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.