he texted me this message: "Thinking tomato soup and crackers for dinner. That ok?" Are ya kidding? Anything I don't have to mess with after a day like today is PERFECT!

* The soothing effect of repetition. As in movies, books, music, etc. -- I love the way I can forget all of my troubles by reading/watching something over and over again.

* Television shows that are entertaining and teach me something (or at least that's the way I frame it!). My examples: Project Runway, Top Chef.

* My cat Loner's habits: jumping up on my chair when it gets close to dinnertime, sneaking on my bed AFTER I'm asleep,

* My department and our ability to work together. It's cool to not have to vote anyone off the island!

* That all of my outside reviewer letters have come in in a timely fashion.

There's more, but I must save something for tomorrow's post, ala NaBloPoMo.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Random Thoughts

Footslogger went to bed early. We're both exhausted from our driving, but I wanted to stay up for a while and finish re-reading Harry Potter #7. I've recently discovered, and I've requested a copy of Harry Potter #3, which should be here soon. I don't know why I'm compelled to re-read those books, but I seem to be.

There is some possibility that my spring course won't make, which would be a blessing, really. I suppose I would have to do an independent study or something with the few students who are signed up for it, though I don't really want to.

I'm definitely planning on teaching an online version of the young adult lit course next summer, which is going to involve a good bit of work to get it ready.

My two cats suddenly decided -- at the same time -- that it was bath time.

And I'm ready for bed myself.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

On the Road Again

Another day of driving, followed by a fantastic steak dinner and two beautiful Hefeweizens. We'll be back in High Plains City tomorrow, in time to do laundry and get ready for work on Monday.

More later!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Turkey Day (The Day After)

We're in Really Cold Northern City for Thanksgiving, visiting family members that we don't usually get to see. So that's cool. But damn is it cold. CCCccccCCCCCcccccold.

Driving up here was actually kind of fun -- lots of beautiful landscapes. We actually saw 4 bald eagles. You heard me: Four. Bald. Eagles.

And also, several elk, lots of deer and antelope, and a wolf.

All of that, from the interstate. Not bad, I'd say.

Tomorrow morning we head back home again. We're hoping to make the trip in one day, but we're prepared in case we need to spend a night in some ice-bound town along the way.

Hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving. Ours was quite fabulous, with this really yummy rice stuffing, the recipe for which I will be begging soon.

That last sentence didn't quite make sense, but anyway.

We also had an enjoyable game of Scrabble. Which we lost.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I was wondering if I would EVER get tagged by this 7 things meme that's going around (sounds like a disease, doesn't it?). Maybaby tagged me for it, leaving me with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Or maybe that's just the cat snuggled against my ankles? Anyhoo . . .

Here's how it goes. I link back to her site (check) and then explain the rules and then follow them. (check, check). [By the way, on those "checks" think Sandra Bullock in Hope Floats.]

Rules: List seven weird or random things about yourself, then tag 7 random people from NaBloPoMo.

Seven Weird/Random Things About Dr. Bad Ass:

[Note: I've decided to go thematic on this one, and make them all about my obsession, namely, reading. ]
* As a teenager, I worked in the library for one class period in my junior high school (that right there shows you that I have never, ever been cool). My friend Suzie (no, not the one I went hiking with a few summers ago) and I decided to have a competition to see who could read all of the fiction in the library first. You heard me, all of it. I started at the A's; she started at the Z's. I got about to the N's by the end of the school year.
* Whenever I get depressed, I read Watership Down by Richard Adams. Something about those bunnies just soothes me.
* I taught myself how to read from a phonics book for teachers. That must have been some kind of indicator of my future path (not).
* My mom knew, when I was in junior high and high school, that if she couldn't find the salt shaker, she could find it in my bedroom. Why? Because every time I sat down to read (which was OFTEN) I wanted to have half a lemon and some salt to eat.
* Last summer I read Pride and Prejudice about 10 times.
* I get stuck in bookstores and libraries because I'm afraid to give new authors (i.e., authors I haven't read yet) a chance. I can only take on a new author when I have NO CHOICE. Like last year when I was on a dive cruise, and I had read all of the books I had with me. The good news is that I discovered a couple of authors that I adore on that trip -- particularly Charles Todd.
* I have books started in every room of the house, including the bathroom.

