Saturday, May 31, 2008

Religion v. Atheism

I was listening to a few minutes of one of Chris' podcasts this afternoon - the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. It was interesting to listen to; one of the topics they seem to discuss often (the few times I've heard snippets) is religion. One of the panelists indicated (if I'm remembering this correctly) that she feels she has a right to opine that religion is nonsense. (She used different terminology that I won't repeat here.) I agree that she absolutely has the freedom and right to believe whatever she chooses, and to even engage others on the topic. But a few things bother me about the specific phraseology she had used. One fellow indicated that using such terminology could be seen as inflammatory, even causing others to feel their beliefs are being completely invalidated. And I think this is my biggest problem with such opinions: While atheism as a concept bothers me, the way in which it is often presented is such that it makes me feel that my beliefs are unfounded, and, even worse, that I am a fool to belief what I do.

What also bothers me is the indication that those who are religious are also illogical, not taking into account that many of us have theologically questioned and studied the tenets of our religion, not merely or simply blindly following dogma "because we have to." There are reasons for may of the practices, and I admit that even I am surprised by those who have never questioned their religion and its practices and dogmatic teachings. But ultimately it comes down to having to make a decision about whether we accept the teachings of the Church and whether we can accept our inability to understand that which God has not made known.

There's a lot of humility when it comes to accepting a religion, admitting that one doesn't have all the answers. I know I've had trouble accepting all the Church's teachings, and that's something I still struggle with. Understanding that people choose to be humble in their beliefs may be something that perhaps  can't be understood. There's a lot about everything that I don't understand, but I don't necessarily discount it. And that's one of the other big issues - I know I'm very sensitive about having my beliefs discounted or believed to be unfounded. And this is why I tend to just stay away from discussions of religion with most people who aren't religious. 

Friday, May 30, 2008

Fun with Interviews

The Associate Director of our Writing Center is leaving at the end of the summer to complete her Ph.D., and as such, interviews are currently being held for her soon-to-be-vacant position. The job description had been advertised a couple weeks ago, and I thought long and hard about applying for the position - it's one I could do, and (I like to think) could do well. I have the background and experience, or enough of the requirements that I could learn the ropes quickly enough. The only requirement I do not yet have is the actual M.A. degree, which today I learned is an absolute requirement for the position; it's an aspect about which there's no negotiation. As I thought about it for a few weeks, I ultimately came to the conclusion - lack of necessary degree aside - that applying wouldn't be in my best interest; something kept me from applying, but I wasn't sure what. 

Earlier this week I was asked if if I would be available to sit in on a candidate's interview  that took place yesterday afternoon, and was given a question to ask. It was a very interesting interview, and compounded the feeling I had in making the decision not to apply - I got to witness the process firsthand, see the people who were likely to be on the interviewing committee, hear what questions were asked, and essentially get a good idea of what type of person might be good for this position. I wish I could write about the candidate, or the questions we asked or her answers, but there's no privacy settings on this blog so I'll have to keep them to myself, but suffice it to say I got a very good idea of what was good or bad, what could have been better, and had my ideas about what was needed for this position reinforced. And I could have articulated very well the answers to the questions indeed.

After the interview I began really thinking about all the reasons why I was glad I didn't actually apply. Associate or assistant director positions tend to be largely administrative, which is fine - it might be the first administrative job I would like to have - but they may or may not be tenure-track. (I actually tend to think most are not tenure track, but who wants to stay an assistant or associate director forever, anyway?) I got to realizing again that a lot of faculty and staff at LIU seem to be products of the LIU system; people get their undergraduate and/or graduate degrees and then find ways of staying in some capacity. 

