Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Maiden Name

I read this recent advice column, regarding the apparently numerous negative reactions the letter writer has encountered in keeping her last name after she got married. I don't have too many married friends, but I do know many folks who are married, most of whom have taken their husband's surname, or use a hyphenated version. Married women face an issue of identity that men, upon marriage, do not have to face, and to a point I can agree with the nuisance of changing one's last name, reassuring business acquaintences and co-workers that (in my case, for example), Michelle Szetela is the former Michelle Solomon.

(This tripped up UVU, where I was offered a position a day after our wedding. I didn't fill out my new hire paperwork until my name change took effect because I didn't want to go through the hassle of filling out more paperwork that would update my new last name. During orientation, the name listed under the New Adjunct section was Michelle Szetela Solomon.)

I couldn't wait to get rid of my maiden name. Not that I was ever one of the women who were itching to get married, who'd been planning her wedding since teenagerhood, etc., but because I felt I'd finally be taken seriously as an adult. Certainly there are issues of identity tied to a surname, but I took my husband's last name with pleasure precisely because I wanted to take a new identity.

I come from a stable, loving household - my parents are still happily married after 42 years - but they inadvertently didn't take my partners as seriously, didn't consider me as part of a unit, until I got married. I remember being told over the years that people treat one differently after one gets married. I was only treated differently by my parents; not better or worse, but I think my status as an adult was finally solidified.

I was 35 when I got married 7 1/2 months ago, and I was tired of being seen as an extension of my parents. Over the years, I would have to remind my parents that I would have to consult a joint schedule with the man I'd been dating for what would turn out to be nine years. (This got responses of,  "....Oh," a reflection of not understanding that I might not want to be apart from him for extended periods of time, that I might want to share the experience with him, not separately, that our schedules affected each other.)

My new last name is a reflection of my new life, one in which my priority is my husband and my life with him.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Christmas Truce

by Aaron Shepard

 

My dear sister Janet,

It is 2:00 in the morning and most of our men are asleep in their dugouts—yet I could not sleep myself before writing to you of the wonderful events of Christmas Eve. In truth, what happened seems almost like a fairy tale, and if I hadn’t been through it myself, I would scarce believe it. Just imagine: While you and the family sang carols before the fire there in London, I did the same with enemy soldiers here on the battlefields of France!

As I wrote before, there has been little serious fighting of late. The first battles of the war left so many dead that both sides have held back until replacements could come from home. So we have mostly stayed in our trenches and waited.

But what a terrible waiting it has been! Knowing that any moment an artillery shell might land and explode beside us in the trench, killing or maiming several men. And in daylight not daring to lift our heads above ground, for fear of a sniper’s bullet.

And the rain—it has fallen almost daily. Of course, it collects right in our trenches, where we must bail it out with pots and pans. And with the rain has come mud—a good foot or more deep. It splatters and cakes everything, and constantly sucks at our boots. One new recruit got his feet stuck in it, and then his hands too when he tried to get out—just like in that American story of the tar baby!

Through all this, we couldn’t help feeling curious about the German soldiers across the way. After all, they faced the same dangers we did, and slogged about in the same muck. What’s more, their first trench was only 50 yards from ours. Between us lay No Man’s Land, bordered on both sides by barbed wire—yet they were close enough we sometimes heard their voices.

Of course, we hated them when they killed our friends. But other times, we joked about them and almost felt we had something in common. And now it seems they felt the same.

Just yesterday morning—Christmas Eve Day—we had our first good freeze. Cold as we were, we welcomed it, because at least the mud froze solid. Everything was tinged white with frost, while a bright sun shone over all. Perfect Christmas weather.

During the day, there was little shelling or rifle fire from either side. And as darkness fell on our Christmas Eve, the shooting stopped entirely. Our first complete silence in months! We hoped it might promise a peaceful holiday, but we didn’t count on it. We’d been told the Germans might attack and try to catch us off guard.

I went to the dugout to rest, and lying on my cot, I must have drifted asleep. All at once my friend John was shaking me awake, saying, “Come and see! See what the Germans are doing!” I grabbed my rifle, stumbled out into the trench, and stuck my head cautiously above the sandbags.

I never hope to see a stranger and more lovely sight. Clusters of tiny lights were shining all along the German line, left and right as far as the eye could see.

“What is it?” I asked in bewilderment, and John answered, “Christmas trees!”

And so it was. The Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle or lantern like beacons of good will.

And then we heard their voices raised in song.

Stille nacht, heilige nacht . . . .

This carol may not yet be familiar to us in Britain, but John knew it and translated: “Silent night, holy night.” I’ve never heard one lovelier—or more meaningful, in that quiet, clear night, its dark softened by a first-quarter moon.

When the song finished, the men in our trenches applauded. Yes, British soldiers applauding Germans! Then one of our own men started singing, and we all joined in.

The first Nowell, the angel did say . . . .

In truth, we sounded not nearly as good as the Germans, with their fine harmonies. But they responded with enthusiastic applause of their own and then began another.

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum . . . .

Then we replied.

O come all ye faithful . . . .

But this time they joined in, singing the same words in Latin.

Adeste fideles . . . .

British and German harmonizing across No Man’s Land! I would have thought nothing could be more amazing—but what came next was more so.

“English, come over!” we heard one of them shout. “You no shoot, we no shoot.”

There in the trenches, we looked at each other in bewilderment. Then one of us shouted jokingly, “You come over here.”

To our astonishment, we saw two figures rise from the trench, climb over their barbed wire, and advance unprotected across No Man’s Land. One of them called, “Send officer to talk.”

I saw one of our men lift his rifle to the ready, and no doubt others did the same—but our captain called out, “Hold your fire.” Then he climbed out and went to meet the Germans halfway. We heard them talking, and a few minutes later, the captain came back with a German cigar in his mouth!

“We’ve agreed there will be no shooting before midnight tomorrow,” he announced. “But sentries are to remain on duty, and the rest of you, stay alert.”

Across the way, we could make out groups of two or three men starting out of trenches and coming toward us. Then some of us were climbing out too, and in minutes more, there we were in No Man’s Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each side, shaking hands with men we’d been trying to kill just hours earlier!

Before long a bonfire was built, and around it we mingled—British khaki and German grey. I must say, the Germans were the better dressed, with fresh uniforms for the holiday.

Only a couple of our men knew German, but more of the Germans knew English. I asked one of them why that was.

“Because many have worked in England!” he said. “Before all this, I was a waiter at the Hotel Cecil. Perhaps I waited on your table!”

“Perhaps you did!” I said, laughing.

He told me he had a girlfriend in London and that the war had interrupted their plans for marriage. I told him, “Don’t worry. We’ll have you beat by Easter, then you can come back and marry the girl.”

He laughed at that. Then he asked if I’d send her a postcard he’d give me later, and I promised I would.

Another German had been a porter at Victoria Station. He showed me a picture of his family back in Munich. His eldest sister was so lovely, I said I should like to meet her someday. He beamed and said he would like that very much and gave me his family’s address.