OK, I tag the following:
Motherwise Cracks, Megan, My Chihuahua Bites, HR Wench, Affectioknit, Outposts in My Head, and Jess.

Changes, ChChChChChanges

As I was running around this morning, doing pre-Thanksgiving errands, I realized that part of my malaise (see yesterday's post) could be due to changes taking place in my office hallway. My office is on the south side of an east-west hallway in a fairly small building. All of my colleagues on the north side of the hallway (members of two different departments) have been moved over to another building, where the top floor has been renovated for them. I'm happy for them that they've got snazzy new office spaces. Really! I like my office and I certainly don't want to have to box up all of my mountains of books and move again. Even with the shabby orange carpet, it's a great office.

Change is not hard for me to accept, when I make the choice to change. But not having all of my buds on my floor was definiitely not my choice. And now it looks like some other folks will be moving in. They're nice and all, I like those people even, but I want my old world back.

OK, enough whining. I know that everything will be fine, eventually. I'll just have to deal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cranky Girl

I've been struggling all day with an odd malaise. Not just today, really, but the last couple of days. Sadness, crankiness, anxiety. Stemming perhaps from the t&p process? exhaustion from the conference? End-of-semester grading woes? I'm not sure. But it is definitely making me not so much fun to be with.

So what to do with myself? Tomorrow should help, as I don't need to go to the office, I can get in a good workout, and I'll have time to do all of the chores I need to finish before heading out for our Thanksgiving trip (weather permitting).

So here's to a couple of glasses of wine tonight, a good night's sleep, and a better day tomorrow.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Exam III

So today I took exam #3 in Fundamentals of Geology (affectionately known as FOG). I studied a bit on the plane yesterday, but when I got home I was too wrung out to study. I was actually too tired to sleep, if that makes any sense. So I went to bed fairly early, lay there for a while and finally fell asleep. This morning I got to work early and sat in the Union to study (along with a toasted sesame bagel-- yum!) for a couple of hours. Then an hour of class, and then the exam. It was actually easier than I had anticipated, except for one problem. I didn't understand the problem really, so I did about half of it and left the other half blank.

Tonight we're having some leftover barbequed chicken in chicken tacos, which will also be yummy and go a long way toward making up for the meeting and class and exam packed day. Perhaps by tomorrow I will have caught up on my sleep and be ready for our Thanksgiving trip.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Big City Conference

In order to share cab expense, and because I’m really ready to head for home, I got up early and rode to the airport with Lovely Marathoner. I had no idea that there was an earlier flight to Large Western City, but there was and I’m waitlisted on it. The guy at the ticket desk seemed quite confident that I would be on that flight. If he’s right, it will be one of the few bits of good news from the travel fairies on this trip.

I didn’t do all of the cool things that I should have done on my trip to The Big City, but I did eat in some lovely restaurants (and once for free at a seriously 4-star place, on a publisher’s tab). I did a bit of walking around downtown, which was entertaining, but also quite chilly.

All in all, I understand more deeply now that I am well and truly spoiled by High Plains City. I am not made for The Big City, though it has been entertaining to visit. I’m amazed that anyone could afford to live here, but maybe for those who love it, the expense is worth it.

