Friday, November 28, 2008

School, Teaching, Holidays

I have nothing substantial to write at this moment, because really nothing too interesting has going on lately.

I do not want to talk about my thesis, which strangely and inexplicably has not begun to write itself on its own volition. I wish people would stop asking me what it’s about because it’s complicated insofar that I don’t know all the ins-and-outs yet, and to say “technology in the writing classroom and my experiences with technology in my classroom” sounds lame and generic and there’s more to it than that, but I don’t have more specifics to give because I haven’t written anything yet. That's a long sentence, but it sums up my hesitancy in talking about my thesis.

Classes are going well. I'm done with my Virginia Woolf paper. The paper itself is either brilliant or claptrap, but either way it's done. ("War in Virginia Woolf" has been done to pieces, I know, but I am not a brilliant person and do not strive to say new, interesting things in the field of literature.) I have another paper to write, for my other class, and even though I haven't put much work into it at this point I'm not too worried about it. This is the paper that I'm interested in writing but have to jump into, and since I know myself, and I know that I work (and write) better under pressure, I know this will work itself out.

The class I'm teaching is going well, I believe. I have reached the point in the semester where I see problems with my students, and I see what I could have done better this semester, but I'm really, truly enjoying teaching the class to such an extent that I would be honestly delighted to teach freshman composition for the rest of my life. The students give me trouble, and they question me sometimes, and they're young and uncertain and I want to help them and guide them and tell them that their lives will not fall apart and it's okay to be unsure and uncertain and no, really, they should come talk to me because they're interesting and I was there, too - not that long ago. I love students this age because I see everything I needed help with at that age and was dying to talk to someone about and just didn't know how to, and I wasn't even sure what I wanted to talk to them about but I wanted to anyway. One of my students told me that she thinks I'm a good teacher and was surprised that I hadn't been teaching much longer and I will be carrying that with me for a long time, because I want people to think I'm a good teacher. I don't want this to be Fatal Career Mistake #47.

Last Thursday I collected my students' research papers and have dutifully brought them with me upstate; Chris and I are visiting his family for Thanksgiving. I'm reading the papers in batches of three because they're longer papers, and denser, and more than three at a time and I begin to become more interested in anything else. So far the papers are interesting, though, and I'm enjoying reading them, and even look forward to the remainder of them, which probably means there's something wrong with me.

Thanksgiving itself was pleasant; 15 people at Chris' parents. The usual fare, and it was all delicious, and there were leftovers, which makes me happy. The holiday I think stresses Chris' mother out a lot; I think there's a lot of residual anger and unhappiness that I hear about, which is difficult to hear about not only because it seems to have been going on so long - at least I've been hearing this for years - but I'm not used to it from my own family and I don't really know how to solve her unhappiness. I can't say anything because there's nothing helpful I could say, and besides which, it makes me sad that she's so unhappy and stressed out about the holidays, but in turn it stresses me out, which I also dislike. I've reached an impasse. Perhaps it's insoluble. 

We're here until Sunday; the weekend is flying by, as usual, quickly. Two more weeks of classes!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bad Day

Things have been rough lately. I have not begun writing my thesis, a complete draft of which I would like to have written by Christmas (so my readers can read it and get it back to me so I'll have a chance to revise and resubmit so I can graduate in May). I'm actually a bit paralyzed in the sense that I have both so many ideas and so few original ideas that I'm not sure how I want to narrow my focus. The first step, of course, would be to actually finish reading my material so I can formulate an intelligent opinion, but at the moment I can't get to that.

The Virginia Woolf class continues to be the bane of my existence (metaphorically speaking), while the Literacy & Basic Writing class continues to be interesting, although I am dragging my heels in writing and researching my paper. This is not surprising, since I chose the same topic for the term paper as I did my thesis, thinking that the paper would force me to get a handle on my thesis. At some point it will, but that point is not likely to be this week. (The Virginia Woolf paper is nearly done; it's completely unoriginal in its topic - "War in Virginia Woolf Novels" - but I'm at peace with that. I simply hope that it is written well.)

