Sunday, June 27, 2010


Ed and I were in Pittsburgh this weekend to hang out with an alleged slew of people, most of whom it turns out we didn't know. We did run into Jason and Chris W. a few times, and got to hang out - this was very cool, since I haven't seen either of them in years - but by and large it was a bummer of a weekend. Except for Jason and Chris W., we didn't really run into anyone we knew - although I did run into Carlos, and got to talk to him for a long time; it's been a really long time since I saw him (he's since gotten married and has two little ones). Construction abounded, so we kept getting lost; and of course, it was hot and humid.

Friday I was fairly miserable, so I finally decided that staying in a hotel all day and doing nothing was just too sucky to continue doing, so at least yesterday we got out and drove off to the Duquesne Incline (and got very lost in the process; construction is not fun) and St. Anthony's Chapel, which has the largest number of relics outside the Vatican. It was a gorgeous church, and really a hidden gem; we arrived with 15 minutes to spare, and while I can't imagine ever going back to Pittsburgh, if I do get back, I'd like to go back to visit St. Anthony's.

Our drive home today was the antithesis of Thursday's drive: It was smooth and traffic-jam free, absolutely smooth sailing. We're both really tired and glad to be back in eastern Pennsylvania, and although we'd hoped to get back to Utah tomorrow, the loads were against us and we'll try to back to Utah on Tuesday.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Weird Linguistic Identity Regionalism

I've been lucky enough to live in a couple different places in my life, and not spend my entire life in one part of the world, or even in the same town my whole life. I got to live in Germany for a year, Long Island for eight, some big cities (Brooklyn for the summer, on the NYC Department of Education's dime), Philadelphia for a year; I've spent most of my life in eastern Pennsylvania, though - went to school here up through community college (except for that year in Germany). I'm pretty familiar with the people who live here, how they speak, where they work, how to get around. But I've noticed a regionalism in teaching at LCCC that I don't hear from people in casual conversation. It's not bad, just....weird.

One of the assignments I have my students do is a cultural autobiography. This is the first assignment they do (with the exception of my 5-week summer course, in which I start them out with the research paper, but it's a time thing as much as anything). I like assigning this paper first because it doesn't scare them as much as a big, bad research paper; it's more casual in terms of linguistic formality; and while it might be difficult because they're not used to thinking of their own culture(s), it gets them thinking about themselves and how they identify themselves. They're interesting papers for me to read because many students have, I see, gone through a process by which they think, "I have these ethnic backgrounds, but I don't really identify with them because they're too far away [either geographically or by having those relations go back several hundred years] / no one ever taught anyone in my family about them / I just don't care about them; how else can I define culture?" And it is that last question that really gets them thinking about how we identify culture that I want them to think about.

In the first few paragraphs of describing themselves, many students will mention their race, although I've noticed it is the white students who do this. And many who do introduce themselves as white refer to themselves as Caucasian. Now, since I have never physically met any of my students this summer, I have no clue what their race is. I don't care what their race is, and 98% of the times their names don't tell me too much about their race. (Sometimes it does; sometimes it tells me they're at least part black, or from a Muslim culture, too, but I'm also aware that this is not always the case: "Solomon" can be a Jewish name, and I've been mistaken for a Jew because of it, but in my family it's not a Jewish name, so I'm aware of the misleading quality of names.)

It's just interesting to me: I can't ascertain why they're saying "Caucasian" instead of "white." It doesn't matter, really. It never occurred to me to refer to myself as Caucasian, outside a biology or forensics discussion where features are more important. Perhaps they're trying to be more formal, or be aware of language, or politically correct. I've heard this self-identification from students in all my classes at this point.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cooking & Travel

Today I've been very productive in that I made my own jam (strawberry) for the first time. I chose strawberry because, quite frankly, it's my favorite. It wasn't too terribly difficult, but the end result seems to be a bit more liquidy than I'd like, and I'm not quite sure how to fix it. Perhaps a third packet of pectin, next time; I'm really not sure. But I got six jars out of it, and I plan on inflicting it on some friends, so if they know what's good for them they'll tell me it's delicious. (On a side note, in response to my tweet that my jam seemed a bit liquidy, Marisa tweeted in return that jam can take up to 48 hours to really set, so there's still hope.)

I also made some honey butter tonight. I've made my own butter before, and it's really delicious, so I thought I'd make some tonight. I came across some orange extract tonight in our spice closet, too, so tomorrow I'll mix some a little bit of that in the butter with the electric beaters.

Ed and I have decided that it's time we did some travelling, so aside from going to Pittsburgh next weekend to hang out with some friends, we made plans to go to Seattle, just the two of us. I'm very excited; I've been neither to Washington State nor the Pacific Northwest, so even though we're going for a short trip (a long weekend - Friday to Monday), it should be a good time. We've made dinner reservations at the Space Needle, and bought tickets for the Boeing Tour. We're also considering the Underground Tour (and the related Underworld Tour), so we'll be busy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Yesterday, Ed and I went to a Scottish festival in Lehi (Utah). We had a really good time, despite the festival being overrun by Scots. It poured for a while, but then it cleared up. We saw dancing, bagpiping, a smidge of fiddling, some caber tossing, and ate a variety of meat pies. All in all, pretty good. We didn't stay for the ceili, which I'm sad about, but I had also taken the Praxis that morning (I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. and was going on maybe 3 or 4 hours of sleep at that point and had had enough), so one had to make concessions.