I’ve about decided that I won’t be attending this conference next year, and will be instead attending a different conference during the same season that is attended by most of my friends from graduate school. My thinking on which conference is somewhat related to my desire to be reconnected with my grad school buds, but also because of my frustration with a sub-group of this organization and its cliquish, closed-off nature. I have tried to get involved in this sub-group for the last 5 years, all to no avail. It seems like some kind of high school group (the prom queens, maybe? the field hockey team?). Outsiders of any stripe need not apply. Is this a purposeful exclusion? Possibly, says my cynical side. The popular kids recognize each other and keep out the riff-raff. On the other hand, maybe the popular kids just don’t see that there is an inside and an outside.

I did submit a bid for nomination for myself for office in this organization. IF I get nominated and IF I get elected to office, I plan to try to do something about it. If not, forget it. I’ll just move in rather than continue to try and bash my head against this brick wall.

Update: I'm at home now, for which I say "Hallelujah!" I was able to stand by on both flights, and even my luggage came with me.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday in The Big City

Our presentation this morning went extremely well, with a fairly large group in attendance and some thoughtful discussion afterward. I hope they all went and bought a copy of the book!

Earlier this morning, I met with an acquisitions editor for a fairly large press and got pressured (very soft pressure, it was, though) to submit a book proposal for a series of books aimed at practitioners. I have a great idea of what I might do, so I think I just might write up a proposal when I get home. It would actually be great preparation for my sabbatical, which I hope to take within the next few years (assuming all goes well with the T&P gods).

Now I'm off with my grad school colleague -- whom I'll call Lovely Marathoner -- to an Italian restaurant for a dinner on a publisher's dime.

And tomorrow I'll be heading home!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Conference Day One

Meals eaten in lovely restaurants: 0
Meals eaten in diners: 2

Good, thoughtful sessions I've attended: 1
Good, thoughtful sessions I've presented in: 0

Miles I've walked in The Big City: about 10
Numbers of times I've ridden on the ferry: 4

Average temperature: 28 degrees F
Amount of shampoo used due to extremely hard water: three times normal amount
(I would have written shampoo cubed, but I don't know how to type a superscript. And yes, I do know that three times something is not the same as three cubed. Still, that's a lot of shampoo.)

Norwegian sparkling water drank: 1 cup
Beers drank: 3

Mini-bars in my conference hotel room: 0

Hours until the next presentation: 11

Minutes until my head hits the pillow: 5

Free dinner (tomorrow night) at Italian restaurant with an open bar: Priceless.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"Controlling the Drama"

Today, dear friends, was about not letting transportation get the best of me. I got to the airport on time (natch) and my tiny flight from High Plains Town to Large Western City went without a hitch. I even got to sit in the back row of the 21-seater (my fave) and talk about Africa with a man and his son(?) from the Sudan by way of Chicago, who might have been checking out universities.

The need to "control the drama" began on arrival in Big Western City. I bypassed the lovely coffee shop, because I knew I needed to get a boarding pass. Hiked down to the gate and got said boarding pass, only to be told that because of back-ups in The Big City, our flight would be delayed about an hour. No problem. Traveling Colleague and I hiked back down to the coffee shop, where grabbed a non-fat latte and an extremely fatty croissant, hiked back to the gate. And waited. And waited. Eventually a voice came over the loudspeaker (picture Charlie Brown's teacher here, ok?). This is what we heard:

"wonh wonh wonh wonh eleven o'clock wonh wonh gate B-26 wonh wonh wonh."

When we inquired, we were told that we would probably loud up at 10, but would be sitting in the plane on the tarmac for an hour and a half, because another plane needed our slot. That's right, you heard me. Sitting in the plane for an hour and a half.

It was actually more like 2 hours, but who's counting.

We were supposed to arrive in The Big City at 2:30; we finally got off our flight at 4:45. And went to the luggage carousel to claim our luggage (I had bought a spanking new red suitcase specially for this trip, cousins!). You know what happened next -- our luggage didn't arrive. When we inquired, we were told that it was loaded on the NEXT flight from Large Western City to The Big City, which was due to arrive in 20 minutes. About 45 minutes later, lo and behold, our luggage arrived.

