Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Maria Got Married

After everything that's been going on recently, I finally have the chance to write about the details.

On Wednesday I had an interview in Brooklyn. As these things go, it went fine, although the teacher who would be replaced may or may not be leaving and they're interviewing several people so that they could have a pool of applicants from which to choose, so I'm not really getting my hopes up. Which is actually fine, because Brighton Beach is really all the way down there, and the daily commute would be a stretch, even for me. (As a side note: Brighton Beach is very nifty and I would like to go back to explore it a bit more.)

Wednesday evening Maria and Stephen came over - such was that I finally got to meet the elusive Stephen, who was (much to my relief) a nice guy (it's much easier when your friends date nice people). Maria had been telling Stephen about our little Indian restaurant, and this had piqued Stephen's interest.

On Thursday I had to do some mildly irritating errands, which mostly consisted of my trying to get a few answers from the teacher certification department at Stony Brook University, but I decided it would probably be much easier to handle this in person, so off I went. And I was right - I was told to complete form I hadn't known I needed, and it turned out that the person who told me about this form had actually told me to complete the incorrect form, so he printed out the right form for me. As often happens it took 20 minutes to get the information, and much, much longer to travel to get this information.

On Saturday, preparations for Maria and Stephen's wedding began. All the bridesmaids met at Maria's grandmother's house, and for the rest of the day we put together wedding favors, folded programs, rehearsed the ceremony, and generally got ourselves organized.

Sunday itself was the wedding. Chris and I picked up another bridesmaid and her boyfriend, who had opted to stay overnight at a local hotel, and were at the grandmother's house by 9 a.m. Maria arrived a bit later, at which point we ran around taking care of the details. Amrita and I helped Maria into her dress; Amrita helped her with her makeup; flowers were cut; and items needed for the reception were piled into cars (thanks to the men). Chris and I stuck a beautifully-gowned Maria into the back of our car and delivered to her Planting Fields Arboretum, where the ceremony would be held. Maria walked down the aisle to Maeve's "One I Love"; and the ceremony (at which I officiated) lasted only about 15 minutes. Most of Maria's friends (myself included) were friends from the Writing Center, so except for any dates that were brought, everyone knew everyone else. The family was left at the Arboretum and the rest of us headed on over to the reception hall - which was the upstairs of Umberto's, to set up. It was only slight mayhem, but everything got set up. I've had Umberto's pizza before, but all around the food was (almost to my surprise and Chris') excellent all around. I had an absolutely lovely time, and I'm pleased that I got to officiate at the ceremony (in an unofficial capacity; Maria and Stephen are both Druids/Elementalists; in order to make their marriage really legal one needed to be an ordained minister, which obviously I am not) and be a witness to their legal ceremony - which is something only the best man (Stephen's grandfather), Maria's mother, and I got to be a part of.

Monday, May 21, 2007

No More Stony Brook University

The past few weeks have been just very busy, and now that my summer has officially begun, I can begin processing everything that's been happening. The last week of tutoring at Stony Brook University came and went. We had our end-of-the-semester / end-of-the-year pizza party (during the last week of the semester there are a few reading days that are alternately very busy and extremely quiet), and the first annual Writing Program Prom, both events I went to but just managed to make me sad.

Because I was only taking one class this past semester, I only had one final exam, which, to no one's surprise, was administered on the last day of finals, during (I believe) the latest time possible - Tuesday at 5 p.m. (They may have been an exam at 8 p.m., but I'm not entirely sure.) The professor and teacher assistants were pretty good about grading - there were about 80 students in the class - and my grade was posted within a few days. (Grades are to be posted within 72 hours, but that doesn't always get adhered to.) In any case, I didn't do too well in the final, but between doing well on the first mid-term and in the recitation (getting full credit there), and 30 extra points in extra credit, I got a B for the course. (Those 30 points really made a difference too; if I hadn't done the extra credit I would wound up with a C, the minimum grade I could have gotten and still received credit: A bit too close for comfort, there.)

All this meant, of course, that I could officially graduate. The graduation ceremonies themselves were fine, although true to fashion, it rained (especially fitting because the only other time I've been in the stadium was my first day of New Student Orientation - it also rained). Commencement started a bit late, and lasted an hour. I actually didn't even pay that much attention to the speeches - I wasn't sure who was speaking and I couldn't see that much either. My program book fell to pieces because it got drenched with rain. The department ceremony was more personal - English department professors whom I knew and had taken classes under were there, and there was a small reception afterwards - wine and sparkling grape juice, water, soda, and chocolate.

