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.