Then we took a taxi to Traveling Colleague's hotel, had a nice dinner at a little Italian place (Cha-ching, $60), went back to the hotel to get my luggage, and I hailed a taxi out to my hotel. (Cha-ching, $60)

And now I am here. Exhausted, well fed, and ready to snooze. But because I care so much about you, cousins, I had to tell you my day's sad tale. I have high hopes that tomorrow will include rides across a river on a ferry, a good bit of city walking, a couple of presentations, and a nice lunch and dinner.

Oh and spending a hell of a lot more cha-ching. But I'm controlling the drama!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Holy Crap!

Leaving tomorrow at oh-dark-thirty for my interminably long day of traveling to get The Big City. Conference going, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways or something like that.

Still to do:

* Pack
* Get cash
* Finish one paper
* Plan a five-minute introduction thingy
* Study for geology exam

Oh, did I mention that while I'm in The Big City, I'll be missing the third exam in my geology class? Which means I'll be taking a make-up exam the day after I return, which means I'll be taking my books with me to the conference, not cracking them open, and doing some seriously panicked studying on Monday morning.

So that should be fun.

But seriously I do love this conference, and I'm looking forward to it. It's just the getting there that is hard, from this out-of-the-way, almost-end-of-the-world spot.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

And the irony of this is ...

Today in one of my courses we were talking about the wonders of using technology to teach English. One of the questions asked was "What happens when the technology doesn't work?"

And then the laptops that I had checked out for my students to use to do research on webquests wouldn't allow them to log in.


One Beautiful Bad Ass, Coming Up

I can't remember where I first saw this, but when I saw Belle's this morning, my resolve not to do it crumbled. And look at the result of my falling into temptation's slimy grip:

William Shakespeare

She's beautiful and therefore to be wooed;
She is a Bad Ass, therefore to be won.

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

That is just fucking perfect.

On another note, my outside review letters are due in this week. THAT makes me nervous.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I feel a load of whininess getting ready to burst out of every pore. So here it comes:

Why is getting ready to leave for a conference so hard?

Why do advisees always wait until the day of their registration to contact me for advising? When advising week was two weeks ago?

Why do all of the people on the other side of my hall have to move to another building?

Why won't anyone tell me who is moving in to those offices?

Why does it take so much energy for me to get anything written?

Why do I have to attend so many meetings?

Why did I commit to post in my blog every day this month?

Why do I like to gossip so much?

Why is it so damn hot in my office?

Why can't I ever type those word verification letters correctly the first time around?

OK. That is all. Tomorrow I hope all will be restored to my normal positive, if somewhat snarky, self.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is Footslogger's mom's 91st birthday. She was born on Veteran's Day, which makes it easy to remember her birthday and easy to remember to think about veterans, all on the same day. 91 years old! and still living on her own. She is a fiercely independent, widowed person, who stands all of 4 feet 11 inches. She weighs maybe 95 pounds and is almost completely blind as a result of macular degeneration.

I think if you asked her, she would say that the best thing in her life now is her seeing-eye dog, Marilyn. Marilyn is a standard poodle, white, who was trained by the Pilot Dog program in Columbus, Ohio. When Marilyn doesn't have her harness on, she's a regular dog, bouncy and rambunctious. But once she gets buckled into that harness, she is all business.

When mom goes to church or to the grocery store or to the mall, she takes Marilyn. Marilyn is -- of course -- a superior attention grabber. We've been with mom when stranger after stranger has approached her, exclaiming over how beautiful and well behaved Marilyn is, and mom loves it! What a great experience for her, to be the focus of so much positive attention at the age of 91.

We call mom every Sunday (Footslogger is talking with her on the speakerphone as I write this) and of course, this morning we sang her happy birthday as soon as she answered the phone. This morning, after mass, her buddies gave her a donut with a candle in it to blow out and wished her a happy birthday. We sent her a novel on CD to listen to, and of course she opened it this morning while we were on the phone. She's planning to start listening to it tonight.

