Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Late At Night

I’m writing this after midnight; everyone has gone to bed but I’m not quite ready for bed, although I’m tired. (And by everyone, I mean Dad, Justin, Patrick, Chris, and Aidan; Anne and Bill have gone back to their hotel.) I can hear Bronwyn and Ciara chattering in the living room, Aidan got stuck bunking with Patrick, but since Chris and I transported his air mattress, Bronwyn has claimed that, while Ciara has laid claim to the couch. I could hear some tidbits of conversations, but the volume of their conversation has been distinctly lowered, so I put in my headphones. I’m a bit sad that I’m not closer in age to them; I’d love to just gab with them they are with each other, but I never get enough time to establish that type of relationship.

Chris and I were originally slated to drive down to Pennsylvania later today, but Mom’s operation has been scheduled for sometime later this morning and I wanted to be around for it. Chris and I drove up to see his family this past Saturday and did all the usual family visiting and feasting, opening presents with his parents, and Valerie and Mike. We managed to partake in the annual grab bag festivities on Christmas Eve, and had dinner on Christmas day with Howie and Susan. Chris had planned for us to visit JB and Amy and their new baby, but I’m glad we came down today instead.

We managed to get to Pennsylvania just in time to see Mom for about 20 minutes or so at the hospital, after which we all came back to the house (Justin was hanging back with Bronwyn, Ciara, and Aidan), had some leftover turkey and stuffing (which Justin had cooked for Christmas dinner), and sat around chatting, knocking back beers or tea and quite a few cookies.

Not quite sure when Mom’s operation is scheduled for – I think the starting time depends on a few outside factors – but Dad is planning on heading over pretty early, and I’ll plan on heading over mid-morning.

Friday, December 21, 2007

'Tis the Season

I spent a couple of days visiting Mom and Dad this week, helping to get the house in order (or at least not infringing and dropping crumbs everywhere). I went on a baking marathon: Double batches each of triple chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies, as well as three large fruitcakes, and three smaller ones (two of which I'll be bringing up to Chris' family). I even made marzipan (and as such am very pleased with myself). It was a very busy couple of days, and I came home yesterday thinking that Chris and I might leave to visit his family for Christmas, but since it was decided that tomorrow might be a better day to travel, today I slept in (which I really needed; I've been exhausted lately), picked up some dry cleaning, and managed to acquire six books from the library. I have no hopes of meandering through all them, but I did find a copy of Joyce's Ulysses, which I need to read for one of my classes next semester. (I'll need to buy one edition in particular at some point because I'll need the book for the entire semester, but if I can read through it once before classes begin, I'll be pleased.)

Still need to wrap a few gifts tonight - and hope I can remember where I put the presents for Chris' family.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Almost Made It!

Last weekend was the Weekend of Being Social. On Friday night I went to see The Constant Couple by George Farquhar, and had an amazingly good time. I ran into some classmates whom I like; the professor who'd arranged the outing is exceptionally nifty; play was linguistically accessible and very funny; there were two actors - Bradford Cover and Eduardo Placer - who were especially good; our little gang went out for Thai food afterwards; and I didn't get home until almost 3 in the morning. It was quite the evening.

Last Saturday morning, being the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I was up early for Mass, and utterly failed to get any work done due to being so tired. Saturday night I had plans to the Young New Yorkers' Chorus holiday concert, which was amazing. (Stella is an alto in the choir.) They sang a lovely selection of holiday songs; I bought a CD and was happy; but decided to go home before meeting up with Stella and her cronies; not only did I not think I had the stamina at that point, but this past week was the week in which nearly every remaining paper was due, and I simply could not afford another night of not enough sleep.

And work I did. I'd already had my literacy autobiography completed. I wrote the remaining number of journals, an introductory letter, and a tutoring analysis, all of which I printed, organized, and put in a binder (as well as a revised tutoring session observation) for one class (I submitted about 60 pages of writing for this one class); for another class I stayed up until 3 in the morning on Thursday to finish a paper on Alice Walker (I got nearly 11 full pages out of it) - I am incapable of determining whether this paper was decent or simple mediocre. On Thursday we had some really wet weather: It rained, snowed, and sleeted all at one; roads were slushy; and Chris drove me to the train station (to which I normally walk) so I could catch a slightly earlier train to campus, since I had to hand in this paper. Naturally, not 10 minutes after I got to campus, school closed, effective at 4 p.m. (I was scheduled to tutor from 4 to 6, and the paper was due at the beginning of class, which was shortly thereafter.) I submitted the paper anyway, and came home. I still have one 4-6 page paper to revise, but it's written, but it's not due until Monday afternoon.

This morning, at least, was busy: I did laundry, went to the grocery store, post office, and library, but neglected to go to the dry cleaners. This evening I found some paperwork that I need to submit to the New York City Department of Education, so I've photocopied various pieces of paper, wrote a letter, and stuck everything in an envelope. Tomorrow I plan on going to the dry cleaners and post office, and get a good piece of this final paper squared away.

And I'm almost done with my Christmas shopping! Almost...

Friday, December 7, 2007

One More Week...

Still catching up on writing.

My literacy autobiography is done. I'm handing in the same paper for both classes. I should probably add more quotations from secondary sources, and revise one of them so they're not exactly the same paper, and if I have time I'll do that, but I have other writing that also needs to be completed.

I'm almost done with my journal entries for ENG 646. No one was quite sure how many to hand in; I was aiming for 12. Writing an entry for either the first week or last week is moot (there's nothing to write for the first week, and the the journal for the last week would be done after I had handed in everything else). The plan had been to write two pages per journal, but in a few cases, I only had one full page. That was all I could muster - I would prefer to have one good page than two pages of incoherence. (And actually, for one week's journal, there was nothing to respond to, and I wrote as much.) The last entry I need to write requires I read some texts that I hadn't realized needed to be read, but I can have this done before I get to bed tonight.

I still have to revise finish the tutoring self-analysis; I need to revise what I have (nine pages), add some secondary sources, and meet the length requirement of approximately 15 pages I'd like to have that finished by Sunday night. And I still have to complete the term paper for ENG 626. Those will be the two longest to finish. I'll do the tutoring self-analysis first (Tuesday); I have about 6-7 more pages to write of the term paper (due Thursday)

Tonight I'm going to see The Constant Couple, a play by George Farquhar, at the Pearl Theatre. At the moment I don't want to go. It's really cold out there, rain and snow showers are expected, and I could probably force myself to do some work, but I'm trying to be sociable so I know I'll wind up going and be glad I went.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

How to Buckle Down

I've been hit with something unexpected that I don't quite care to blog about right now. Writing this blog is something I've maintained as helping me mentally work through whatever it is I need to work through, but this is not something I care to share or talk about, nor do I want people asking me questions. Suffice it to say that it's added an extra level of stress during the academic time of year (the last remaining weeks of the semester) when my mental energy needs not be diverted. As usual, the timing is not great, but I guess these things generally aren't. In any case, what it boils down to is that I've been thrown for a bit of a loop, and cleared my schedule on Monday just in case. I planned on going home until Tuesday morning but stayed home, and will be on call in case I need to get home quickly.

The plan for the rest of the semester:

Sunday & Monday:
Complete my literacy autobiography by the end of the day Monday (manageable if I write at least eight pages a day) - due 12/11.

Tuesday:
Work on and complete journals for ENG 646 (I need to write perhaps four or five, about two pages each) - due 12/11.

Wednesday - Friday:
Complete term paper for ENG 626 (another 5-6 pages, and revision) - due 12/13.

Friday - Sunday:
Write final paper for ENG 626 (4-6 pages) - due 12/17.

This will work if I do it. I need to prove to myself that I can get and maintain a really good G.P.A. as a grad student; yes, I feel like I have something to prove. So time to get to it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The "To Do" List

It's the last three weeks of the semester, and lots of papers and projects are becoming due. This is the type of stress I enjoy - having to write a lot in a short amount of time - but I'm troubled also because there are some papers I enjoy writing more than others, some that I feel better prepared to write. Nevertheless, I need to write them all, regardless of my feelings about them.

due 12/11
ENG 646
Literacy Autobiography
Tutoring Transcript & Analysis (approx. 15 pages)
Journals (one a week for each week of class, 2-3 pages each) & Cover Letter

ENG 509
Literacy Autobiography (at least 15 pages; must also include course readings)

due 12/13
ENG 626
Term Paper (10-12 pages; at least eight secondary sources)

due 12/17
ENG 626
Final Paper (4-6 pages)

I also have two presentations due this week (one tomorrow for ENG 509; one Thursday for ENG 626), one of which (ENG 509) requires a 3-6 page accompanying paper that I have yet to begin. I have a plan for tomorrow's presentation; I have a very vague plan for Thursday's presentation, and that's the one I'm more worried about. After class on Thursday I'm meeting with my ENG 626 professor to discuss the rough draft I submitted the week before Thanksgiving (he'd wanted 4-5 pages; I submitted 2, although I did find 17 possible secondary sources I might be able to implement). I was hoping to have written 4-5 pages to e-mail him before Thursday but I guess I must have mismanaged my time again because I haven't written anything. It seems like I'm thinking about writing constantly and writing every chance I get - at school; at home - yet it's never enough and it seems I have little to show for my efforts.