Even those who could not converse could still exchange gifts—our cigarettes for their cigars, our tea for their coffee, our corned beef for their sausage. Badges and buttons from uniforms changed owners, and one of our lads walked off with the infamous spiked helmet! I myself traded a jackknife for a leather equipment belt—a fine souvenir to show when I get home.

Newspapers too changed hands, and the Germans howled with laughter at ours. They assured us that France was finished and Russia nearly beaten too. We told them that was nonsense, and one of them said, “Well, you believe your newspapers and we’ll believe ours.”

Clearly they are lied to—yet after meeting these men, I wonder how truthful our own newspapers have been. These are not the “savage barbarians” we’ve read so much about. They are men with homes and families, hopes and fears, principles and, yes, love of country. In other words, men like ourselves. Why are we led to believe otherwise?

As it grew late, a few more songs were traded around the fire, and then all joined in for—I am not lying to you—“Auld Lang Syne.” Then we parted with promises to meet again tomorrow, and even some talk of a football match.

I was just starting back to the trenches when an older German clutched my arm. “My God,” he said, “why cannot we have peace and all go home?”

I told him gently, “That you must ask your emperor.”

He looked at me then, searchingly. “Perhaps, my friend. But also we must ask our hearts.”

And so, dear sister, tell me, has there ever been such a Christmas Eve in all history? And what does it all mean, this impossible befriending of enemies?

For the fighting here, of course, it means regrettably little. Decent fellows those soldiers may be, but they follow orders and we do the same. Besides, we are here to stop their army and send it home, and never could we shirk that duty.

Still, one cannot help imagine what would happen if the spirit shown here were caught by the nations of the world. Of course, disputes must always arise. But what if our leaders were to offer well wishes in place of warnings? Songs in place of slurs? Presents in place of reprisals? Would not all war end at once?

All nations say they want peace. Yet on this Christmas morning, I wonder if we want it quite enough.

 

Your loving brother, 
Tom

Friday, December 23, 2011

Temple Square

We had such a good night out tonight - Ed, his dad, and I. We had a good dinner out, and then went to admire the lights at Temple Square.

A Night At Temple Square (mp3)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Student Stories

Last Friday was the last day of classes, and I've begun to encounter the students whose grades are not what they had hoped - or needed them to be. The common question now is if there is anything they could do to raise their grade.

D. had a D in my class. He had had attendance issues, having missed six classes (four is my limit; if they miss more than four, they fail); well aware of this policy, at one point he emailed me, after having already missed more than four classes, to tell me he would be missing class to study for an exam in another class. I told him that he would be failing class, after which he came literally running to class. I told him that if he missed one more class, he would fail. Already on probation, he needed a C in order to stay in college. He had done his own calculations to determine how his final grade, but had not taken into account that different assignments are weighted differently, which ultimately affected the end result. He was missing one assignment, but the rest of his assignments were inconsistent: Some were done fine (not necessarily great), while others were poorly written (or, in the case of his journal, only half done, thereby earning him half credit). 

C. was failing my class; he did not hand in one paper (earning him a 0), and those he did hand in were consistently poorly written (Cs and below). At one point during the semester, he asked if I would provide extensive feedback on all his papers and meet with him during my office hours so he could revise his papers. I told him I would provide him feedback on one or two to start with, but I also recommended he visit the Writing Center. He never got me copies of his papers, nor did he visit me during office hours. A day or two before our last class - the class in which we would meet so the students could assemble their portfolios - he asked if he could do anything to bring up his grade. I said he could revise. His response was that while it was not personal - he thought I was "an awesome teacher" - he did not feel like putting in the effort to improve his grade, and therefore would not be coming to the last class. (He noted he would retake it after he returned from his mission.)

E. was failing my class, having not handed in two or three assignments (earning him zeroes in each case), in addition to having had attendance issues as well. After having missed more than four classes, I pulled him aside and told him that if he missed one more class, he would fail. He did miss two more, but told me of extraneous circumstances, for which I excused him. The last week or so of classes, he pleaded his case via e-mail, taking full responsibility for his grades, but asking what he could do to raise his grade, noting that if he failed my course he would not be able to return. I told him that I was so sorry, but at this point there was not much I could do. He didn't show up on portfolio day.

Another C. just looked crushed when he found out what his grade on the last day of class. He asked if there was anything he could do, but I had to tell him no. (He had a very high F, having failed to hand in two papers.)

And tonight I got an e-mail from K., who had a high C. He had done some extra credit, which had increased his grade, but not high enough. A dance major, he needed a B to maintain his dance scholarship, but there wasn't much I could do to add any more points to his grade. He was also missing one paper.

It's amazing how much damage one or two missing assignments can do. Several students will not be continuing their college careers, at least not right now, because they didn't do the work.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tuba Christmas 2011

This morning Ed and I went to a tuba Christmas concert - a Christmas concert that consisted entirely of folks playing the tuba. We went last year as well; it's really a sight to behold. We went last year as well. This year it was held outside, at the Gateway Mall, which was a good plan; it was cold, but lots of folks were walking around shopping, so there was some actual exposure (unlike last year, when it was held inside and out of the way at the Rio Grande Depot).

Tuba Christmas originated in New York in the mid-1970s, and has become a national occurrence, with tuba concerts being given all over the country.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Teaching Jobs Galore

This afternoon I had an iterview at SLCC for an adjuncting position next semester. I had had an impromptu phone interview last week, and I was offered the position over the phone, but I met with the department chair so he could get to know me a bit better. We talked for about an hour (I didn't put enough money in the parking meter - obviously I underestimated how much time I would need - but I really thought that an hour and 20 minutes would be enough, even though I'd arrived 20 minutes early for the interview), by the end of which he said he'd like me to come teach for them, which, let me tell you, was a relief, especially because I'd already updated my C.V., as well as my LinkedIn and FaceBook profiles. I now need to complete the online orientation and schedule an in-person orientation with the department secretary.

After classes tomorrow I have an interview at Sylvan Learning Center for a Center Director position. I'm not sure I want a position that might require me to give up my adjuncting gigs, but I can't known anything until I talk to the hiring committee. And tonight is just the pre-interview, for lack of a better phrase; I'm just meeting with the current center director, after which I meet with more folks if I'm acceptable and I'm still interested in the position.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Anti-Muslim Sentiment

One thing that really bothers me is when I hear an entire group disparaged based on the bad behavior of a few. The most recent, most public demonstration of this is the anti-Muslim sentiment, which I encounter in those who don't actually know any Muslims, but choose to believe, no matter what they're told, that because some Muslims terrorists flew some planes into some buildings, why then all Muslims must be extremists who hate anyone who isn't Muslim. This can be difficult to look at objectively if you don't know anyone who's Muslim; being objective is not always the strong suit of the masses.

I don't even know where to begin telling people what's wrong with the belief that all Muslims must be hate-filled terrorits , but it bothers me for multiple reasons, not only because I was actually in New York, living 30 miles away from Ground Zero during the September 11th attacks, but because I know quite a few Muslims, and none of them are anything but kind, caring people. 