So happy birthday, mom! We wish you good health, lots of family around you, and all of the love and attention you can get today.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Plan for Today

When Footslogger and I were first together, I would wake up on Saturday mornings and Sunday mornings, turn to him and say "OK, what's the plan for today?" It got to the point where he would purposefully refuse to develop any kind of schedule because I apparently needed one so badly.

Well, here's my plan for today:

Take it as it comes.
Read/respond to my students' poems.
Watch the football game (unless that becomes too painful).
Read for fun.
Go to another basketball game tonight.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Oh, Lordy.

Well, today has been a mixed bag. First, it is almost 4:30 and i'm still at work. Not getting anything done, but I'm here nonetheless.

I did make huge progress on a conference presentation I will be making next week in New York. (Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!). This meaning that I finished the paper and created most of the powerpoint. I also ordered a new external hard drive and this cool device for automatically forwarding my presentation. It also has a built-in timer! And it's wireless!

The coolest. What with my shiny new printer and this gadget, I should win some kind of technology award. Or at least be given tenure.

This evening it's a women's basketball game. Tomorrow, tons of reading students' poetry and responding. I have to say that I find responding to students' poems much harder than responding to their academic papers or even to their memoirs. Is it because I don't have much experience with responding to students' poems? Or because their poems are so much more personal than their academic papers? Or because I don't want to intrude with my poetic voice into theirs?

Anyway, that's what I'll be working on this weekend. That and trying to get ready to head out of town.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sleek, Shiny Newness

A couple of weeks ago my office printer stopped printing multi-page documents. Actually, it still printed them, but it printed all of the pages on one page. This led to an agonizing week or so of being forced to print out one page at a time, or of sending documents to our long-suffering department secretary for her to print, while I waited for a new printer to get ordered and shipped. Last Friday my new printer arrived and I spent a good two hours OF MY RESEARCH DAY getting it unpacked and set up.

Here it is in all of its shininess:

Isn't this the most freaking awesome thing you've ever seen? I mean, for a woman who has been printing in black and white, with cheap bubble-jet printers. This one not only prints in color, it also COPIES. AND SCANS.

I feel like doing the happy dance around my office every time I use it.

So I know it's a bit of a tank -- it's huge and it takes up tons of space on my already cluttered desk. And I am a bit worried about the amount of dust I found underneath my old printer when I moved it. Will that much dust pile up again on my new printer? And if so, will it ruin my new shiny printer? Perhaps I should purchase a dust cover for it? Or maybe a little umbrella thingy?

If only I had Dobby. Where are the house elves when you need them?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fred Smith

Didn't get an opportunity to schmooze last night at the basketball game, after all. The game was good, but apparently the Prez was out of town. So much for that.

On another note, however, a phenomenon occurred at the game last night that kept me giggling for hours. I woke up this morning still laughing about it.

Every time one of our players whose name is all one-syllable words (I'll call him Fred Smith) would line up to shoot a free throw, the folks a few rows behind me would mutter or shriek or yell his name, very quickly, just before his shot. I think this was some kind of ritualistic attempt to make sure that the ball went successfully through the hoop, but it was hilarious.

Fred Smith.
Fred Smith.
Fred Smith.
Fred Smith.
All of this "Fred Smith" done at different tones, volumes, speeds. Hilarious!
And then when you add in the fellow behind and a bit to the left (whom we affectionately call "Whoosh" for reasons you'll see in a moment), it sounded like this:
Fred Smith.
Fred Smith.
Fred Smith.
Fred Smith.
This morning, Footslogger and I woke up, yelled at the cat, and muttered to each other . .
Fred Smith.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I have six minutes before I have to head downstairs (damn this building that is not ADA compliant!) to meet with a prospective student who can't navigate stairs. So I thought I'd post, just to make sure I get one in for the day. I know, it's not a quality post, but what the hell. I'm driven by my commitment to NaBloPoMo to post about any old crap.