Monday, June 7, 2010


In the midst of reading my students' cultural autobiographies, I have encountered a few students who have mentioned their having been homeschooled. (I came across, I think, only one from my ENG 105 class last semester, but this summer I've come across at least two.) What's struck me about their essays is that their presentation of ideas is different, in a less polished way. Not necessarily terribly so, but there's something inherently off (if that's the right word) about their essays, and it comes down to the lack of attention to detail. Their essays have been less focused, and more prone to formatting, typography, and grammatical issues in that they're missing an attention to detail that my other students don't seem to have issue with.

Now, many of my more traditionally-schooled students also have grammatical issues, but I've noticed that with the few homeschooled students I have, their writing is rougher around the edges in a way I've been trying to ascertain. It's inexplicable, somehow. Something I've learned with all the writing I've had to do in school is that writing works best when it's a social exercise: Having others read your writing is immensely helpful. Another reader can see if you have glaring grammatical issues, can tell you if something doesn't make sense, if there needs to be more (or fewer) details or explanation. While this might be a generalization, I'm thinking that unless homeschooled kids are part of a writing group, their work isn't being read by enough people.

I know there are many reasons parents choose to homeschool their kids: One student noted that his parent wanted him in a Christian school, but couldn't afford it. I know others who were homeschooled because at least initially they lived in an area of Vermont that got such heavy snowfall (their house was fairly remote, and atop a hill), that getting them down to school in winter was difficult. (The additional line of thinking was that their children "shouldn't learn anything they don't want to," which I do have a lot of problems with.) Being homeschooled needn't necessarily be negative, but - and I'm still working this out for myself, too - I'm wondering if the benefits of being sent to a school (religious, private, or public) far outweigh whatever benefits there are of homeschooling.

Quite frankly, I can't think of any benefits of homeschooling. I don't know any set of parents who are so educationally well-rounded that they can provide an in-depth education to their children. (Of course, there are also not-so-great trained teachers, too.) And there's something to be said for exposing one's child, academically-speaking, to others; such exposure allows you to develop in ways that learning alone simply can't, namely in terms of rubbing elbow with people who are much brighter, and those who aren't as bright, or who have different intelligences. (Even now, my "academic best," if I try my absolute best, is in the A-/B+ range, and that's my working hard. There are those I've worked with who got really high grades with much less effort, and it was good for me to encounter those who could do that, as well as those whose grades were lower than mine.)

I'm still developing opinions about homeschooling, but at the moment, although I can sometimes see why it might be beneficial or a viable alternative, I'm disinclined to fully endorse it.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sketchy Teacher Job Posting

One of the things I've been enjoying about teaching online is that I've been allowed to spend my time teaching from Salt Lake City, which means I've been able to spend some substantial time with Ed. And since I'm looking for actual teaching-related employment out here, I've been sending out resumes. (I had two interviews that fell through so far.) I've been looking at various online employment sites, including Craigslist. A few days ago, I applied to a part-time teaching position. This afternoon, I received the following e-mail from the self-proclaimed "Ideator" (I have modified the spacing, nothing else):

"Recently something was brought to my attention by a skeptic on craigslist and I have felt compelled to edit the posting for the job and resend the link to all applicants. My apologies if you felt misled. Here are the specific changes/updates that I've made to the posting:
- "
Our organization..." was changed to "Our group..." within the opening line.
-The status of our incorporation is pending and we will never seek accreditation for this institution for it goes against our values for education. These have been added and described in full detail in the new post.
- "
-Depends on # of classes taught" AND "-Non-regular work schedule, though of course, we will work with your schedule." were added to the "Compensation" list.
- Finally, the following lines were added to the end of the ad: "This position is not a bread-winner. Pay will be coming out of our own pockets.Work will be intermittent and this is likely going to be your second job. In the next few months we are looking to be moving toward a full time staff, [Bad sign: There's a comma splice in an ad meant to recruit teachers!] however, at this time this is not possible. There is a very meaningful conversation happening in the education industry at the moment. Some of us have been a part of it for a very long time, some only recently joined. We aim to stop talking and start doing something about it. If you are passionate about education and helping students, we hope you'll join us."

This is the ad that was posted. (I saved it and converted it to a PDF.)

Several red flags:

  1. I'm wary of non-accredited schools. Accreditation carries a certain amount of weight, and the lack thereof says, to me, that certain standards are not being met, both in terms of what students should be learning and in terms teacher requirements (namely an undergraduate education, but also experience; if you're a fresh-out-of-college teacher, your teaching experience is going to be limited to student teaching, but that foundational experience is integral). 

  2. They want a "specific area of expertise" but "no college degree [is] required." How does that work? I realize that one can be an expert in something without a college degree, but that requires a certain level, years, of experience, which most people aren't going to have without a college degree - at least in the subjects this non-school is teaching (business, finance, etc.)

  3. There is no name of this non-school, and no Website, which means you can't do any research on it. Before I have any interview, I like to Google the company/school and at least get a feel of the land.

  4. The change of their verbiage also raised an eyebrow (i.e., "our organization" was changed to "our group"). I don't even know where to start with that one.

  5. Teachers get paid pretty badly to begin with - no one goes into teaching for the money - although one can support oneself quite well. But in this case, the compensation is horrendous, and since "the pay is coming out of [their] own pockets," I foresee there being times when one might not get paid. The math breaks down to potentially $10 an hour for teaching. That's barely better than ringing up a cash register. What kind of quality teachers are you going to get if you pay them that badly?

I could go on, but my brain is on overload. Before I could send the e-mail thanking the Ideator in alerting me of the changes in the ad, withdrawing my application, and wishing them luck in attracting well-qualified, educated teachers (which somehow, I'm doubting will happen), I got another e-mail expressing interest in interviewing me.

This is decidedly not the job for me.