My students are working on their final big paper for the semester, a research paper in which I require them to analyze an aspect of culture and its affects on said culture. One student wrote a rather strong anti-Muslim paper, in which he proclaimed that Muslims were terrorists, that there is a correlation between Islam and terrorism, that Islam tends to "give a fanatical feeling" about the beliefs and religion.

Of course, that could be argued of Christian and other religions as well. Any religion is subject to interpretation, and misterpretation (think Westboro Baptist Church, whose website URL encapsulates their close-minded hatred).

I encouragd my student, via comments left on his rough draft, that there is a possible distinction between certain terrorist groups and other Islam follows who may argue that there is not a correlation between Muslims and terrorists; that many Muslims are pacifists; that similar arguments can be made of some Christians, both contemporary and historically-speaking. I encouraged him to avoid maligning an entire religion because of the bad behavior of a few; I noted that while there may be some truth to certain aspects of his paper, how do other Muslims act, and how would he respond to those Muslims who denounced the Muslim terrorists?

This came up in passing in a previous class discussion, how one should be careful not to denounce all religious followers because of how some act. One student mentioned that even in the LDS church, there are those who practice polygamy, which was denounced by the LDS church over 100 years ago, although it's still practiced by fringe groups. The class made the distinction between groups in which members were being hurt, and the mainstream LDS church, which does not endorse such behavior, and similar behavior in the Muslim community. ("Those people may be terrorst, but they are not part of our group nor do they follow our beliefs.") There is a distinct separation there.

I didn't know how else to handle this rough draft, but I felt something needed to be said. I'm guessing this kid doesn't know any Muslims, and hasn't really researched the other side of the issue.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New Catholic Mass

Since this weekend we're celebrating Advent, which is the beginning of the liturgical year (fitting, that the liturgical year starts with the birth of Jesus), the Church decided that this would be an apt time to introduce a new translation of the Mass. As has been noted, the new Mass is already causing a stir. I missed the Second Vatican Council by 12 years, so I've never experienced any changes to the Mass.

It's certainly jarring to have specific phrases changed. It's not necessarily all bad, but I caught myself saying prayers the old way automatically, even while looking at the new translation.

Our priest is unhappy with the changes, and in some cases I can understand why; obviously, no matter how things are translated, someone's going to be unhappy. I do like some of the new language used. I have limited experience with translation, but I can appreciate the difficulty that comes with creating and updating a translation.

I'm just glad I ordered that new Missal - whenever it comes. (Originally advertised as available in late November, it is now said to be available in January 2012.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Ed and I had a quiet Thanksgiving dinner tonight, just the two of us. I made all the usual things - turkey, stuffing (two types), mashed potatoes and parsnip (I only used one), apple pie and pumpkin pie. I used our "good" plates and our matching place mats and napkins (all from Williams-Sonoma), our Waterford glasses that we got for our wedding (both the champagne flutes, which we used for the wine, and wine glasses, which we used for water).

We wished our family and friends could join us, but in a sense it was really nice that it was just the two of us, starting our lives together.

Black Friday

 "Hate" is too light a word for how I feel about shopping. I do enjoy small shops that sell interesting things, like the Moravian Book Shop, or musty antique or secondhand or book stores, and I can certainly get behind the idea of supporting small and local businesses. But I hate clothes shopping; I especially hate shopping for shoes. I don't like hunting for bargains, I don't want to haggle. It's a painful experience, and I'd rather just go in, get what I need, and get the hell out.

Christmas shopping is better. I can shop for people I care about, do some thinking about what they might enjoy, and take my time.

What I really don't understand is the compulsion people have in doing large portions of their shopping on Black Friday. I don't care about getting all my Christmas shopping done in one day. Even if I wanted to, I can't afford it; I can't put a few hundred dollars away over the course of the year and just blow it all in one massive shopping spree. I don't want to get up stupid early on a day I don't have to, drive all over creation, fight the crowds, and spend money I don't have in one day. It doesn't help me to look at several stores to "get ideas." I get way too easily overwhelmed.

Which is why I don't understand why people don't do most of their shopping online. There's more stuff available online. You can take your time. You can do it at midnight in your jammies. You can find it more cheaply. You don't have to do it all at once. People do know that there are sales online, right?

I suspect I'm missing whatever girly gene I'm supposed to have that makes me want to do have those types of shopping experiences. Shopping is just the extreme opposite of whatever a pleasant experiences is supposed to be.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2012

Ed and I had a quiet Thanksgiving dinner tonight, just the two of us. I made all the usual things - turkey, stuffing (two types), mashed potatoes and parsnip (I only used one), apple pie and pumpkin pie. I used our "good" plates and our matching place mats and napkins (all from Williams-Sonoma), our Waterford glasses that we got for our wedding (both the champagne flutes, which we used for the wine, and wine glasses, which we used for water).

We wished our family and friends could join us, but in a sense it was really nice that it was just the two of us, starting our lives together.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Aviation Science Major

UVU offers a very nice perk whereby they give their adjuncts tuition waivers beginning with the second semester of employment. (I don't know what the wait time is for full-time faculty and staff, if there is one.) In any case, I thought it would kinda cool to take some aviation courses, not necessarily getting the flight or instrument ratings, but whatever else would look interesting.

After making various inquiries and talking to several people in different departments, I was able to confirm that I had to actually apply to become a student, so I dutifully filled out the application form, paid the $35-non-refundable application fee, which required me to declare a major (although one could indicate that one wanted to take classes for personal enrichment), and dug out the required transcripts from both my undergraduate and graduate school days, which I hoped would allow me to bypass "required" courses like English 1010, which, by the way, is the class I happen to teach, a class that's required of everyone at UVU.

(Fortunately, I did not have to submit a high school transcript, which would have struck me as silly, considering that I had graduate credits. It's happened before: When I was offered a job teaching in a pre-school, a position that required a high school diploma, I was asked for a copy of my high school diploma, which I wasn't sure I had, considering I had graduated more than 15 years previously. I offered a copy of my college diploma, which I knew I had. This confounded the woman who asked for it: "But we need a copy of your high school diploma." "Well, since I graduated from college, couldn't one presume I graduated from high school?" She didn't know how to answer that.)

It did not end there, though: I still had to complete the WebStart pre-advisement program (reading through their various policies and passing a few quizzes) before the required meeting with my advisor, who would then release the hold automatically placed on my account, and which would have to be removed by my advisor before being permitted to register for classes.

Everything has been accepted, though: I am now officially an Aviation Science Major with a concentration in Professional Pilot!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Resolution

I've gotten to the stage in my life where I have trouble letting things go. If someone has hurt me, I try to reconcile the issue, or at least resolve it to the point where we attempt communication, and if nothing can be reconciled, then the relationship is let go. In talking to other folks in the past, I've gotten the advice just to let the relationship fade away, but I have trouble doing that; I'd rather just resolve the issue and be done with it.