The literacy autobiographies I am not worried about, nor am I worried about the journals. I can write the literacy autobiography for ENG 509 and rework it slightly for ENG 646; the journals I'm mostly done with and can knock out easily enough. The 4-6 page paper for ENG 626 will also be fine. I am worried about the 10-12 page paper for ENG 626. I've gotten out of the habit of writing for literature classes and I find it difficult to get back into that groove - because I'm procrastinating, of course, because I prefer to think about teaching writing and writing centers, because it's easier. (Stupid vicious cycle.) After I get that paper done, then I'll feel more relieved.

Here's the plan:
* Beginning Friday, 11/30, write 2 pages a day for the 10-12 page (ENG 626) paper; finish Tuesday, 12/4.
* Beginning Tuesday, 12/4, write 2 pages a day for the literacy autobiographies (ENG 509 & ENG 646); finish Sunday, 12/9.
* Beginning Wednesday, 12/12, write 1 1/2 - 2 pages a day for the final exam (ENG 626); finish Saturday, 12/15.

I really wanted to go to the JHUAPL Colloquium on December 14, but I don't foresee being able to go unless I can get all my writing done way in advance. Maybe if I really push myself, that will be my reward.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gobble, Gobble!

It was a quiet Thanksgiving this year (pictures) - Chris and I are in Pennsylvania visiting Mom & Dad, and it's just the four of us. Dinner was good - turkey, stuffing (both in-the-bird, and the sausage stuffing I made a couple of days ago and brought with us), sweet potatoes, broccoli, salad, rolls, and of course gravy - followed by very delicious pumpkin pie with whipped cream and tea. I baked cookies earlier this evening, but although they were good, I over baked them a slight bit. Mom and I went for a walk around the block; the weather was just amazing, a really good autumn day: Warm and sunny, but also comfortably cool and breezy; the leaves were in their glory, all golds and reds, and the earth smelled, well, earthy, slightly damp but like fall. I looked out the window at one point during a breezy blast and saw that the air was just full of yellow leaves. It was really such a stereotypical autumn day like I'm not sure I've seen before. We heard from Justin within minutes of having finished our pie; he was on his own this year but was taking advantage of having his apartment to himself - apparently he spent all day cleaning his carpets and they were a sight to behold.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tutoring Gone Awry

I've been tutoring for a long time. Well, not a very long time, but since January 2004, at any rate, and that means I know what I'm doing (at least somewhat). But I've recently had a student come in whom I had real difficulty with, proof, I suppose, that sometimes people just don't want to learn - or don't know how to ask for help. I've had students who were quiet, but this particular student was the quietest I've ever seen.

Our first session was a bust. Whomever had set her up with me hadn't put the requisite notice in my mailbox, nor had I ever received a phone call (save for the voicemail I discovered a few hours later telling me that she was waiting for me); I didn't know I was to tutor her until after I walked in an hour or so later. Clearly this was an accidental mix-up, but I felt bad, so I e-mailed the student to apologize, and told her that if she had had a paper she had wanted to work on, that she should absolutely e-mail it to me and I would get it back to her as soon as I could. I never got a reply.

Last week, then, was our first "real" session. She arrived about 25 minutes late, and although she had brought in her assignment - Mazel Tov! - but had not done any of it because she did not understand it. (The draft had been due the day before.) Admittedly, it was a very dense assignment, but she had not brought the related readings to our session. The page-long assignment was about gender and nature-vs.-nurture (from what I can remember), and while she said she understood the readings, she could not remember what they were about. (I asked her what they were about; she said, "Gender.") We didn't make it through the first paragraph because I had to explain the nature-vs.-nurture issue and the difference between "gender" and "sex" as concepts. However, I don't think she really grasped my explanations.

I tried backtracking, hoping maybe I could explain a related concept based on what classes she liked. I asked what her major was (which I had asked her last week but had forgotten); she's "undecided." I asked her which classes she liked; she shrugged a bit and said she didn't know. I asked her what her hobbies her; again, she shrugged, and I had to pull out of her what she liked, but I couldn't find a correlation between gender and tennis.

I tried every manner of personality I could think of: I tried cajoling; teasing; admonishment; tough love; a bit of lecturing. Nothing got a response. She barely made eye contact. I would not speak until she had answered questions. In several cases I let several minutes pass until I got some form of acknowledgement. Nothing seemed to work. I finally let her go, and even though she said she was late for class and ran out, I suspect even if she hadn't been late for class she would have run out. I didn't expect her back this morning.

But I shall give her credit, because return she did. I greeted her with a cheerful hello, and asked her how things were going. (Nothing.) I said that perhaps she was looking forward to the break. She said (and this is a direct quote), "It doesn't matter." I asked her what she had to work on today; she replied, "Nothing." I asked what she had coming up; she said, "Nothing." As gently as I could, I asked if I could ask her a question - why was she coming in for tutoring? (We have a program here on campus that requires students to come in for tutoring, but she doesn't seem to be associated with it.) She just stared at the floor. I really wanted an answer - I was very curious and I couldn't think of any way to actually get her to talk. I should have asked her how last week's draft went; I could have asked her what prompted her to come for tutoring to begin with. (She was either dropped from or chose herself to drop another previously scheduled tutoring session.) I suggested, as gently as I could, that perhaps walk-in tutoring would suit her better, that there were other students perhaps that I could help, and how did that sound? That sounded fine, so we went to the front desk and dropped her.

The fact that I couldn't crack her (if you will) is both irritating and curious. I can get nearly anyone to talk in this setting.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Registration for Spring 2008

I managed to register today for next semester's classes. I let myself be talked out of ENG 707 (Methods in Research and Criticism), especially when I realized, after re-reading the course description, that French poets are involved. (I'm not great with poetry, nor do I find it interesting as a genre.) I'll still be taking ENG 580, ENG 620, and ENG 700, but I've also registered for ENG 520 (Non-Fiction Writing). It sounds like an interesting class (the subject , and the professor is apparently a rhet./comp. person who comes very highly recommended by everyone I've spoken to about her. This is one of those classes, too, in which the title of the class remains the same, but the central focus is at the professor's discretion; the subject for spring will be creative nonfiction through the literary lens of testimony, which sounds intriguing.

Next semester is going to really be stressful - and strenuous - but by then I should have my substitute teaching paperwork in order, and I can cut back on tutoring if necessary, and do some substitute teaching. I was offered another Teaching Assistantship which will help cover costs, too. I'll just need to figure out how to juggle the tutoring with the substitute teaching, which may have to be limited to one or two days a week, but with a combination of teaching and tutoring I should be able to manage.

And I only ran into one slight problem that turned out to not be a problem: After meeting wit my advisor, I ran down to the Registrar, stood in line, and was told that I needed to go over to Admissions and get someone to sign off on my registration (I was not told why). The Admissions secretary pulled up my file, and referred me to an Admissions counselor who told me that they did not have a record of my final transcript that would show baccalaureate degree conference. It was eventually found in my file, though, and whatever hold that was apparently on my account was removed and I was permitted to register. (I wonder how they let me matriculate to begin with if they hadn't had proof of my having obtained an undergraduate degree. And I wonder how easy it might be to actually just skip over one's undergraduate work to begin with.)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Busy, Then Quiet

I've reached a little bit of a lull this semester in terms of homework - I have some writing to do in terms of getting caught up on weekly journals for ENG 646, but nothing is imminent. I'll have a lot of writing to do next weekend (transcribing a taped tutoring session; working on a draft for my literacy autobiography for ENG 646 and ENG 509; working on a draft for my final paper for ENG 626), but this weekend is going finish up being all about the reading. I've let the short stories slide for ENG 626 - I just haven't gotten to them the past week or two, which is lame because they're the most enjoyable pieces to read.

Chris and I have spent the weekend at home this weekend, with the exception of going to the grocery store. The past few weeks seem to have been busy, socially. At the beginning of October I had met and had dinner with Fr. Roderick, a priest from the Netherlands who has become well-known for having created the Star Quest Production Network. (The first Catholic podcast Fr. Roderick began, Catholic Insider, was one of the first podcasts I discovered and began listening to soon after its release; it became so popular that Fr. Roderick, with the help of other Catholic podcasters, established a Catholic network of podcasts.) Fr. Roderick had been in the States for the PodCast Awards, decided to stop in New York City for a few days, and put out a general call to anyone who wanted to get together for Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, then dinner. I couldn't make Mass, but I did meet up with him and a few other folks for dinner, after which we hung out for a while.