The freshman comp class is going well enough, although this week it's been bumpy since the students hadn't done their assigned reading; as recompense I assigned an irritating in-class writing this morning that will be graded (and worth a lot of points), and about which I shall be the proverbial stickler in terms of form. I need them to understand that it's important that they do the work, that I'm not just assigning reading so they have something else to stop them from having an outside life. Hopefully this will be the thing that makes them see that.

A fellow tutor's mother died last week, so last night and tonight I'm covering a few of her tutoring sessions, which I'm delighted to do because I like Tina and I want to help in whatever capacity I can; however, today is simply not a good day (it's cold; it's rainy; I'm tired; I'm worried about school and my thesis and finances; and I lost my iPhone today) and I want to go home and feel bad in the privacy of my own home. Instead I'm at work, halfway through a two-page journal that's due tonight (and will be easily finished between tutoring sessions), and I'll be home by 10 tonight.

I think tomorrow I'm going to plan to get a new picture taken for the passport I need to renew. Something to look forward to, at any rate.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NCPTW '08 - Las Vegas, Day 4

Today was a bit quieter (especially because of the two White Russians I had with dinner last night).

Two sessions this morning: First "Understanding Race Relations within Writing Centers," in which we had some really interesting discussion regarding traditionally minority students coming into writing centers (especially in universities when the majority of the student population is white), outreach, recruiting students of color. etc. I also sat in on a session ("A Trip-Tik for Tutor Trainers") in which two writing center directors discussed their experiences (and asked us about ours) in terms of developing a tutor training course; this turned out to be really interesting, especially because they had handouts of sample syllabi, assignments, etc. I then sat in on the final plenary session, given by a fellow who will actually be the keynote speaker at NEWCA next April, but that was probably the least crowded of the plenary speakers; I suspect a good chunk of attendees had gone home at that point.

I've been pretty much on my own since; I made a reservation for myself for dinner at the Hofbräuhaus (conveniently located down the block). Dinner was good; the Main Hall (as opposed to the Beer Hall) was really a sight to behold, and I nearly ran back to get my camera (I can't believe I forgot it back at the hotel). Pretzels and green garlands were hung from columns; the ceiling was painted with various designs, and the blue and white Bavarian checkered flags were hung on the walls. People were seated at large tables; there was a live band (complete with accordion); it was loud; it was noisy; and I'm really glad I went. I barely ate all day, so I was hungry: For an appetizer I had Bavarian liver mousse and Obatzer (a creamy cheese, almost like a spread), which came with a Bavarian pretzel and some vegetable garnishes (cucumber, onion, cherry tomato), and for dinner I had the Hofbräuhaus Wurstplatte, which included Vienna-style Frankfurters, a pork Wurst, and a chicken Wurst, and mashed potatoes and (so they say) imported Sauerkraut. Some young women were seated at my table before I finished, so I had some occasional conversation (one good thing about the setup, actually).

I realize I haven't many qualms about having dinner out by myself; I have a more difficult time just sitting alone in my hotel room, or exploring a new city by myself. When I went on the tour of the Grand Canyon, I approached a married couple during lunch to ask if I could sit with them, using the line that it's weird to travel by oneself; they were quite all right in letting me sit with them, of course, the husband remarking that I was quite brave, in a tone that made me think perhaps most people don't view these things the way I do. I'd rather go out and do things alone than not at all. The tour earlier this week was a good experience; although for the most part my traveling companions stayed in their own groups, there were moments of joking around and I really enjoyed meeting them, however briefly. (One guy in particular really had the henpecked father/husband thing down; he really just made me giggle every time he said anything.)

In any case, I'm spending the rest of the evening at my hotel, where I've been since dinner. I've mostly packed, and will do as much cleaning up tonight as I can before heading home in the morning. Back to the cold, unpleasant weather!