So as such, I had sent an e-mail to someone I care a lot about, but whose behavior was (likely unintentionally) hurtful, telling her why I was hurt at her complete lack of response, asking if I had done something to hurt her (I can't apologize and try to fix the wrong I've done unless I know about it), and asking if she was just not interested in developing a relationship anymore, in which case I would leave her alone.

Her response was such that at least I heard that I had not done anything wrong, that she was busy doing various things (and I got some details in terms of what she was up to), but that included reactions that interpreted my e-mail as sending her several angry e-mails, incorporating (more) drama into her life, and essentially a slew of misinterpretive understanding of what I had said and been attempting to do.

I apologized for anything I might have said that could have been interpreted as hurtful, and at least attempted to explain why I was hurt by her behavior. What it comes down to, largely, is that this person is still young, extremely unsure of herself, and at a point in her life in which she finds herself extraordinarily overwhelmed by events she's experiencing for the first time - and to the extent where she doesn't feel like she has time to breathe, let alone e-mail anyone.

I replied that all she had to do was tell me that she was busy; she didn't even have to go into detail about what she was doing, she just had to communicate to let me know she was busy. What this all boils down to is that I think that even when people are older, they don't realize that all they have to do is tell people when they're busy; if one falls off the face of the earth, one wonders what's going on, and bad feelings can ensue.

It'll probably be awhile before C. feels she can trust me again; she's generally distrustful of anyone who's an adult, no matter what they may or may not have done. I can't help being an adult, and I can't help if she's decided to mistrust me simply because I'm adult.

Nevertheless, at least the lines of communication remain open. I think (hope) she'll remember to reply once in a while to e-mails, and I'll remember not to worry if I don't hear from her all the time.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Trimming the Angst

If planning my wedding showed me anything, it showed me that I didn't have time for folks who have negative attitudes, who are bad at communication, or who couldn't be bothered to maintain the relationship in some capacity. (Phone marathons aren't necessary, but semi-regular e-mails are easy.) When planning my wedding, I had to let two long-term friendships go because I had outgrown them, because the relationships had grown to be nearly entirely one-sided, because the people involved were, quite frankly, just too self-involved. I heard all about their problems, whenever I talked to them, which was rare - or I heard nothing about what was going, and in conjunction with the seeming lack of interest in anything that was going on with my life, I could only assume that they simply weren't interested in the friendship anymore. I'm trying to let it go, even months later, but this still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, and I'm still hurt.

More recently, I've been trying to maintain some kind of contact with my cousins, who areyounger than I; two are 18 (a month apart in age), and one is 19. Of the three, two are in college, and when I do email they do tend to email back at some point, which is great. (I get that they're busy, but usually within a few weeks I hear something, which is really all I'm asking for.)

The third cousin is having some problems lately, and I've been trying to reach out to her, especially because when I was her age, I had issues too. I tried emailing her a few times and just letting her know what was in my head, and that got a good response. However, my more recent emails have gone completely unanswered; the present I sent her for her birthday got an email that sounded like it came from her mother and not her; any casual comment I make on her FaceBook wall gets deleted. (I guess that's still embarassing and unwelcome.) I sent her a final email telling her that I can't get to know her if she doesn't respond to anything, that if I had hurt her in some way, I wish she'd let me know otherwise I couldn't apologize. I don't expect to get a response.

She's old enough to put that kind of behavior behind her. There's something going on, but no one's really telling me. I'm hurt by her absolute silence. Clearly she wants no relationship, so she'll get none. I'm done.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reading List

I made it through most of the books I'd gotten from my last visit to the library. (I'm still reading Losing a Lost Tribe, which is turning out to be a good read, but I gave up on Neal Stephenson's Reamde after about 50 pages; it wasn't badly written, but I'm not especially interested in books about gaming or hacking, and I don't really have time for 1,000-page books at the moment.) Fortuately, a number of books I'd ordered through interlibrary loan came in, and I picked them up today:

I don't quite know how I wound up getting so many books about Mormons and polygamy. I blame the book suggestion feature.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Firearms & Islam in America

It's been a very busy week here; nothing really out of the ordinary in what was done, but somehow tonight I find myself especially tired.

My students gave some interesting lessons during their classes this week. Utah is a conservative state; the folks here love their guns. If I had known that in theory before, I knew this for a fact after one of Wednesday's presentations: One pair discussed firearms and whether they should remain legal (and to what extent) or not. Many of the young men felt that having guns was a necessity "for safety reasons," although several students, of course, disagreed. Of course, I mentioned to the class that this being, you know, Utah, the area is not especially crime-ridden in the same way that parts of the Bronx might be. (One student mentioned that she was from Fresno, which is a tad more dangerous that Utah.) The folks who felt that guns were necessary for protection were, I noticed, mostly the young men who were born and raised in Utah, while the folks who thought that line of argumentation was a bit silly had lived elsewhere. Interesting (and of course uscientific) correlation.

In any case, I was reminded of Eddie Izzard mention of the NRA slogan that guns don't kill people, people do; but that the guns help in this regard:

Another student discussed attitudes towards Muslims and Islam in America. I was a bit worried, prevalent attitudes being what they are, but I was pleased to notice that my student gave actual facts about Islam, and that my students also recognized that the media has had a huge impact on presenting incorrect perceptions of Muslims and Islam. (It angers me no end when I hear entire religious populations disparaged based on the misdeeds of a select few who act so badly and gain international notoriety becaus of it.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Working Vs. Staying Home

Many of my students had addressed, either in class or in their journals, the issue of gender roles in marriage and when it came to raising children. Many felt that it's the role of the husbands and fathers to work, to provide financially for the family, while the women should stay home, be supportive of the husband, and primarily raise the children. And there's a certain amount of validity to this in that someone does, in fact, need to go out and earn a paycheck, while someone needs to care for the children while they're young. There is something to be said for one of the parents providing a level of care that the child might not otherwise get, as well as being there for those important moments.

However, many of my students have different perspectives, being younger, unmarried, and having grown up in a more conservative state than I. Some of their logic is the result of inexperience (as mine would have been, too), or is simply a cliche. One student noted that gender roles were important when raising children because the father could play ball with his son and the mother could take her daughter shopping.

Yet as a woman, I appreciate the Catch-22 that many of my friends and acquaintances are facing: Either one's career stagnates (there are exceptions), or someone else watches the kid. Obviously, if one is a single parent, or the family needs the paychecks that both parents would bring, that decision is made for you.

Women tend to face this struggle more than men. Among other reasons, it's acceptable and expected, when financially possible, for women to stay home; yet women get judged both for staying home with their children and not having a career, or for having a career and not staying home with her child.

I don't want to be the parent who stays home with her kid for the duration, although I would have less of an issue staying home with the kid when she's younger; once she's in school, though, off I go.