The weekend after my dinner with Fr. Roderick Chris and I went to an Oktoberfest at the Plattdeutsche with Abbie and Vhary, who traveled in from their working in the city to have dinner with us. I took pictures there, too, with my iPhone (because I forgot my camera): Amazing German food, nifty German dancing that required the dancers to randomly slap themselves, and a band whose name I forget but which struck Chris as the worst name ever for a band. We stayed out really late, and were inordinantly silly, and it was lovely.

Literally the next day Chris and I went to a birthday party (Chris' friend's wife's friend, with whom Chris has hung out once or twice, another technonerd) in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where we ate a lot of really good South American food (I can't remember all of what, but it was all really, really good); and took a side trip to Steve's Authentic, where I took pictures because they make the best key lime pie ever (including mini key lime pie, covered in chocolate, on a stick).

Chris and I also went to a Leopard Release Party, sponsored by and held at Tekserve in New York City last Friday. We didn't stay long - maybe an hour - but we made an afternoon / night of it by going to the Shake Shack beforehand for some darn good burgers and fries (I could eat their cheese fries constantly, so it's probably good I'm not in Manhattan more often), and peanut butter and jelly custard (ditto on the custard); we decided once we back at Penn Station after the party that we weren't ready to go home yet, so we traipsed back downtown to Tea & Sympathy (it would have been so much easier if we had decided after the party to go directly to Tea & Sympathy, since they're so close together).

And now nothing is coming up until Thanksgiving, which is probably good. After Thanksgiving the semester is pretty nearly over at that point, so I really want to have my writing done as soon as possible - or at least good drafts so I don't have to stress.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Studying or Teaching Abroad

When I was a little kid, I lived in Germany because my mom had gotten a Fulbright to teach English. It was a rough year for a lot of reasons, but I survived (obviously), and while this wasn't my first experience traveling internationally, I have been back to Europe (and Germany) since. I've had friends in college since who were very excited about traveling to Europe - or Asia, or the Middle East, or wherever - and wanted to study abroad (in fact, I've one acquaintance from Stony Brook Univ. who is now studying in France for the academic year) - and I would really like to go to Jerusalem and Asia and Eastern Europe - but I was never really interested in studying abroad per se. For one thing, I have Chris, who for some reason keeps insisting that he has to work, which is highly inconvenient. Plus, I was never really interested in studying abroad, or living abroad. I've only recently gotten more or less okay with being abroad. (Or being a broad, if this were 1942.)

One of my professors, who directs the LIU Writing Center, spent part of the academic year in South Africa (the other part of the academic year in Europe) last year, doing various bits of writing center work, helping, for example, some universities establish writing centers or at least help with staff development, and doing research. Another professor in the English department had herself independently does some literary research in the Gambia, and had spent the entire year there. Last week both professors had led a faculty forum talking about their experiences, showing a few pictures, etc. It was really interesting, and I've made my professor promise to let me ask her all the questions I have stored up. (She and her partner and their son all went together; I want to hear about where she lived, what the people were like, what they ate, where and how they traveled, what kind of research she's doing, how she decided upon South Africa and Europe, and where in Europe, and, and, and!)

The other professor had been very encouraging of all those who were in attendance to consider applying to the Fulbright program, and passed out some information, and it's like this little ding went off in my head; that maybe it might be an interesting experience, teaching English abroad, or maybe studying the connections between writing centers and something that I haven't quite figured out that would be interesting to study in conjunction with them. I've had a few people ask me in the past few weeks what I'm professionally interested in, and aside from the connections between technology and writing centers, or technology and writing...I just don't know. I think that's my topic. But I don't know how to translate that into research yet. And so therefore I don't know how to translate that into a viable research proposal for Fulbright. I have been thinking about going to Japan or China or Poland and teaching English, but I don't want to do any of that until I graduate, at which point I'll still have Chris hanging about insisting that, for some reason, he still wants to have a paycheck, which will still be highly inconvenient. Teaching is kind of my easy way out, in a sense, for traveling and living abroad.

I think it would pretty neat to do some work in Ireland, but there are a lot of countries to choose from. Some of them want me to speak the language (which will eliminate them) or only want people of a certain academic background (i.e., medical sciences), which will eliminate a few more. I guess the first thing to do is to talk to my campus representative and figure out which end is up.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Surviving the First Hump

The past week or two have been really busy, but I seem to have been much busier in my head than I have been in person. I'm taking three classes this semester, and I had something due for each of them these past two weeks, something due every day it seems (in reality two of my classes meet on Tuesday; the other meets on Thursday), but I had a mid-term paper (4-6 pages); another paper for a second class (3-6 pages) with an accompanying presentation; and the submission of self-selected journal entries with an accompanying letter stating why I had chosen those specific journal entries to submit.

The class for which I submitted the journals - Individual and Small Group Writing Instruction - is such that there is no breakdown of assignments; these journal entries that we submit, for example, do not have a specific weight, so when I got them back this past Tuesday, I had received a check (the options were that we would receive a check minus, a check, or a check plus), and half a page or so of comments (which were helpful). I got a check, which was fine, although I dislike this method because I never seem to get check pluses. This is not a class I'm worried about, though; actually, of my classes this semester, I'm least worried about this class, for no specific reason than I'm very comfortable in the subject matter.

My mid-term had been for African-American Short Fiction (more properly called Twentieth Century American Literature; the topics change each semester), and was absolutely a paper that I eked out. This was definitely not my finest paper, but I could not get enthused about any of the short stories we had covered so far, although I liked them all well enough. I managed to finish the paper the night before it was due (a bit too close to the deadline), but it was done, and submitted. I got a B+/A-, which is not bad for a paper that was eked out at the comparative last minute (and truth be told even when I try very hard I am a B+ student, which is...painful? And irritating.). I am not a great writer, but I really do want to improve, and might approach the professor. His comments were, in retrospect, correct: That I made some interesting arguments overall, but I over-used one particular piece of literary criticism, and that he would have liked for me to develop some of my other points more. He also commented on some points in my paper that I could have developed more, and I saw how I could have done so.

Of course, that leaves one paper left, the paper for the Sociolinguistics and the Teaching of Writing; I had written a paper on Villanueva's Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color, which was a very interesting read, and about which I also gave a presentation, which went well. (My presentation encapsulated the latter half of the book; the first half was done by a classmate whose presentation inadvertently went long, so I wound up only getting about 20 minutes, instead of the hoped-for 45 or so.)

I have a paper to write for Tuesday for ENG 646; I had observed a tutoring session that I need to reflect on and write about. I also have a rough draft of a literacy autobiography for ENG 509. I'm not too worried about the reflective piece; I've really begun to appreciate what I've soaked up at the SBU Writing Center; Harry taught us so well how to reflect on tutoring sessions I can wind up doing that with hardly any thought, it's so second-nature at this point.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mental Foo

I wish things were more interesting. They're not. This past week I handed in one assignment for my Writing Center class (three journal entries and a letter to the professor explaining why I'd chosen those entries to submit), and a mid-term for my African-American Short Stories Class (I can honestly say I eked out in a way that I am not sure I can remember the last time I eked out a paper to such a degree of eke-dom).

Anne had invited me upstate to celebrate Ciara’s birthday (which is today); I’d originally thought I’d be able to go, but then I realized I also had to finish reading a book, write a 3-6 page paper, and prepare for a presentation, all for Tuesday. I also still have not been paid from my teaching assistantship, which puts a crimp in traveling.

In other news: This week I’ve been doing a very temporary job, photocopying invoices for a lawyer in New York City. It’s dreadful work from the standpoint that it’s certainly not stimulating, and although I was explicitly told that I am welcome to come and go as I please, I feel guilty and feel slightly judged for not coming in at 8 and staying until 4 or 5, but I do seem to have other obligations. Working my 10 hours a week at the LIU Writing Center is going fine; there's really nothing to report. Most of the other tutors are grad students in the English department, which is nice from the standpoint that I have classes with many of these folks, but it's less interesting because I'm meeting people who are essentially like me, and I liked working in an environment where grad students mixed with undergrads, and students had majors across the disciplines. This past week I managed to get myself hired at the Academic Reinforcement Center, where for eight hours a week (but only if students sign up for me for all eight hours), I'll be tutoring English, ESL, Education, German, and Writing. So far, I have a few students signed up with me to do ESL Conversation. Score!

I’m just so not interested in blogging right now. I’m so ensconced in writing and thinking about writing and so much energy is sucked into commuting that my energy lies elsewhere these days. And – truth be told – blogging has helped me ruminate over schoolwork and interesting concepts that I want to work out mentally, and so far, nothing has been especially challenging and required me to do that.