Chris took the day off work, as did Mom; Mom and Dad came for Commencement and the departmental ceremony, which was scheduled for Friday, as did Patrick and Anne. Anne had arrived late Thursday night and had to leave Friday, but Patrick, Mom, Dad, Chris, and I went to Rangmahal for dinner. Patrick left Saturday morning, and Chris' parents arrived Saturday afternoon. It was a quiet afternoon inasmuch as the Chris' parents and mine just spent the afternoon talking, but we did go to Legal Sea Foods for dinner. We came back for coffee and tea and the chocolate cake I baked (Chris' mother's recipe) and called it a night. Both sets of parents went home Sunday afternoon, and the rest of the day Chris and I, while thrilled to have everyone visit, spent the time just being quiet.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Standard Tutoring Rant

I've been tutoring here at Stony Brook University for three years now, and I'm hardly an expert. I do, however, have a soon-to-be-official professional background in education, and I have enough experience tutoring to see what works in terms of how to talk to students and explain things, and realize that "right" and "wrong" is more often than not very subjective. Saying something is wrong, for example, without questioning why it;s wrong, especially because you were taught that way in high school, is a really bad idea, because a lot of those things that teachers taught you in high school, were.... well, wrong. English is a fluid language, people, and it changes and grows and rules come and go. The English language is based on its being culturally used and those cultures change. That's part of the reason why there's not just one English language; English is the official language of multiple cultures, and the culture that uses a language is adaptive.

These are some the things that go through my mind when I eavesdrop on other people's tutoring sessions. Most of our tutors are at the very least just fine. Some are better than others, of course.... I'm not sure if there are any fantastic tutors around, but some are definitely stronger than others.

Occasionally, though, we just have tutors who are just bad. Not many - but we've had one particular tutor here who is just... not good. She is not patient - which is to say she's not specifically impatient, but there's a better way to tell students that we aren't human grammar checks than, "We don't do that here." I've had students come in, just wanting help with lower level grammar problems (the comma splices and semi-colons, etc.), but I generally approach these students along the lines of, "Let's take a look at what you have, and see what can fix; how's that?" And then I just (hopefully) start teaching them the tips that will help them recognize those problems in the future. I'm not sure how to approach her about this; I feel that she could learn something but I'm not sure how receptive she would be. What bothers me is that she's slightly condescending, possibly without realizing she is, and that is just something I feel is really the wrong stance to have.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Demo Lesson

I had my first demo lesson today at a middle school in Brooklyn. I don't think it went terribly, but I was concerned about pacing and how to draw in the 6th Graders I would be teaching. Since I was asked to develop a lesson about writing, I developed a lesson based on found poetry and used a few selections from Aesop's Fables (they're short and in the public domain, so I didn't have to worry about copyright protection). The assistant principal, Ms. A., observed, and had some good things to say about the lesson plan (good choice on the selection of literature; interesting idea with the "found poetry"; I had them writing; good for a springboard into a unit about poetry; among other things) and some helpful things to help improve (generally speaking, the implementation and modeling could better, which is something one tends to get better at only with practice in the classroom). Ms. A. was straightforward, but not harsh; she let me know she knew I was at a disadvantage; she remembered that I am inexperienced, working with students whom I didn't know and who didn't know me, and knew I was not being in what she called "middle school mode"; she was critical without being negative, which I appreciated.

Despite this, Ms. A. requested that we set up another demo lesson; I'd be working with the same class, which we mutually decided might be more suitable because there would be a level of familiarity between the students and me which might make it easier on everyone involved. I'll just have to determine what Ms. A. might want me to focus the lesson on, if anything specific, and set up a date for me to come back in.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Ceremony Thinktank

This was one of the first really lovely weekends of the spring - climatologically speaking, at least. Maria's wedding is quickly approaching, and we had made arrangements to go to the Planting Fields Arboretum to get a feel for the place, figure out how we would deal with parking, and staging of the actual ceremony itself. Amrita had a prior commitment, and Lauren claimed illness, so Maria came to pick me up with Alli and India in tow. And I have to say, it's a gorgeous place. I went photo crazy, of course. But it was busy, and I wound up rather exhausted by the time I got home. We ran to Maria's grandparents', to the Arboretum, and back to her grandparents', and all this too five hours. Or rather, it took me five hours; Maria had an extra hour and a half of driving, what with taking India and Alli back to the Stony Brook University area.

Friday, May 4, 2007


I've been feeling preoccupied with my final days as an undergrad, trying to schedule teaching interviews, next semester as a grad student, etc. The combination of both end-of-the-semester and end-of-the-year rush at the Writing Center means we've been inundated with stressed out students who mismanaged their time. We've also had a lot of walk-ins, students who don't know they need an appointment, something they might not necessarily need except that it's the end of the semester, when everything is due, and when everyone needs help. Of course, since many students are graduating, there's also a sense of urgency.

I've been getting various phone calls from various individuals representing schools in Brooklyn, wanting to schedule interviews, but between calling people back and e-mailing people many of these interviews don't quite actualize. I do, however, have an appointment to give a demo lesson on Monday; another interview next Friday; and an interview the Wednesday after that. The folks over at the Commack School District also have been trying to schedule an interview, but despite my prompt e-mail responses, their department head has been lax in replying. I don't really want to interview there because it's not in Brooklyn - and if I'm going to teach full time I want to be in a position of not being late for graduate classes. If I'm going to juggle an amazingly hectic schedule I'm going to do so without any more stress than necessary.

Aside from all this, I have been feeling inexplicably exhausted lately. I've not been getting quite enough sleep. I know there's evidence that sleep deficits don't exist, and sleep banks don't exist, but I always seem to need extra sleep after not getting enough. Last night I simply could not keep my eyes open, despite a very interesting PBS special on the Mormons. I woke up in the middle of the night, wandered around for all of 10 minutes, and then went back to bed and fell asleep immediately. I haven't felt this rested in a very long time.