We've only really begun looking into adoption so we don't have a lot of information yet, but we won't be able to adopt until we're more financially secure. Yet both of us working would mean that our child would need to be put in daycare until she started school, unless one of us were to stay home with her, which in turn would likely mean a drop in income - unless we work different shifts. (And shift work brings a whole other set of issues; the type of work we're both qualified for doesn't lend itself to shift work, which means the type of shift work we could do may or may not cover the cost of day care. It also means that we would rarely see each other. Additionally, one parent would literally never get to sleep, if the stay-at-home parent were watching the child all day then working at night.)

Ironically, adjuncting would be a good job to have while raising a child, although what it makes up for in flexibility it detracts in pay. One of the big reasons I considered teaching at the secondary level was that it would mesh with our child's life, while still paying decently.

For a variety of reasons, some of which are my own doing and some of which are not, I'm starting my career a bit later than do many other women, so I constantly and consistently feel like I'm about 10 years behind everyone else. This is ridiculous and I know it; this is not a contest. I'm not an especially competitive person, either; I want to do as well as I'm able to, but I don't feel pressured to get a postgraduate degree, chair a departmentm or present at a lot of conferences. I'll teach as long as I can teach, although I do have to watch myself there, because I feel seeds of bitterness in watching other younger people grab full-time teaching positions sooner, while I've been job hunting for a full-time position for four years.

I'm loath to give up a career for a child, yet I'm loath to think that I might miss an important milestone, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Journal: Gender Roles in Marriage

One of my students' assignments was to keep a journal and respond to various questions that would be posed throughout the semester. I've been collecting journals the past week or two, and while I haven't been grading them based on their content, students do receive a number of points based on the amount of effort they put forth (cosistently writing two to three sentences versus two-thirds of a page, for example). 

One of the questions I had posed was whether gender roles have a place in a marriage: My students have been saying that there is indeed a place because each gender is better at different things, and they bring "different things to the table."

I make the distinction, of course, that while each individual brings something specific to the table, this might have much less to do with particular traits that allegedly belong to a specific gender. I cook because my mother taught both my brother and I how to cook; I find it easy to plan meals, and it takes me a lot less time to plan, shop, and prepare meals than Ed, whose mother does not especially enjoy cooking, and therefore did not teach Ed these skills. If the situation were reversed, I would expect Ed would likely cook more than I. (And it's not that Ed won't cook; he absolutely would, if I asked him too, but I find it easier than he does.) We both do laundry; we both clean and tidy up. Ed tends to do things that require reaching and putting things away, mostly because some things get put in awkward, which can be more easily done when one is 6'4" and has comparatively longer arms.

And we definitely both bring different things to the marriage that are more reflective of our individual traits than gender. We both work on the household finances, as well as our own individual finances. We don't have a joint checking account yet (mostly because we just haven't really gotten around to it), but I pay for groceries, Ed pays the mortgage, we both pay various household expenditures, etc. Gender doesn't really play a part here.

Many students in my classes - the men especially - opine that women are more nurturing, while men provide more financial assistance. I have yet to see proof that one of us is more nurturing than the other; there are times when Ed needs more care, and there are times when I do. I certainly don't feel that I'm responsible for most of the emotional aspects of our marriage.

The man providing more financial assistance is certainly true in our case, if only because Ed earns more than I do - at least for the time being. I have a broader education, and more of it, as well more marketable skills than he does, which means I may have greater earning potential (if the economy ever repairs itself). However, I would argue that many women feel as responsible for being able to provide financially for the family; at least, I feel it very keenly that I can't contribute more to the household. This is not necessarily my fault, and except for extremely rare cases, one partner is always going to make more, even if that difference is a relatively small amount, but I would like our salaries to be more even.

So what's this all say about our own gender roles in our marriage? I suspect such things are much more fluid than the men in my class realize.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pessimism in Academia

After reading this rather cynical post post by a professor who discourages students from pursuing doctoral programs in the humanities, I wonder if starting any degree later in life negate any other practical reasons for obtaining even an undergraduate degree. What are the myriad reasons someone might obtain a degree in the humanities? Is it necessary that obtaining any and all degrees be directly related to one's career? I would hazard a guess that some people might be okay with not landing a tenure-track position, but still desire a Ph.D.

Ultimately I view this fellow's blog post as short-sighted and close-minded, as well as pessimistic. One does need to understand that a degree never guarantees a job, but that should not necessarily prohibit one from getting the degree.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Peeping Toms

I'm teaching three classes this semester: Class number one meets in Liberal Arts; class number two meets in Gunther Technology; class number three meets in Liberal Arts. I have five and a half hours between classes one and two, and 15 minutes between classes two and three, so after class number one (which ends at 8:50 a.m.), I immediately hop in my car and drive the 0.8 miles to the parking lot closest to Gunther Tech. (Yes, I could walk it, but we've now reached the season of Freaking Cold Out There, and I doubt my ability to walk that distance quickly while carrying heavy stuff using my back and at least one arm in the 15 minutes betwen classes two and three.) 

If I don't get a move on and head on over to Gunther Tech right away, I will lose whatever chance there is at getting one of the few remaining parking spots there are at 9 a.m., and I will sit in the car for an undetermined amount of time waiting for someone to give up a parking space. (Really, parking on campus is terrible.) I could try to find another place to hang out for a few hours, but by this point in the semester, I know that if I can grab one of those parking spaces, there's an excellent chance that I can also grab one of the precious few desks that are positioned by an outlet in the breezeway that connects Gunther Tech with the Computer Science building, which means I can then use my MacBook, which at this point won't hold a charge for more than about five minutes. Plus, I don't want to spend hours wondering at what point I can or should leave, how long the wait would otherwise be to get a parking spot, etc. I'd rather just park myself somewhere uninterruptedly for five hours. 

Gunther Tech houses most of UVU's trade programs, but it also houses the music program and, if it doesn't also house the dance program, the dance program is very close by such thatt he restroom closest to where I hang out is often filled with (female) dancers changing in and out of various dance clothes. This does not interest me so much because I have all the same parts they of (except theirs are admittedly a lot more attractive and in shape than mine are).

In any case, posted to the inside of the doors today there were signs posted that read: "It has come to the attention of the police that there are men who sit out across the hall of this restroom to observe things that go on in this area, mostly that of you ladies who are changing for dance classes and other things. Please be aware of your surroudings. If you need to change your clothing here try to do so in a manner that protects yourself from some voyeur who is trying to take an unsuspecting photo of you in a compromising position."

Indeed.

 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Current Reading List

I often read several books at once - not simultaneously, but I may have a book upstairs in the bedroom, and another one by the couch downstairs. This is usually because I don't feel like carrying a book with me from one floor to the other, from one room to the other; or I'll forget the book while it's on another floor. (It's not that I won't carry a book around with me wherever I go - I've been known to carry my Kindle around in my purse if I'm doing a lot of errands that require waiting, like going to the doctor or the mechanic; rather, around the house, it seems a bit silly if I have more than one book available.