But in a fit of who-knows-what, I did register this evening for National Novel Writing Month. I was just talking to someone the other day in terms of my not doing any sort of creative writing; I think I’d like to give myself a push and really start writing. A lot.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Grad Student = Potential Alcoholic

I've been very slowly acclimating to my new life as a grad student. It's been taking me some time because I am, at present, interested in keeping to myself, and observing the politics of the academic hierarchy (something I didn't really appreciate until I began my new academic career as a grad student, where one is expected or highly encouraged to teach, publish, present at conferences or at least attend them, or a combination of all of these).

So I've been slowly getting to know my Writing Center co-workers. I've been a bit anti-social; since everything is new I've been putting myself in the corner most days that I go into work, trying to get a handle on homework and the politics of this new Writing Center. I have been "making friends" but I've been keeping to myself much of the time, is all.

However, yesterday I was talking to one of my WC cohorts, and we were discussing the sheer amounts of alcohol made available to grad students. I don't know if it's a rite of passage; when you're an undergrad, drinking isn't really allowed because for many students, half the time you're under 21 anyway, so there's this sneaky, "I'm getting away with something" attitude, and I guess the illegality of it is really tempting if you're into that scene. But apparently some professors are bringing in wine and beer to their classes, and one Writing Center co-worker was telling me yesterday that at least in one class of hers, it's gotten out of hand: It started out that the professor having brought in a bottle or two of wine for the class, and now students bringing in their own wine and beer in rather larger quantities. I have noticed a lot of grad students being very pleased with how much alcohol they're knocking back, and indicating that there's no fun to be had unless alcohol is involved, and a few have indicated that drinking is the adult thing to do. (Which, if you think of it, is kinda the exact opposite.)

I even noticed during the Open House that the English Department had large amounts of wine and beer - and considerably less soda. I dislike wine; I tend to have allergic reactions to most beer; and seriously? Drinking in the middle of the day? I suppose if you're 22 or 24 or something and this is your first taste of "adulthood" it's all very exciting, but I don't get it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Substitute Teaching Aggravation

I've been trying like hell to get a job. My preference, of course, would be to get an actual teaching job but I'm about at the point where I'm severely tempted to give up teaching altogether and just pursue a career at Starbucks. I can barely even find a substitute teaching gig.

A couple weeks ago I finally had all my paperwork completed (medical test, references, etc.), and mailed my completed substitute teaching application to the New York City Department of Education (hereafter known as the NYCDOE). A week and a half later my application was returned to me because I had neglected to provide the NYCDOE with some piece of information, which, it turned out was the following: One of the morality questions (which are actually called morality questions) to which I had answered "yes" apparently required some sort of information as to why I had answered the question the way I had; however, there was no statement saying I had to provide this information, nor was there space to do so. Nevertheless, I typed up a little piece about the circumstances, and the next day, instead of mailing it back to the NYCDOE, traipsed into their offices and physically handed it to the Nice Lady who clearly did not like her job. I explained the circumstances for my return, to which she just rolled her eyes and proclaimed it ridiculous that my application packet should have been returned to me for such a piece of information. I, of course, agreed. I was told that I would be hearing from someone eventually, but a timeframe was not provided, despite my request of an estimate. (I had heard that it could take between four and six weeks.) I neglected to ask if applications were ever rejected, which is a question about which I am still curious.

I called the NYCDOE this morning requesting a status update; the Nice Lady was able to tell me that they did, in fact, have my fingerprints on file, and that she would be happy to try to reach the Substitute Teaching Office - which she did, thee times. No one answered the phone. (This is consistent with my having attempted to reach the Substitute Teaching Office previously myself; I left a voice mail, which was never responded to, and tried varies times to reach them, but no one ever answered the phone.) I suspect a trip to the NYCDOE is in the cards for me this week.

In the middle of last week, I sent an e-mail to a substitute teaching staffing agency (of which there are several, I suppose), which provides substitutes to private schools and the like (private and religious schools do not fall under NYCDOE jurisdiction in terms of subs, I suppose). I got a reply the next day, advising me that my resume had been received, that further instructions would be forthcoming within an hour, but if I had not heard form them within 24-48 hours, I should call their New York office. This sounded strange - I wondered if they had a history of promising information that would not be forthcoming. Nevertheless, since I did not hear from them, yesterday morning shortly before noon I called their New York office and talked to a very nice lady who took my information and said that she would be able to access my profile sometime after noon and would be contacting me shortly thereafter. As of this morning, she never did return my call. I tried calling multiple times both yesterday and today, and the one time someone answered the phone, I hit the wrong button and disconnected myself. That taught me a lesson because no one has answered the phone since, neither has my message been returned nor my e-mails been answered.

So, time goes on. In the meantime, in fact just this past Sunday, I was in touch with a private school located in the Wakefield section of the Bronx (to whom I had just e-mailed my resume and letter of interest a day or two previously); the principal offered me a Per Diem subbing position, which I gratefully accepted. On a Sunday. Of course, I haven't been contacted yet, and I suppose it's a possibility that I might not be, but at least I know that the nice Catholic religious people still talk to what is mounting to be professional lepers who aren't touched by other schools.

I was very excited yesterday when a fellow Writing Center tutor who is also subbing told me that the school where she's been subbing seemed interested to know that she had a friend who wanted to sub. She passed on their contact information to me, and I passed on my resume to the secretary of the principal late last night; the secretary was in touch with me this morning to ask if I had my substitute teaching certificate. Since I don't, though, of course I can't substitute at that particular school.

Of course I can't. Despite all the hard work I put in getting my teaching certification, I can't use it because no one will hire me, nor even allow me to substitute at a public school.

That shortage you hear about in New York City public schools? I don't actually believe it's true. I think it's actually a lie. I'm angry, and frustrated. Clearly my getting a teaching certificate was a big waste of time - at this point I actually believe this.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Meetings

I seem to be involved in a lot of meetings lately; it's an odd thing. I led my first O.T. workshop on Monday; my six students and I discussed revision. It didn't go badly, I don't think - but not as smoothly as I would have liked. There are four groups, two of which are in separate classrooms; another group was led by a tutor who expressed preference for the corner of the Writing Center with the tables and chairs, which left me in the other corner that only had couches. (It's hard to talk when people keep walking by you; it's hard to write when you have to write on your lap.) I'm going to see if I can get us our own classroom, or at least stuff ourselves in a corner with tables and chairs. I want to be able to have the students in my group work with each other, and write, and be able to talk to each other. Each week, after our O.T. workshop, the five tutors who lead said workshops get together with Lynn, the woman who anchors this project, for a meeting, which was pretty interesting, insofar as I have no experience in this field and was interested in hearing the other tutors' experiences.

Today we also had the first of our bi-weekly Writing Center staff meetings; and, separately, had the first of our bi-weekly mentor meetings (in which we discuss issues encountered in our tutoring sessions, tutoring strategies, etc.). The mentoring meeting I'm less interested in from a mentoring standpoint, since I already have a fairly long background in tutoring - although I do find it interesting to see how other people are tutoring, and developing more skills and strategies that I can use in tutoring; but within the context of a mentor group I'm finding it hard to take advice about tutoring from someone who hasn't been doing it as long as I have. I suspect I need to become a bit more humble about it. I remember a tutor at Stony Brook University telling me that she couldn't learn anything from me because she'd been tutoring longer than I; she wasn't telling me this to offend me - I understood the context in which she was telling me this - but I remember thinking that it might still be possible that I had another perspective about tutoring that she might have missed. I think the way I need to go into these mentor meetings is with that attitude of there being other perspectives I may have missed.

On the agenda this week is to read five chapters of Everyday Writing Center: A Community of Practice; two chapters of Language in Society: An Introduction to Sociolinguistics; and the Langston Hughes short stories "Thank You, Ma'am" and "There Ought To Be A Law." And one short journal entry to write. This is a lot more reading than I'm used to - in much shorter periods of time - but the reading is by and large interesting.

This past weekend was a social one (and I didn't get all my reading done as a result; I need to get my reading done in a more timely fashion).On Saturday JB and Amy took a bus trip from upstate down to New York City; Chris and I met them and spent the day walking around - across the Brooklyn Bridge, into Brooklyn Heights, over to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and back into Manhattan. Chris and I deposited them back at their bus and made our way back to Brooklyn Heights and had dinner. On Sunday Chris and I went to the Oompah Fest at the Plattdeutsche Park Restaurant. (Very good food - way too many people.) It was a beautiful weekend, and great weather, and I was happy to spend so much time outside.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Much Reading

This past week was the first full week of my life as a grad student, and it seems to be going pretty well so far (which is to say that my missing Stony Brook Univ. is slowly abating). Gone are the days of quizzes and tests and having to utilize short-term memory. Here are the days of a lot of reading in relatively short periods of time, and writing. Lots and lots of writing. I have two 15-page papers as major weighted assignments for two classes, and another paper of indeterminate length that counts for 60% of the grade for the third class; various papers of shorter length (five or six pages), three short presentations (to be in the form of leading class discussions) for two classes. And for the reading: four books and various articles for one class, six books for another, and packets of photocopied short stories for the third.