OK, the good news for today? I scored two free basketball tickets to our men's exhibition game tonight. Footslogger and I will be seated with the UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT. Hmm. Opportunity to schmooze? I'll take it!

Oh, and that reminds me of a funny story involving said president, a colleague and me, and the line at a sandwich shop. I'll tell it if I get a chance later today.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Central City Day

Today my department head and I took the university plane (it's a 6-seater!) up to Central City for the mentor teacher/student teacher workshop. All of our student teachers, from all content areas, who are placed for spring student teaching in Central City were there (except for one of mine, who apparently has the stomach flu -- ook), along with their respective mentor teachers. It was a fun time, with relatively little B.S. (which is AMAZING, as these workshops can turn into massive overdoses of administrivia) and a great opportunity to meet some folks I've never met before.

Some things that happened today:
  • I found out that one of this year's mentor teachers (we'll call this teacher X) was the mentor of one of last year's mentor teachers (Y). I know a bit about X, but only from Y's perspective, and it's all negative. I'll give X a chance to prove Y wrong . . . but I'm definitely keeping an eye on that situation.
  • One of the pilots called me "Hollywood." This nickname could only have been given to him by ONE PERSON, and you know who you are.
  • We had lunch at a fantabulous Mexican cafe. Yummy. And reimburseable!
  • There was a bit of sheer wind on our landing. Luckily, my back was to the pilots, cause I hate seeing the plane slew all over the place when we're coming in to the runway. I trust the pilots, but I really don't need to see that at all.
  • I got to use one of those cool FM receiver microphones that you drape around your neck.
  • My students are going to do really well. I know this because they are all marvelous, smart, industrious, and open-minded.

So that's it for today. So far, I'm keeping up with NaBloPoMo. Yeah, me!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Avoiding Grading, Redux

I've not got a full-fledged headache from grading. So I'm going to drink some water, take some Advil, and go outside to play!

It's too beautiful a day to stay indoors. I'll post some pix later.

Mid-Term Evaluations

One of the tools that I use in my courses to help me get a better handle on how things are going (before students fire off a massive cannon salvo in the end-of-term course evaluations) is a loose mid-term evaluation. This year, I asked three questions in my mid-term evals:
1. What's working for you in this class?
2. What's not working for you, and how would you tweak it to make it work?
3. If you had "SuperEducator" powers, what one thing would you change?

Now, those sound all cool and stuff, but really, I had a more staid version ready to go -- only I forgot to bring the forms to class.

So this morning I sat down to read those evaluations and type up summaries for my students (I like to do this, so that they get a sense of the contradictions and why I can't change everything to work for them).

The good news:
  • The workshop format, which I instituted last fall for one day a week of my class on how to teach writing, is quite popular.
  • Most students think the atmosphere/community of the class is positive and helpful.
  • Most students think that they are learning teaching methods that will be applicable during their student teaching and beyond.

The bad news:

  • There are a lot of haters for the text in my senior-level class.
  • Even though I provide models for most of my assignments, have a calendar of assignment due dates in the syllabus, do regular reminders of due dates in class, and provide rubrics for most assignments, there are several who are still unclear as to what is wanted on assignments, when they are due.

The mixed news:

  • Powerpoints -- love 'em and hate 'em.
  • Reading response sheets -- love 'em and hate 'em.
  • Use of a wiki for feedback -- love it and hate it.

So what's a professor to do?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Avoiding Grading

Today's Method:

  • Wake up early and head to the post office, then breakfast at a cafe.
  • Read blogs for an hour and a half.
  • Start the laundry, then head to campus for the women's volleyball game.
  • After the volleyball game, don't go home; instead, use your free tickets to the men's basketball game.
  • Contemplate leaving the game at half-time; instead, stay till the very end.
  • After that game, head to the grocery store for supplies.
  • Bring your groceries home and make a salad.
  • Eat your salad just as the football game starts.
  • Watch the football game while drinking enough beer to make sure you're too tipsy to grade papers.