In any case, I'm slowly making my way through several books at the moment:

  • Losing a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church: The LDS church permeates local culture - not surprisingly; short of reading The Book of Mormon, which I'm not especially interested in reading, I'm finding it interesting because Losting a Lost Tribe was written by a geneticist who was former Saint, so historical background that explains the theological thinking is included. To my mind it's rather obvious that religious texts are not scientific texts and should not be taken literally, and it always manages to startle me when I encounter those who agree with the Biblical view of evolution, the creation of the universe, or, in this case, Native Americans being the descendants of a lost tribe of Israel.
  • Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah: Again, interesting from a historical standpoint, since Utah history is so inexorably tied to early Mormon history. I didn't read the entire book, which was written in essay form, but I especially enjoyed the chapters on midwives, early teachers, and polygamy. (Polygamy especially is really easy to judge, but explained in a more historical context in which statistics and a broader picture was painted, it's certainly easier to understand, whether or not one accepts it.)
  • Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage: This one is certainly much lighter and easier to read than the other two; it's also entirely coincidental that I happen to be reading three non-fictional books that have to do with LDS. (They all came in through interlibrary loan at the same time.) When children are not being coerced, hearing the relevant context is helping me understand that which is such a big part of local and state history. (I feel that I should add that I am certainly not endorsing polygyny, but my viewpoint has been a bit skewed.)
  • Reamde: Because I've never read Neal Stephenson before, and so far (the few pages I've managed to read) look promising, but one could take someone out with this book, it's got so many pages.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Proverbs

I don't generally post readings for the Masses I attend, but for some reason, I especially liked the first reading at tonight's, Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31:

Who can find a woman of worth?

Far beyond jewels is her value.

Her husband trusts her judgment;

he does not lack income.

She brings him profit, not loss,

all the days of her life.

She seeks out wool and flax

and weaves with skillful hands.

She puts her hands to the distaff,

and her fingers ply the spindle.

She reaches out her hands to the poor,

and extends her arms to the needy.

Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting:

the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Acclaim her for the works of her hands,

and let her deeds praise her at the city gate.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Student Lessons: Monolingualism & Living Abroad

One of my students' projects this semester is to, with a partner, lead the class in a 30-45-minute lesson about some aspect of culture, since we've been focusing on various aspects thereof throughout the semester. I gave them a handout that explained some of the logistics, and what I expected of them, but topic-wise, I gave them a lot of leeway. Some of them are, of course, better than others, partly with how much they plan ahead, but also partly because of the students' own personality and maturity, as well as their comfort in speaking in front of a group of people.

Everyone has utilized the smart console that's available in each classroom; most have created PowerPoints; some have incorporated YouTube clips; others have included computer games and quizzes - or have created games them themselves - that have allowed the rest of the class to get involved, to varying degrees of success (mostly pretty good; one class in particular is much more talkative and outgoing than the other two).

There's a rather stark dichotomy here in Utah; because of the sheer pervasiveness of the LDS church, many (probably most) young men, and some young women, at some point go on a mission; some go to interesting places like Ghana (I heard of one student's mission experiences there), while others are sent to places like New Jersey. Because missions last for two years, one has the experience of potentially living in a place that is vastly unlike anything previously experience (although I guess one could say the same if one were sent to New Jersey). Yet aside from these missions, most students here simply do not - or have not - traveled abroad. I had decided to incorporate culture into my class this semester mostly because there simply I hadn't gotten the impression that people here travel as much as the people I know who live on the coasts. (One student said he'd never left the U.S., and had no plans to live anywhere else. I wasn't sure if he had decided he wouldn't live anywhere else and specifically ruled that possibility out, or just had never really considered the possibility.)

In any case, two lessons this past week was on the subject of monolingualism and the necessity of knowing or learning foreign languages. A few students spoke other languages, but most students did not; we had the discussion as to why Americans don't learn another language, the importance of learning another language, etc.

Everyone agreed that learning another language is important, but I got the distinct impression that most of the students didn't not seem to have any real interest in that, "since everyone speaks English anyway"; most, of course, have never been in a position where their ability to survive abroad depended on learning another language. It reminded me that not everyone has the ability to travel - for a variety of reasons, some of which one can't control, of course - and how important it is for kids to be exposed to those who live differently.

(This is one of the big reasons why I'm glad Ed works for an airline; travel is expensive, in no small part because of the cost of airline tickets, and while we can't afford to travel right now for other reasons, flying anywhere will not be a problem.)

This morning, two students led a presentation on living in the U.S. versus living in Kazakhstan, where one of the two students had lived for eight or nine years before moving to Armenia for her senior year in high school before moving back to the States. (She had been born in the U.S., but as a child her parents decided to move abroad.) N., the studet who lived in Kazakhstan, included pictures of her time there and spoke at length of her experiences, while E., who had grown up in the area, touched on the related American aspects as a means of comparison. It was really interesting to hear what N.'s experiences had been.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Open Letter to Parents

Dear parents:

Your children are generally pretty awesome; we teachers like being around your kids. But I have a few things I'd like you to know when you're raising them and sending them to school.

First, please think through what you're actually going to name your kid. I know that not everyone comes from a Christian tradition and that there are many beautiful names from which you can choose. Choosing a name from the Bible may be anathema to you, and you certainly don't have to use that as a baby name guide. But consider the consequences of how your child's name will affect her as she grows up.

Today I realized that I am teaching a Madesen, a Maddison, a Madisyn, two Madisons, a Jaxon, a Jaxsen, and two Austins, all of whom are in 7th grade. (I'm sure there are more, but I'm only working with a small portion of one grade. Last year I had several Mackenzies, Baylies, and many variations thereof.)

Please do not name your child after a geographic location or what is a last name. Trendy names are marginally cute when your kid is small, but that "unique" name you choose is no longer unique if everyone is choosing a derivative thereof.

Second, please don't continually pull your kid out of school to take them on family vacations or to travel. I absolutely agree that travel is one of the best sources of education; however, when you pull your child out of school several times a year for prolonged periods of time, what you're teaching your child is that education is not important; that school is not a job; and that obligations do not have to be met before the vacation can be had. Furthermore, your child is missing important skills that, as her education continues, she will need to learn. We're not teaching your kid this stuff for the hell of it; we tend to think that your kid may actually need to know this stuff at some point in her life.

Most people have jobs that allow them some flexibility in terms of when they can take vacations; teachers, of course, do not, and I'm sure there are other professions as well that make it difficult to take a vacation whenever one pleases. However, until your child graduates from high school, make school your priority.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

RCIA

Ed and I have, for the past number of weeks, been enrolled in our parish's RCIA class; I've gotten as many of the sacraments as I can get, at least for the moment, but Ed has never been confirmed, and because I'm interested in this sort of thing, it's something we can do together.

We thoroughly enjoy our priest, Fr. Carley, a man about our parents' age, who hails from Co. Tipperary, Ireland. This is the first priest with whom I've had any extended contact, and the first one whom I've known as an adult. One doesn't expect one's parish priest to cuss up a storm or be a drinker as such; beer and boxes of wine have been provided at each meeting, and while Ed had a beer the first night, he hasn't had one since, and of course I haven't had any at all; there are a handful of attendees who put away quite a few. And Fr. Carley, of course, will have one or two as well.