Professors: All nice, but two of them are going to take some getting used to (one constantly interrupts and the other doesn't seem to make much eye contact). All classes only meet once a week, so I've only met with two of the classes once so far, twice for the other.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

In My Mind

I was going to keep this private (for no good reason), but decided to post it anyway.

I'm starting my Master's degree in English (with a concentration in the teaching of writing) tomorrow; I'm starting the semester not having a full-time job (I've tried to get a job teaching English in New York City, but have had no offers); I received an offer of a Teaching Assistantship that would pay for two of the three classes for which I've registered this semester and that would pay me a stipend of $1,500 for the semester, in exchange for which I would work 10 hours a week at the LIU Writing Center. Having had three years' experience at the Stony Brook University Writing Center, this is manageable.

I'm excited to be getting back to school. My brain has been in sludge mode since last May and I need to be getting back to some good strenuous mental activity.

Mentally this was not a good summer, and I'm glad it's over. I've spent a lot of time being introspective and have begun to be less willing to put up with well-meaning but unwelcome interference that allows for others to offer opinions about how I should be living my life. I grew up being a very shy, insecure person, more likely to take advice I was unsure about or disagreed with because I was too unsure of my own mind, or of hurting the feelings of the person who was trying to help. I didn't trust my own thoughts so I disregarded my own opinions, even if they were at odds with the opinions of others.

I heard from a few friends in the past couple of weeks that they think it unwise to teach full time while attending grad school; or at least, I should not be a first-year teacher and have registered for three graduate-level courses. From my perspective, though, there is little room for an in-between. I need a job. Teaching is not generally a career in which one finds a part-time position. There is substitute teaching (which is my preference but which doesn't start until mid-October); there are also occasionally teaching positions in which one works less than full-time, perhaps teaching three classes, for example. While this is preferable (I would like a flexible schedule that would offer a decent salary but would also allow me to focus on classes), I would prefer being a full-time teacher than my current position of unemployment.

To supplement the stipend that I will most likely not see until the end of the semester, I was offered and accepted a tutoring job through a company in Manhattan. Such tutoring guarantees me as much work as I'm willing to accept, which, given my schedule of evening classes, will likely be limited, since such tutoring would be scheduled around the students' after-school hours - similar hours that at least twice a week will have me in my own classes.

I realized this summer that the crux of my mindset is that I want simply to be left alone. I don't want unsolicited opinions. I don't want people continually asking me what I'm thinking, or what I'm feeling. If I have something to say, I'll say it, in my own time and in a manner in which I am comfortable. I don't want to be asked how the job hunt is going. (Clearly not well, otherwise I would have passed on that piece of news.) It takes me a long time to figure out what I think or feel about an issue, to decide how to act. I rarely seek outside opinions unless I'm unsure about something; only with a very small group of people (which right now is one person) am I likely to even want to share the specifics.

I think I'm finally starting to feel like an adult.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Fall Semester 2007

Classes start on Thursday (which strikes me as odd, but what do I know). I've registered for three classes, which is technically part time (four is considered full time; in order to register for a full time graduate course load one needs signatures):
  • ENG 509: Sociolinguistics and the Teaching Writing
  • ENG 626: 20th Century American Literature - African American Short Stories
  • ENG 646: Individual and Small Group Instruction
Books I'll be reading this semester:
No word yet on the short stories I'll be reading in ENG 626; I've been able to discover what books are required for the other two classes vis-à-vis the LIU Bookstore site; yet nothing was listed for the other.

One Last Interview

While Chris and I were driving upstate on Friday, I received several phone messages, one of which was from an assistant principal who left a message with her cell phone number and requested that I call her over the weekend to tell her whether I was still available for a job or not. I returned her call on Saturday morning and scheduled the interview for this today. Cutting my trip with Chris' parents short, I took the train from Albany back home yesterday, and had my interview this morning. I was called this afternoon and was told via voicemail that they didn't want to hire me (that phrase sticks in my head), and that the position had been filled. I'm not exactly smarting until any form of uncertainty about teaching, but what I'm left with is a sense of being perplexed. I had been given a set of pre-interview questions to answer before the interview began, and somehow I suspect my answers were not satisfactory. What has me confused, though, is that, as these things go, there was a part of the interview in which I was asked if I had any questions. I asked a few - the usual bout of what the student population was like, what their curriculum was about - got a brief answer about their students, and then told that I would be contacted later in the day. None of my other questions were answered, and I got the distinct impression they didn't want to make the time to answer them. Three women had interviewed me, and they each echoed the sentiment that there were others to interview, they were busy, classes to teach, etc., but I really didn't get the impresion the would have made the time had I chosen to be more assertive (which I'm sorry to say I wasn't as much as I should have been).

I'm feeling...a bit hurt (it'll pass); a bit dejected (this too shall pass); and
poor. I'm also feeling a bit irritated about this whole process. I have literally nothing for the next six weeks, which means I shall now resort to the next plan of looking for part-time work at any local place that will have me. I couldn't pay the health insurance this month, which means my policy will be canceled, and have no way to buy the books and supplies I'll need for classes (which start Thursday).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I got two phone calls this morning, both from high schools wanting to schedule interviews. One representative from a high school in Manhattan asked me to come in this afternoon. A secretary from the high school located in Brooklyn had me schedule an interview for tomorrow afternoon. I went in for my interview this afternoon (and learned that this particular school may or may not need a teacher but wouldn't know until after the school year will begin next week), and when I came back I had a voicemail from the lady from the high school in Brooklyn telling me that the position had already been filled. It took less than five hours to get that message. I'm actually bit glad since it's frustrating going on interviews from which you never get job offers; nevertheless...!

It seems to be a really hectic time for everyone; decisions have to be made quickly. I wonder if I'm just putting something out there that makes me distinctly not worth hiring. At this point I can say I've gone to every interview offered, and I haven't had one single job offer, so there's not much I can really do at this point other than hope a school gets desperate and offers me a position.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Enough With The Interviews Already!

Hopefully this will be the last post concerning interviews - I'm tired of interviews pervading my thoughts.

I did not get the job in Manhattan (e.g., the job teaching for two months in the very small college); I sent my interviewer an e-mail and left him a voicemail; finally, not being able to take not knowing what was going on, I called him directly this afternoon. Apparently there is no need for any more English teachers - this term. I was invited to come back to give a demo lesson late next week but explained my situation in my uncertainty how my other interviews would reconcile themselves and promised to be in touch shortly once I know my availability.

I'm unsure of having gotten the job for which I interviewed yesterday, insofar as I have not heard anything. If their administration were interested in hiring me, I'm presuming I would have received a phone call to schedule the next part of the process - meeting with the principal.

Which is the next step for the position for which I interviewed this morning. The schools open the Wednesday after Labor Day here, so I know those who interviewed me will have to act quickly. I was told that if I had been chosen to move on to meeting the principal (after which I'd meet the superintendent), I'd receive a phone call by this afternoon or tomorrow.

Most teachers know what classes they'll be teaching and will have had much more ti me to plan their curriculum. It's unnerving not knowing what to plan or not even knowing how much time I'll have to plan it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Wide Awake

I had an interview Monday morning first thing at a diocesan high school in West Islip. I think it went well - I hope it went well - it seemed to go well, but I can't quite read it. I was asked some good questions (How did I wind up student teaching in New York City? How did I teach writing at the Writing Center?), which meant I could comfortably talk about a few topics about which I had opinions. It would be a nice job to get; the pay would be comparably low, even for a teaching job, but I'd have support of the administration, and for the first time I got a genuinely good feeling about the school while sitting in the main office. It was a school I'd honestly like to be part of.

I have another interview later this morning, a leave replacement position that would offer employment at least until January, with the possibility of an extension until June. I compiled a portfolio which includes my sample lesson plans from my tenure as a student teacher and will be bringing that in tomorrow. This hadn't occurred to me before, although I suppose it would have been helpful to have.

Classes start all around next week: The school districts' first day is September 5th, with LIU classes beginning on September 6th. It's getting close to the wire for the schools still doing the hiring, and I'm sure they'd like to know who'll be working there just as much as the potential teachers would like to know where they'll be working. I was laying in bed for awhile tonight, planning my first day as a teacher, but I didn't know where I would belong - in a high school, at the accelerated program school that has yet to indicate if I should go in for a demo lesson... or nowhere at all. I'll need as much time as possible to plan what I'll be doing the first weeks of school and I wish someone would just make a decision.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

God's Warriors

Last week CNN aired a trilogy called CNN Presents: God's Warriors, and, thinking that this sounded interesting, I TiVoed the series. I'm currently making my way through the first in the series - God's Jewish Warriors (the other two parts of the series being God's Muslim Warriors and God's Christian Warriors) - but it's slow going because each episode is two hours long. I'm really interested in religious history, and while I'm not political, I am interested in the relationship between religion and politics.