I don't want to obtain a degree from a university and then stay at the same institution - at least not without working elsewhere first in the interim; I think it would be a mistake to get my M.A. from LIU and then not work elsewhere. And why on one hand I think it speaks volumes about the people who graduate from an institution but are reluctant to leave - because they've been made to feel comfortable, and welcome, and feel they've learned a lot and had a good education - I'm wary of the institution that doesn't highly encourage its graduates to move out of their comfort zones and move on, to meet new people in different positions and with different backgrounds. (This is one of the reasons I wasn't entirely unhappy or disappointed with St. John's University and their not accepting me into their doctoral program; while I could attended for my M.A., I wanted to meet new people and develop a sense of my own interests, and see how other universities organize their programs.)

Something else I've had to consider is that I'm not sure where I'll be, geographically speaking, after I graduate. I love Brooklyn, and I want to stay on the east coast, but I also need to consider where Chris might want to live after I graduate. While it's possible I'll be in the same area for a couple more years I can't commit to that right now.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


Last weekend was Patrick's graduation from the University of Virginia. Chris and I joined Mom and Dad for the drive down and back; Anne, Bill, and Ciara also came down for the weekend, and with the exception of Justin, we were all in attendance. I haven't seen Patrick and Meghan's new house (and they moved to Virginia years ago); their house is really nice, and they have gorgeous land, which I wish I could have seen more of, but we ran out of time. We went for a walk on Saturday night, after we'd arrived; Sunday was Patrick's graduation, which was a bit rainy, but otherwise good. I managed to cause us to be a bit late because Meghan was teaching me how to lead and groom the horses, but it was a good graduation, and absolutely packed: The graduating class was so large it took them an hour to march in. We also managed to be a late for the departmental honors, but we only missed a few minutes and saw Patrick hooded. It was a really excellent day.

I guess I'm next in the graduating sequence.

My summer class has been going well so far; this has been the first full week. There will be a lot of reading, but it's completely manageable. (I hope.)  I finally got all my grades from the spring semester, and while not spectacular, I'm maintaining a cumulative 3.811 G.P.A. (My semester G.P.A. was 3.7530.) I've begun to look forward to the end of June, when I'll have a mental break. I'm doing well, but I need that break pretty badly at this point.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Busy, Busy

I handed in my last paper this past Monday, which means my semester has been officially over for nearly a week. It's still been a busy week for the rest of the week, though; on Tuesday morning I went to the VIRTUS training as part of the training that the Diocese of Rockville Centre - which is the diocese of all of Long Island - has mandated for all its volunteers. (This was training that alleges to teach us how to recognize the signs of child sexual abuse.) On Tuesday afternoon I traipsed up to the mall and dropped off my laptop at the Apple store because my MacBook had developed some hairline cracks on its case, but it was easily fixed and I picked it up on Wednesday afternoon after I had done a big pile of laundry.

Since yesterday Chris and I have been visiting Mom and Dad; I needed to get my car inspected, and since Patrick invited us all to his graduation from the University of Virginia (where he's getting his Ph.D. in physics), we're going to the four of us drive down together. Anne, Bill, and Ciara are flying down from upstate New York, and although Mom and Dad are staying in a hotel, it's going to be a full house. We're coming back Monday, which means a lot of driving will be involved. I'm looking forward to the trip down; I've not seen Patrick's house since he and Meghan and the kids moved down there years ago; and I like seeing different college campuses. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Summer Plans

As previously mentioned, I've been somewhat busy with classes and writing. I've also been pretty busy at the Writing Center, doing my usual 10-hour-a-week thing. But I've been expanding my horizons a bit, too. I was elected to the NEWCA Steering Committee at NEWCA back in April, and have been put in charge of the Mailing List. There are a few meetings throughout the yea - one in June, and one in January - to plan next year's NEWCA Conference. I'm also in the running for a graduate student representative position for IWCA. I have no idea how many other graduate students have been nominated, so I don't really know what my chances are. But it would be neat to be part of the organization.