We were told that the meetings would start at 7:30 and last until 9, although any and all were welcome to stay afterwards for discussion. We both have such long days that start early that we're ready to leave by 9, but we have run into the issue that Fr. Carley simply won't stop talking. (Shocking.) There's not even a suitable pause where we can leave.

Fortunately, at least the classes interesting, despite Fr. Carley's (rather common) tangents; at the moment we're still in the Old Testament history, some of which I know, but a lot of which I don't. It's interesting to get so much of the Biblical history. As a class we've begun reading Christ Among Us, which admittedly I haven't started yet, but Ed has.

I'm interested in seeing how the class will take form. For the moment it's been Fr. Carley lecturing for the entire time, with the occasional question from the class thrown in, but I'm not sure what else the class will entail.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Reading Program Project

Even though the reading fluency program we've begun integrating into the curriculum at the middle school is more formally called the Six-Minute Solution, I'm going to start referring to our attempts as the Reading Program Project, mostly because this is the first year the school has attempted to integrate such a program, and I think everyone involved has come to the conclusion that we're going to be doing many things wrong as we work out the kinks. It feels like A Project.

My co-worker, another assistant by the name of Tomi, has had experience working with this program at the elementary school level, but apparently she quit after a number of years because it became too labor intensive; this does not bode well, especially since we seem to be going down that same path. At the beginning of the year (and indeed, three times throughout the year), all the students in the school are tested for reading fluency and comprehension. Based on their scores, someone from on high (possibly a combination of the program used and the English teachers) ascertains at which level each student is; we have students whose test scores indicate that they are on the first grade level when it comes to fluency and comprehension, and we have students whose scores are only a grade level or so behind.

(Fluency and comprehension are two different things; I can read at a fairly normal speed in German, but I don't necessarily understand everything I'm reading; knowledge and understanding of vocabulary is integral.)

The Six-Minute Solution (SMS) is a program by which students work with a partner who is, theoretically and under the best circumstances, at the same fluency level; each partner has one minute to read a passage aloud to her partner, who, the minute has elapsed, tallies the number of words read and subtracts the number of words said incorrectly, at which point we have at least an approximate number of correct words read per minute. The whole process is supposed to take six minutes, but this is 7th graders with whom we're working, so often it takes longer.

In any case, while J., one of the two 7th grade English teachers, may be doing this with her students in class, as often as not either Tomi or I (sometimes both of us) pull kids out of class to do this project with them. There are several reasons why the kids may not be reading at grade level; like many skills, the thinking is that the more the kids read, the better they'll do, so we're doing this at least once or twice a week with them.

Tomi and I are limited in how much time we're permitted to work at the school; we're each only paid for up to 17 hours a week. Even if we wanted to do this program with the kids every day, we couldn't; there are days when we need to make photocopies, or collate papers, or go through the students' folders to actually ascertain how they're doing - essentially tracking the studets' progress.

And that's where we're running into problems: There's not enough time to do all the tracking. It was hoped that we could do this program with the students several times a week and also look at their scores and figure out the next step. It was hoped that Tomi and I could go through all the students' folders every time we do both the SMS, which if that's all we were doing, we might have a chance of doing.

However, we're also integrating what's called the Rewards Program, which helps with reading comprehension, which means we spend pretty much the entirety of each class period working on these things. We don't have time to implement both these programs and do the tracking. So at the moment we're trying to figure out how we can both do all this work in 17 hours a week.

Well, we would, if it was in the budget to hire one of us full-time, or at least permit more than 17 hours per week. Of course, this won't happen, budgets being what they are. If we work more than 20 hours per week, we have to be offered benefits - sick days and the like. (17 hours a week doesn't even equal three full school days; it covers perhaps two and a half.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Denied!

It was not a big surprise that my proposal was not accepted to the upcoming 4Cs conference in St. Louis. (I've never had one accepted.) I was offered the position to chair a session, though, which I accepted, figuring that if plans changed (namely, the lack of finances), I could always not go. I reserved a hotel - the cheapest rate I could find - but so far have not registered. The next steps are to attempt to obtain funding from UVU, so I looked into acquiring travel funds.

I asked the department chair, who asked a few pertinent questions, but (nicely) told me he could not offer me any funding because I'm not actually presenting a paper. Well, that wasn't too much of a surprise; I go into these things figuring the worst anyone will say is no, and I won't have been any worse for wear.

It was a long shot, but I sent an official inquiry to the Faculty Center, but neglected (stupidly) to actually complete the form, which I only realized as I was hitting the "submit" button. One is required to ask for funds frome one's department first, since departmental funds theoretically offset whatever funds the Faculty Center offers.

This evening I was CC'd on the e-mail from the department chair, who, in reply to the Faculty Center inquiry, noted that while he would be happy to see me attend the convention, he suspected my request for funding would be denied because, apart from submitting an incomplete application, I was an adjunct and not presenting.

I'm not sure what my being an adjunct has to do with anything. Either one is presenting at a convention or not, regardless of status. It's nice to know that my status as an adjunct might be seen as detrimental, and a deterrent in getting funding in the future.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Saturday Recap

Just a few points to encapsulate this past week:

  • For the past few weeks, Ed and I have been attending weekly RCIA classes at our parish. We skipped Wednesday's class; we needed the night off after having gone to Mass the previous night and knowing we had tickets to a concert the next night (the tickets had been bought before we knew we'd been attending RCIA). I'll be blogging more about our RCIA classes at some point, but for now, we're enjoying going, although each class is 90 minutes in a lecture-format, led by a very nice, very funny, slightly curmudgeonly priest who goes off on regularly scheduled tangents. At the end of a day that starts at 6 a.m. for me and 6:45 a.m. for Ed, with a perhaps hourlong stop at home for dinner, by 9 p.m. we both just want to go home and collapse.
  • On Thursday night, Ed and I went to the Vienna Boys Choir concert at Abravanel Hall. It's a concert I'd been looking forward to for months, and I'm glad we went. Apparently there are approximately 100 choristers currently, and they're broken up into four touring companies, the result of which is that as a whole they give about 300 concerts a year. We were in the nosebleed section, although the concert hall was only about two-thirds full, but I was too cheap/poor to pay for the more expensive tickets (which, to be honest, weren't really all that expensive, but it was a compromise between frugality and a really strong desire to go to this concert). In any case, we really enjoyed it; the concertmaster was excellent, the boys were great, and music was covered from the 17th through the 20th centuries.
  • Yesterday I discovered that the substitute teacher pool at Canyons School District will be closing next week, so I filled out the (inordinately long) application, collected the necessary additional documents, and hightailed it over to their Substitute Office, handed over my paperwork, copy of my teaching license and other integral paperwork, and got myself fingerprinted. (The office closes at 2:30 during the week; normally I wouldn't have been able to even submit the paperwork in person, but the middle school was closed for an in-service so I had most of the day off.) I had noticed that only one orientation was listed - and one must attend the orientation before one can sub - and held at a date and time when I would be teaching one of my UVU classes. Before I completed the application, I telephoned the office and reached the secretary, who wasn't sure if I would be permitted to arrive late, so I decided to submit an application anyway; when I explained my situation to the woman who takes care of these things, she looked slightly askance - shocked? I'm not sure - but it turns out that another orientation will be held in December, so I can attend that one.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Finding More Work

UVU offered me one section of ENG 1010 (the same class I'm teaching three sections of this semester) for next semester, which I wish to assert that I am very grateful for; however, it's not really enough to pay the bills, even with working at the middle school. (Even when teaching three of those courses, as well as my position as an assistant at the middle school, it's not quite enough, but it's closer to being enough than what it will be next semester.)