So far, at least, it's been very interesting because the host, Christina Amanpour, had researched the effects of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity on Israel and the world at large. I'm only about 45 minutes into God's Jewish Warriors, but I had a small epiphany while watching: Everyone is so sure that God is on his or her side, but I wonder if God isn't taking sides, if He is just trying to teach us kindness and how to maintain peace, that there is more than one way to teach such things. I do not believe that my life as a Catholic means that God is any more on my side than He is on the side of a Muslim or Jew, or on the side of anyone else claiming religious certainty. Perhaps organized religion grew out of cultural, geographic, and historical circumstances such that a people in a certain part of the world received God's Word at a time when a certain set of religious dogma was culturally sensible to a large portion of the population. Certainly Christianity 2,000 years ago wasn't conducive to gender equality - arguably the Middle East even now isn't entirely conducive to such radical thoughts; yet there was a distinct need for religious growth that evolved in turn into Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and that there was a need to start teaching kindness, tolerance, and love, and to start the (excruciatingly) slow process of equality among everyone despite gender or culture. Similarly, I've noticed that disagreement over a given country's policies have begun to cause that person to be branded anti-fill-in-the-blank. Do you think Bush is doing nothing but causing severe problems? Anti-American! Siding with the Israelis? Anti-Semitic! Or at least misinformed on both counts.

(As a side note, one of the practices of Catholicism I've been struggling with over the course of the past year or two is the Catholic church's stance on women in the priesthood. I believe it was either John Paul II or Benedict XVI who argued that because Jesus' Apostles were men, because Jesus did not ordain women, no woman now can be ordained a priest. (I wish I could find the specific source of who said that; I remember having come across it some time back.) So far as I know there is no specific place in the Bible that disallows the priestly ordination of women. I suspect that at 2,000 years ago in that part of the world women were hardly seen as equal, and there would have been trouble for any woman seen evangelizing and proselytizing.)

I know there are people who think that religion is the root cause of all the world's evil, but this is not a line of discussion I'm likely to want to pursue. I'm just now finding the means to express the specific challenges I'm facing in my own internal religious struggle and this particular epiphany led me to a way to verbalize it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Volunteering & Work

When I moved to Long Island, I registered at the local Catholic church. On the registration form there were boxes next to a couple different volunteering opportunities that you could check if you were interested. On impulse, and without really thinking about it, I checked the box next to "catechist." I was surprised when I got a call to ask if I would teach a first grade class that didn't yet have a teacher. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would - I have never been quite sure how to just jump in and start talking to younger kids but I grew to really enjoy the kids I taught. The next year I volunteered to teach two classes, a second grade class (the first-grade kids I had taught the previous year) and a fifth grade class.

After that year, though, it was time to move on. I moved further east to be closer to college. I moved around quite a bit the next couple of years and because my schedule kept changing, I didn't really feel comfortable trying to find any volunteering activities because I didn't have a stable schedule.

I've been living in Bellmore, though, since last summer, and it looks like I'll be here for a little while as I establish myself, so over the summer I called up the church I've been attending (and had registered at when I moved here) and got information in regards to becoming involved as a Eucharistic Minister. I went to the training before I went to Ireland, and since I've been back I've been involved in a few Masses. It's easy work; I wind up only doing on average two Masses a month, maybe three, and that's that.

I'd still like to be more involved, but I'm not sure how I can manage. Until the employment situation pans out and I know what I'll be doing, I can't plan to take part in anything that meets during the week. Depending on the job I get offered - if I get offered anything - I'll be bouncing back and forth between that job (which might just be substitute teaching); tutoring the required 10 hours I need to keep my teaching assistantship, at the LIU Writing Center; and tutoring for CLC. The day job I get will affect which hours I tutor at the Writing Center, which in turn will affect which hours I will be available for CLC, which will affect the remaining free time I could give to volunteering. I'd like to volunteer for the St. Barnabas Rosary Society, which only meets once a month in the evening, but I'm not sure I'll be free Monday evenings; or the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, but I'd really not be able to give them much time at all. I'd like not to have to go into the city on the weekends. I'm willing to go in five days a week, but I'll be running around so much as it is that I may just have to drop my gig at CLC - especially if I get a teaching job or if I'm subbing.

If I weren't registered for three classes, this would be a lot easier. I had to make the decision as to what I wanted to put first in all of this, and I put grad school ahead of everything else, figuring that a teaching job may or may not be in the cards right now, and I needed something to make myself feel like I was pushing myself ahead. It's now one week before the 2007-2008 academic year starts, and I dislike not knowing how I'll afford to feed myself.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Interviews & A Camp Party

I went on what I think was a very good interview yesterday - a part-time teaching position at a two-year college in midtown Manhattan. (I don't want to name names unless I get a job offer.) The position would most likely entail my teaching a Writing 101 type of class: Composition exercises, and things like that. There are other positions for which I would be qualified, but those are already filled - literature, etc., types of classes, although there aren't too many of those types of classes because of the nature of this particular school; they offer Associates degrees, as well as certificates and diplomas, in business, health care, and technology.

The fellow who interviewed me, the newly-hired Director of Education, told me flat out that he liked me, and he seemed to want me to hire me; but I won't hear anything until tomorrow at the latest, at which point I might be invited back to give a five-minute demo lesson to demonstrate my classroom presence. I'm keeping my fingers crossed; even though this particular school does eight-week terms, and there would be no guarantee of any open positions beyond this first term, it would be a chance to get my feet wet and I would have had an "in" somewhere and can thereby put on my resume that I have classroom teaching experience.

Last night was the Coleman Country Day Camp summer-end staff party. Since Chris officially resigned (effective the last day of camp, which was earlier this week), it was our last CCDC party shindig. While the timing of quitting a job is never really "good," I suppose, this was a comparatively better time since I feel that now that I'm in a position of finding a "real job" (if only someone would hire me), I'm in the position of stepping up and supporting both of us, although my understanding is that Chris has some freelance work lined up, at least in the short term.

The camp has been changing, also, from what I've been told (and deduced), so yet another reason I'm glad Chris is out of there (aside from it being an unpleasant to work); we gave the program director a ride home last night and that point was pretty much driven home in that he may or may not be staying at CCDC (and he's been there since the camp's inception in 1982) because of the changes that have been occurring. The person they hired to replace me after I was fired also left, apparently at the beginning of summer. (To my understanding they never had really hired someone full-time after I left; the girl who replaced me went off to Camp Echo in the summer.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Proof Is In The Pudding

I received two very nice documents in the mail this summer. one before I left for Ireland, and the other just this past week.




Aren't they pretty?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

More Interviews & Job Searching

More job-related goings-on:
  • The principal who interviewed me on Monday did not, in fact, call me back on Tuesday to offer me a job. This was not a surprise, and I am not entirely sure I would have accepted a job had one been offered. As much emphasis is placed on new teachers being professional, there was a distinct lack of professionalism from this particular principal.
  • I did get offered the tutoring position for which I had applied and had an interview on Tuesday. For at least a part-time gig I'm relieved that I have something to do, even I choose not to work on weekends, and I wanted to work on weekends, I could schedule that.
  • I'm in the process of putting together my substitute teaching application packet; Harry and Jody have both kindly agreed to fill out reference forms, which I stuck in the mail and am waiting for them to mail back to me. And on Monday I'm going to the doctor to get a TB test, which is another requirement.
  • Last week I filled out an online application at a substitute teacher placement web site; today I got a call to come in and fill out the paperwork, so I'll go in next week to do that. Apparently this particular company places substitute teachers into private and charter schools in each of the boroughs except Staten Island, as opposed to the subbing application I'm compiling now for the New York City Department of Ed., which as far as I know doesn't make the distinction.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Trying To Find Work

I had an interview this morning at a high school in lower Manhattan; Jade came with me and sat outside the school in which I was interviewed because we had decided to go to the New York City Department of Education in Brooklyn to inquire about any possible open positions - neither one of us were hearing anything and have been starting to feel desperate for work.

The day started badly; the principal with whom I had scheduled the interview had advised me that I should call his office (he provided the phone number) because the school is locked for the summer. After arriving at the school, I called a number of times only never to have my phone calls answered. After having spent about 10 or 15 minutes calling, someone finally answered the phone and transferred me to the principal who said he had just left being downstairs but would send someone down. I sat in his office until 11:30 (the interview had been scheduled for 11); he called me in, asked me a couple questions and asked me if I had any for him (which I did, albeit I focused on the curriculum); I asked how many positions were available (there was just one), and what the next step was (he was interviewing the rest of today and tomorrow, and would make his decision tomorrow; if I didn't hear from him I could assume that I was not being offered the job). The total interview time was about 12 minutes. I don't expect to hear from him.