I have the guarantee of one very part time job tutoring at the LIU Summer Institute. It's only a month long, but it'll be some income, at any rate, for which I'm thankful. I'll also plan on subbing as much as I can the rest of this month, and as much of June as possible. I'm looking forward to being solvent

The rest of the summer I'll plan on getting my syllabus together for next semester's ENG 16 class I'll be teaching, preparing for my thesis, and taking a summer class with Patricia, which will actually be a bit of an extension of the research I'd been helping her with over the course of this past semester. The class has been officially called "Representations of Struggle in South African Literature & Film."

  1. Peter Abrahams, Mine Boy
  2. Zo Wicomb, You Can't Get Lost in Cape Town
  3. Alan Paton, Cry, The Beloved Country
  4. Zakes Mda, Ways of Dying
  5. Antije Krog, Country of My Skull

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Job News & Whatnot

Three weeks between blog posts - that has to be some kind of record.

I've been up to my eyeballs, at least metaphorically speaking, with writing. The past two weeks has been the most difficult of the semester. I have classes three days a week, and the past week or two I had something due every day I had class: Two presentations with accompanying papers and a full-length syllabus for the teaching practicum; journals to catch up on, two drafts to revise, and two full-length essays to write for the creative non-fiction class; and a 16-page paper for the Joyce class. I still have one 10-page paper to write (my last of the semester), but it's not due until next Monday, so I have a chance to breathe a bit. I really felt like I was slammed with writing assignments, and had little time to do all the work justice (especially the Joyce paper).

If I didn't have to sleep, commute, or sit in classes I would have had enough time to write, I tell myself. But everything else is written and submitted, with the exception of that last paper, which I'm not really worried about. Classes officially end today, but the creative non-fiction class decided to meet one last class tomorrow afternoon. A few Sundays ago our class had met in the city for a reading of our work, but between getting started about 20-25 minutes late (because we weren't actually permitted inside the venue until the time we were to start reading; and because people lingered outside), two people from the class (myself and another fellow) didn't actually get to read. I wasn't really interested in reading anyway, but was irritated that I didn't get to read (especially after paying the $7 cover charge); what made it even more irritating was that Chris came to listen and he didn't get to hear me read either. Tomorrow we're planning on having a mini-reading on campus to compensate.

A few weekends ago Chris and I went to PodCamp NYC, which was extremely cool; I wish I could have gone both days but I had too much work to do. (I probably shouldn't have gone at all, but I'm very glad I went.) Much geekery ensued, and there was an education track, and now I'm very excited to start my podcast. Details to be worked out, but I'd like to focus on my experiences as a new teacher and incorporating blogs, podcasts, etc., into the class, with the possible addition of recording the classes I teach and uploading them to the same stream.

I have, in fact, decided to go ahead with the podcast I'd planned to do last year, which is to say I'm going to be creating The New Teacher Podcast. In the theoretically more perfect world I would have been teaching this year in some capacity, but between not finding one and the NYC Department of Education smiting my substitute teacher application for seven months, the podcast was not to be. However, I was officially offered a teaching fellowship for next semester (which will probably extend to a year-long engagement) teaching English 16 - English Composition. I'm very excited to be having my own classroom, and I'm very excited that I will be making that classroom probably one of the most technological on the campus. And in fact, I plan on using my students as guinea pigs for my thesis - something of a case study, although the logistics of that study still need to be ironed out.

Furthermore, the NYC DOE has finally granted me a substitute teaching certificate (as of this past Friday), so I'm officially approved and in their system. Yesterday I went to the DOE, brought along the various forms they requested I bring, got my picture taken, got my I.D. card, and was told how their SubCentral system worked. And throughout the day - already as my first day as a sub, and invariably while I was in class or asleep, and thereby unable to answer the phone - I got close to 10 calls about substitute vacancies today. (Of course, all these calls could have been from the same two or three schools; if one doesn't answer one's phone, the job isn't held. The only thing that would make me happier about this whole substituting hoopla is if there were an open list of jobs available on the SubCentral Web site from which I could pick and choose assignments.