Sigh. I'm really good at this.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Marty's Tail

At the risk of being lumped into some stereotypical category (i.e., professors who write about their cats), I thought I'd take the opportunity to tell the tale of my female scaredy-cat Marty.

When I was teaching high school English in East Texas, I came out of the building at the end of a long day one spring to find a tiny kitten -- really, too small to be weaned -- in the front seat of my car. She was obviously sick, and her face had been damaged. One side of her face looked like it had been smashed in -- I thought that maybe someone had kicked her, or perhaps run over her with a bicycle. I stopped by a gas station on the way home, and put some water in a cup for her. She drank a bit and then just lay still, mewing quietly.

When I got her home, I put her in the middle of the bed. She didn't move. I remember that she seemed so tiny, swamped by the ocean of the huge white bedspread all around her. I really didn't think that she would live through the night, but I promised myself -- and her -- that if she did, I would take her to the vet the next day.

We named her Marty, because her eye was swollen out, reminding us of Marty Feldman.

Ten years later, she's my chubby, shy girl. It's my guess that Marty was born a barn cat, because she's deathly afraid of people, even me sometimes. She hides in the basement whenever people are over; she is not a lap cat; she prefers to be left alone most of the time. But as soon as we turn out the lights, she makes a beeline for the easy chair. Every once in a while, she works up the nerve to brush up next to my leg. But she soon thinks better of it and hides -- under the dining room table, mostly.

I found out later that one of my high school students (you know who you are, Frank!) found her in the parking lot, and thought "Hmm. Ms. Bad Ass likes animals. I think I'll just put this kitten in her car."

Well, thanks Frank. She's been a good cat for us.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'm Staying Because ...

There has been a good bit of kerfuffle on some of the blogs I read, around junior and senior faculty perceptions of each other, particularly focused on junior faculty who leave one position for another. My initial take on that is to say -- well, duh! Of course any faculty member is going to be hunting for the best possible position for themselves. That "best" may mean best pay, best geography, best colleagues, best job fit, best housing market, best two-body position, best whatever. When I took my position, Footslogger and I agreed that we would give it two years, and if we were not satisfied, we would go elsewhere. Five and a half years later, we're still here.

However, it's not my intention to add any fuel to that fire; flames enough are blazing away! I want, instead, to give a description of one of the reasons I'm still here: my department research group.

My department members are in the interesting position of hailing from different disciplines, all related by a common thread. Thus, although we have some things in common, we have very different ways of looking at life, work, the world, education, etc. We do all get along, though we don't always agree.

For the last year and a half, we have made it our goal to improve the research productivity of all members of the department (we have all have a similar teaching/research/service and advising load: 65/25/10. Here's what we do:

  • Friday is research day (we all teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays). That means we don't schedule meetings on Fridays.
  • We meet every Friday at 8:30 AM for coffee and breakfast downstairs in the student union, where we keep track of both short-term and long-term research goals to help keep each other accountable for meeting them.
  • Every semester we go off for a research/writing retreat. We book rooms at a cheap but classy hotel, we write all afternoon on a Thursday and most of the day Friday, emerging occasionally to report on our progress, get help with roadblocks, and eat meals (so far, we've been able to do this on the department's dime).
  • We celebrate our publications and give credit to the "Department Research Group."

All in all, though I think that I would have been almost as productive without it, the research group provides the kind of support and accountability that many of us need to get work done.

Having these goals, meeting in these ways, helps us to be collegial, to feel that we are not along, and is part of why I decided to stay here. I know that not everyone enjoys the kind of collegiality we have (and we haven't always had it!). But to those senior faculty who have been griping about junior faculty leaving them in the lurch, I say, maybe it's because your environment is not conducive to collaboration and collegiality.