Jade and I then went way uptown to meet Vhary for lunch, which was lovely; and then Jade and I went to Brooklyn to the Department of Education. We stood in line to ask about possible employment but instead were told that we should apply online, that we would be contacted if anything was available. It was at this point it dawned on me that the alleged severe teacher shortage that New York City is encountering might not be as dire as is made out to be. I inquired about the possibility of substituting, which I would actually prefer; obviously the salary is smaller but I can survive well on it temporarily, and at this point I still need a flexible schedule to offset my graduate classes and working at the LIU Writing Center.

However, the lady at the D.O.E. (who was very nice) advised me to go to room 403 (the subbing department, in essence) in inquire about the process; I went to room 403 only to be told to go to room 408, and then to room 503, at which point an employee who was marginally helpful told me to go back room 403. I realized I needed to be very blunt with what I wanted, at which point the woman with from whom I had initially requested information in room 403 told me I had asked her for information that I hadn't, which is why she sent me to another department.

In the midst of all this floor-hopping, in the elevator, Jade, who was not really listening in on the conversations I was having, asked where we were going; I told her in no uncertain terms that I was going back to the original room to which we had been sent to tell them quite professionally what I thought of them; standing back in the original line she and I had stood in when we had gotten to the D.O.E., a gentleman approached me and said he couldn't help but overhear what I had said in the elevator, and had I been helped to my satisfaction, and had I gotten the right forms? That almost made the whole trip worthwhile.

Tomorrow I have an interview at a tutoring place that theoretically allows its employees to tutor for up to 40 hours a week. And this evening I also got an e-mail from a principal in the Bronx who wants me to come in with a drawing of my ideal classroom and a list of resources and supports I would need to support such a practice. I'm excited by this prospect, and interested in such planning, and a bit afraid, too.

But I have to admit that after today, I'm just feeling a bit dejected.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Problem Solved

The very nice and helpful fellow who sent me the forms to complete for my New York State teaching certificate I think sent me the wrong forms, which I received yesterday. It's only a hunch, but I deduced this while I was filling out the form, got to a box that strategically asked a few questions to which my replies were incorrect; the form's instructions gave the impression that if I answered the posed questions in a specific way I had the wrong form. I did not care to fill out the rest of the form, send the state the $50 fee, and then sit around indefinitely while no one contacted me (and while I lost $50), so I went out on a limb and contacted the Fingerprinting Office. By the time they were done with me, I'll bet they were not so glad they had e-mailed me their phone number a couple of weeks back.

I explained my situation to the woman who had answered the phone, but after poking around in my account for a few minutes and asking a colleague for help, she wasn't able to offer any tenable advice other than to suggest I call back the Teacher Certification Line. After explaining (again) why that might not be a good option, I was passed on to the office manager, who turned out to really be an extremely helpful guy. We troubleshot several possible problems - mostly items I could have entered incorrectly, which was fine, as far as I was concerned, because it's an irritating system; he called his tech people, who suggested a few other things that turned out to not be the issue.

Finally, after a two more phone calls between the office manager and his tech people, we found the problem, insofar as it was an option I had incorrectly chosen. It wasn't a clear choice, though; between choosing either "Adolescent Education: English" or "English 7-12" (both of which had a different code) in one particular screen that I had gone through months ago, I had chosen the latter, which made all the difference. I suppose it should have been clearer; the institutional recommendation had been for Adolescent Education, but even the office manager said that there shouldn't be two options available. The tip-off, as I was told in the beginning, was that on one screen I could see that I had the institutional recommendation, but a few screens later I was told that I didn't have it - another problem that I was told they would have to fix up. Those problems, as well as that stupid green check mark showing up when the fingerprint clearance had been received are things that should be solved. This is still a new system, though, I suppose, and the state is still working out a lot of the kinks.

And after all, I said to the office manager that I refused to believe that I'm the only person in the entire state who would have encountered such a problem.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

New York State Teaching Bureaucracy

In the past couple weeks I've been trying to apply for a teaching certificate. Each state is different in its teacher requirements, but if you go through an Approved Teacher Education Program (either as an undergrad - like what I did - or as a grad student), these are the basic requirements, at least in going through Stony Brook University; I have each of these things to my name:
  • Taking extra year of coursework, which includes 5 extra teaching classes; 100 hours of classroom "field experience" / "observation"; and 75 days' student teaching
  • Passing 3 exams: The Liberal Arts & Science Test (LAST); the Assessment of Teaching Skills-Written (ATS-W); and the Content Specialty Test (CST)
  • Sitting through 3 workshops, basically on how to spot child abuse, substance abuse, and violence at home
  • Getting fingerprinted
  • Getting institutional recommendation
When I was student teaching in fall 2006, N.Y.S.E.D. finally announced their online web site: Teacher candidates could update their contact information, see what their progress was, and apply online for a certificate. It was an effort to streamline everything, make things easier, and eliminate paper waste. All good things.

In order to get a copy of one's teaching certificate, one goes through the online application process. The system won't let you apply for a certificate until the state had all application information, which was individually bullet pointed and had a green check mark appear next to it when each piece was individually received. Green check marks appeared next to each item, indicating that all my stuff was received, except for my fingerprints, which was odd, because this was done more than a year ago.

I sent N.Y.S.E.D. an e-mail (I like written records of things) and I was told that the "fingerprint" check mark does not appear until all other items are in the state's hands. At the time of this e-mail, this was fine because I still hadn't taken the last exam. After having taken and passed this test, still no green check mark appeared next to "fingerprinting." More e-mails went back and forth; apparently, this lack of green check mark is a glitch that they're not planning on fixing because various administrators could see that N.Y.S.E.D. has all my stuff and that I have completed all the requirements.

Then how, might you ask, can I apply online for a certificate? I sent them an e-mail this afternoon asking just that, and await their answer.

In the meantime I stood by for half an hour on the phone to talk to a very helpful fellow who said, did you try this; did you try that; and what did they tell you? At which point, finally, he said he was printing out the paper forms and will send those to me. I'm still very interested in how N.Y.S.E.D. would have me apply online for a certificate, though.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

More Family Bonding, Irish-Style

Last day in Dublin today - heading back to Arigna for pretty much the rest of the trip.

After having come back to the hotel for a few hours, Mom, Dad, and I went out in search of food and stopped off at a pub, after which we quite accidentally wound up coming across Patrick, Meghan, Anne, Bronwyn, Ciara, and Aidan; took a rather lengthy walk (again) on the Dun Laoghaire pier. Exactly what I was hoping would happen.

Quiet morning this morning; Mom and I attempted to go to Mass at Our Lady of Victories in Sallynoggin but missed the first 20 minutes or so because of the wrong information given by the hotel; we managed to get most of the important parts anyway - all of which (except for the Homily) were said in Irish, which was neat although a bit disorienting.

It'll be quiet for the rest of the trip; my Internet access (which I'll miss) will be sporadic at best.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Streets Broad And Narrow

Yesterday was the day of walking around Dublin. Dad and Justin have been really stressed out and made driving (and traveling in general) unpleasant, to the point where yesterday was a continuation of the past couple of days and my not wanting to be involved. I am still generally irritated with how they have been handling themselves, but it looks as though things have started to calm down a bit.

In any case, it was an okay day; Mom, I think, just wanted a day of the four of us wandering around Dublin, which we did for an hour or two after Justin had run off and explored a bit on his own. We walked down Grafton Street; and into the chamber of the Irish House of Lords, which is now part of the Bank of Ireland in College Green. We could walk into the Bank of Ireland and wander into the House of Lords room itself, which was neat. We walked over Ha'Penny Bridge, where we were rained upon (again) so we decided that it was time for a break, and found a crêperie. (Yum, so good! Mom used to make crêpes for Lent - plain, with butter, sugar, and lemon juice, which is the type I had.)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Some Things I Noticed...

These are things I have either come across in the past or are not necessarily surprised to have come across, but even though I've been to Ireland several times, I forget or learn something new:

* The cows come out to greet you in the middle of the street; they do tend to wander out and occasionally hang out until someone goes "Shoo!" The cows are completely unafraid of cars and will mosey on past at their leisure. I've been tempted to bring along a milk jug and take advantage.

* There was no hairdryer in my hotel room (I had to ask for one because apparently not all rooms come with one, and even then it took time to scrounge one up), but there were accessories for tea - including an electric kettle, tea cups, tea bags, sugar, and (hopefully will turn out to be) D.H.T. milk. Tea is more readily available than coffee, so easily, and it's so nice.

* I noticed this when Chris and I were in London last April - the impossibly high tub that (in the case of our London hotel) had tub walls that were higher than my knees and was really difficult to get in and out of; not so with the hotel here, although the tub walls are higher than I'm used to. (And at least there are several conveniently located hand rails, more so than in our London hotel.)

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Am surviving more or less intact in Ireland, with few complaints. Got picked up from the Dublin airport Monday morning by Mom and Gertrud, then survived a longer-than-two-hour drive back "home." (Almost made it all the way back without falling asleep, too!) Hung out with Dad and Willi, and then napped before spending the rest of the day noticing how inhibitively rainy it was being... and proceeded to be all of Monday and Tuesday, during which time a proper mattress was delivered (the air mattress had sprung a leak and was such that getting out of bed in the morning wasn't so much getting out of bed as it was rolling out of bed onto the concrete floor, conveniently located close to my knees), as well a wardrobe, which Dad and Willi spent the rest of the day assembling (due to apparently horrible pictorial instructions).

Yesterday, being Willi and Gertrud's last day, we decided to go to the Belleek Pottery factory, which was pretty neat. Long drive, though, so by the time we got home we had decided not to do that much. Dad's and my plans to get to the Internet cafe, previously dashed because of the wardrobe, were revived.

We left early this morning for our foray back to Dublin, dropped Gertrud and Willi at the airport, ate together, and then had slightly stressful driving adventures to our hotel, where I've locked myself away, happily having taken a very long nap from which I happened to awaken only because Mom knocked on my door to ask if I wanted to join her and Dad on a walk around Dun Laoghaire. Being really out of it, though, as well as feeling a strong need to be alone, and people's formerly slightly unpleasant behavior made me decide to stay put, at least until this evening.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Packin' Up & the iPhone

Tomorrow evening I'm leaving for Ireland for my three-and-a-half-week trip. I'm not quite sure how I feel about going. I think I'm supposed to be glad about seeing my parents' house (which I haven't seen yet). Most of my relatives on my mother's side live scattered throughout Ireland, and I haven't seen them in 10 years. I think I'm should be looking forward to seeing them again, but I don't really know these people - Mom grew up with them and has traveled to Ireland her entire life, but I don't have the same relationships with them as she does, of course. Of course, then there's the part where we'll be burying my grandmother.

In any case, I have been slowly getting organized, going to the store to buy items I realize I need or should have (extra ear plugs came to mind). I have pretty much packed too; my duffle bag is stuffed to the proverbial gills. All my stuff never would have fit in the smaller suitcase for which I made a special trip to the storage facility. And I'm not even over packing necessarily, but I'm bringing a few items over for Mom and Dad, and those items took up more space than I thought they would. I did not manage to have room to even pack my rain jacket or the books I will need to borrow from the library tomorrow. I may have to go through what I have packed and remove a few of the nicer clothes I'd decided to pack, on the off chance they'd be needed. On the other hand...maybe just some severe reorganization is needed.

The iPhone came out yesterday; Chris is as happy as a clam. I stood outside the Apple Store at the mall all day; Jordan stopped by in mid-afternoon to bring me beverages, came again at about four in the afternoon, and let me go home just after five. Chris had camped out at the local AT & T store but was not able to get any of their supply, so he made off with one of the two that Jordan had purchased. It wasn't too bad a day, really. I had brought a sandwich and a few drinks (and Jordan kept me supplied and kept checking up on me throughout the day); I also had a book and a magazine, and Chris lent me his iPod (and is letting me borrow it for the duration of my trip to Ireland - relief!). Chris has been showing off his iPhone since last night.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Birthday Rant

My friend Stella turns 29 today. I had mailed her a card and left her a "Happy Birthday" message in her Live Journal comment section, but in glancing over and bypassing her other friends' comments, I felt a rant coming on. And I didn't want to leave a rant in her comments section because it's got less to do with her birthday and her friends' good wishes as it is all-around rant.

When it comes to birthdays, people seem to have one of a few settings: Turning a new decade, or the year before, people start to freak out and react as if birthdays are traumatizing. They get all angst-ridden because "they haven't accomplished anything," but they never specifically explain what it is they are not accomplishing. Do you have a certain goal you have set for yourself and have not met? What are you going to do to go after it then? Or have you tried to cure cancer and failed? Didn't win the Nobel Prize again? Or are you living your life, finding out what makes you happy, and going after it? That is what a success is, in my mind: Figuring out what you want, what makes you happy, and then going after it.

I was relieved to turn 30. It meant I was finally becoming my own person and that I had the right to make my own decisions and not have to be accountable to anyone for why I made specific choices. I don't think that happens to most people until they start coming into their own in their mid- to late-twenties. And it was literally last year for me when I started feeling that way. Now that I'm 31 and I finally have a college degree - which is not a marker of success; I just happen to be crap at anything that doesn't require that degree - I finally feel like I can go after the rest of what I want.

The other setting seems to be that he or she who is celebrating the birthday doesn't care; it's just another birthday. Which, you know... it is. If you are going to freak out because you are turning 30, or 40, or 50, or 120... well, would you rather the alternative?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Resting Up

My pictures are all finally up from our trip to San Francisco. Since Chris and I have been home I've been doing some odd running around and mentally preparing myself for my trip to Ireland: Picked up my new eyeglasses; done some laundry; ordered some clothes and a raincoat; ordered a few things Mom and Dad have asked me to pick up for them. I'll have to do laundry again before I leave, of course, but I've begun trying to simplify what I'll be packing (hence the ordering of new clothes).

I often feel that I need a few days to recover from a vacation. No matter how much fun I have, no matter what new things I have learned and discovered, coming back home has become a relief. I don't know why this is, but being away from home for more than a week makes me nervous. No, not nervous, maybe; I don't quite know what the proper word is. While I'm looking forward to my three-and-a-half-week trip to Ireland, I'm also apprehensive about being away from home for so long. I've been to Europe quite a few times, and have managed to do a fair amount of driving up and down the East Coast and out to California, but there's always a piece of worry in the back of my mind, a worry that something bad is going to happen while I'm away, some financial issue is going to develop and become exacerbated unless I'm here to take care of it, but won't be able to because I don't know about it and can't take care of it.

It's illogical, I know; few problems pop out of nowhere and become major complications in a short period of time, but I have had a few instances in which I've gone away, come home, and something has come up - usually my fault and entirely preventable - and even though I've grown up I'm still worried about something happening.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

San Francisco - Saturday

Today being our last day in San Francisco, and also since there was no conference for Chris to go to, we'd decided we'd trek up (over?) to Fisherman's Wharf and get us some good crab. (Last time we went to San Francisco together, I nudged Chris towards Fisherman's Wharf and introduced him to the line of seafood shacks they have, and he decreed that we would have to come back again and spend more time.)

We had some misadventures with the bus - the first took forever to show up (more than 20 minutes); the second and third were too full so not everyone got on; another few buses just kept going and didn't stop; etc. - so after more than half an hour of this we decided to hoof it at least through Chinatown. Finally caught a less-crowded bus and reached the Wharf.

We grabbed a crab cocktail and inspected the various lunching possibilities - and I think that no matter what we did we would have been happy about it - before actually heading into a sit-down restaurant that kept us standing outside longer than we'd been initially told. Although I'm not a big fan of sourdough bread, I opted for the lobster bisque in a sourdough bread bowl and a Caesar salad; Chris ordered half a cracked crab (which did look pretty good) and a cup of the lobster bisque; and we split an order of Oysters Rockefeller. We wandered a bit further down the Wharf, avoiding the blatant tourist traps (why would you want to go to Johnny Rocket's or the Rainforest Cafe if you had the option of fresh crab and seafood?) and shopping and decided to wander back to the hotel.

We dumped our stuff at the hotel and headed over a few blocks to the King George Hotel, because we had heard rumors of tea being served on the weekends. And actually, it was pretty nice: Dainty cups and saucers matched the plates, sugar bowl, creamer, and tea pot; there were four options for tea, each of which came with bottomless pots of tea (relief for Chris). We decided to combine the King George Tea, which came with a scone, preserves, and Devon clotted cream, a selection of tea sandwiches (cucumber; salmon and cream cheese; ham and cheese; and egg salad), tea cookies, and petit four; and the Queen Mary Tea, which came with the same selection of tea sandwiches, and tea cookies. Chris kindly let me try half his scone and some petit four.

I headed to Mass so I wouldn't have to be up amazingly early Sunday morning; I went to a rather impressive church that turned out to the seat of the archdiocese of San Francisco - the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. It was actually one of the best Masses I've been to in a while - the priest actually smiled at every person who came down the aisle for Communion, which for some reason just made me kinda happy. Of course, the way these things sometimes work is that the church itself was a bit more than a mile away, so it took me just over half an hour to walk there and back, and by the time I got back to the hotel room Chris was starting to worry.

Because we had eaten tea, we weren't that hungry for dinner, but I'd heard of a hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant that allegedly had good food and since it happened to only be a couple blocks from our hotel, we had a late dinner. Turned out to be pretty good, too.