Obviously UVU doesn't need to offer me anything; adjuncting is a hairy business because there are external factors that can affect any particular adjunct's continuing to teach there (student enrollment, the number of specific courses being offered in one's department, schedule flexibility/availability, other adjuncts' availability, seniority.). On top of that, in my situation teaching at UVU (more money and actually teaching; being in charge of my own classroom) is not any more or less important than working at the middle school (a non-zero chance at gaining full-time employment and the liklihood of working there indefinitely, which even as an assistant which a steady stream of some manner of income not based on the factors I face at UVU). 

In education, such flexibility of schedule can work either for you or against you. I can't change my availability at the middle school; there are other teachers involved, as well as the reading program that, once scheduled, is scheduled for specific days throughout the year and can't be changed on a whim. (Such changes are more likely to be made at the beginning of the school year.) 

Fortunately, the class I've been offered is a late afternoon class, so I'm beginning to ramp up the job search. I'm looking into substituting at a neighboring school district, which is scheduling their last substitute teacher orientation at a time that partially conflicts with a class I teach at UVU. I'll drop off the paperwork this afternoon and explain the situation, and hope that some compromise can be agreed upon; in the meantime, I'll look into getting a third (and possibly fourth) job.

Flexible teaching is touted as this really great thing that allows people to maintain work-life balances, or balance other professional obligations, but it's really difficult trying to piece together something even vaguely resembling a full-time job when one has to work two or three jobs.

During the UVU orientation at the beginning of the year, someone from administration said (a bit gloatingly, I thought) that most adjuncts wouldn't want a full-time job teaching at UVU, because teaching is their secondary or tertiary obligation. I was really annoyed at hearing that; it dismisses those of us who desperately want full-time teaching work but can't find it, despite being on the job market for years. Adjuncting is certainly miles better than nothing, but being really anxious at the end of each semester because I don't know how much of an income I may or may not have is severaly affecting my future.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

RSVPs

I had been correct in assuming that those who did not respond to our wedding invitations were not able to attend; either it was culturally acceptable to simply not respond with one's regrets, or, more often, those who did not reply were simply not reliable enough to recognize that we actually did need to know if they were coming to our wedding (for reasons that are, to me, obvious).

As Miss Manners recently replied in response to a reader who thought one only need respond to a wedding invitation if one were attending: "Silence is an insult, not a response...These people thought enough of you to invite you to their wedding. You don't have to go, and you don't have to send a present. But ignoring them - not replying and not sending your good wishes - is callous."

Amen.

(Can you tell that it still irritates me when people don't have their acts together?)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Citation Obsession

I read an article a few days ago that argued that teachers should not emphasize any particular citation style - or at least not really try to get their students to do anything other than use any citation style, as long as the students referred back to the source, in some capacity. The idea has a lot of support, and up to a point, I can support this idea, too. Citation styles are constantly being revised, so it can be difficult to stay current; additionally, there are multiple citation styles, each of which is used in different industries (MLA is used in English, for example; APA is used in psychology). And citation is largely arbitrary; it's understandable why an author and page number or year of article publication might be included in the in-text citation, but why particular punctuation is used, the spacing used in a particular citation, etc., is, as far as I can tell, completely arbirtrary. And I freely tell my students this, too.

But I also work in an open-admissions university that was, until not long ago, a community college, then a college that emphasized vocational-technical programs, and now offers a more liberal arts-based curriculum, as well as a handful of graduate degrees. I get students who do well school, show up to class, and turn in (generally well done) work. I also get students whose absences are so numerous that they won't be passing the class this semester. (I have a limit of four absences before students fail; if students accrue one or two more but pull themselves together or have extenuating circumstances, I overlook the additional absences, but that's hard to do for students whose absences are in the double digits.) I wonder if teachers in highly ranked, and/or small liberal arts schools have these issues to the level that some of us do. 

Some students here are academically mature; many, though, or not. They attempt to submit late work, which I do not accept (ditto with e-mailed work, unless it's an extreme last resort). Details are not paid attention to, no matter how many times we have class discussions about them. (Four to six pages means four to six pages, not two to three pages.) I want my students to become close readers, paying attention to detail, and teaching them the MLA citation format is one of the ways I know how to do that. Yes, I can also teach them how to read texts closely, and I try to do that also. I now have experience teaching at two different colleges that accept students who are often non-traditional, who work full-time, have families,and may or may not have attempted college multiple times before. It's a different type of student who comes here as opposed to Swarthmore or even a state university like the University of Utah. (Not necessarily less intelligent students, but students who have potentially different backgrounds and experiences.)

The comments posted in response "Citation Obsession?" run the gamut; many support the idea that teachers should not put too much emphasis on citation, while others disagree. Still others opine, for example, that only poor teachers focus only on mechanical issues becaus that's what they can teach best. I do agree that at least part of the time, being able to understand those mechanics leads to a better understanding of them. I would also agree that it is not obsessive to try to instill good communication skills to students, whatever form that may take.

I don't think emphasizing a citation style needs to be done at the expense of teaching development of ideas, but part of first year writing courses is teaching students a wide range of communication and rhetoric styles, which includes citation styles. Why should this be ignored in FYC classes and only stressed in upper division or graduate level courses?

I don't nitpick citations most of the time, especially when they're just learning - and I teach them gradually, not expecting them to have the method completely correct the first time around. We do at least two drafts for each paper. (The first draft I read and provide feedback; the second draft we do peer review; however, I also make it abundantly clear that I am always available for help via e-mail, and I encourage visits to the Writing Center as well.) However, I recently had the experience in which I totally nitpicked, and that will the subject of a forthcoming blog post.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Solemnity of All Saints

Today we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints; there was Mass in the morning, which we couldn't attend because of work, but we did attend the evening Mass. It's a Mass that always makes me a bit sad, but also grateful and feeling blessed, because it reminds me of my grandparents and my extended family, of how lucky I was to grow up surrounded by my family, with everyone close by, everyone always there for birthdays, holidays, whatever concerts I was in, all that good stuff.

One grandparent, my mom's father (Tom Hynes), died a few weeks before my 18th birthday; my dad's mom (Carmella Solomon; but everyoen called her Millie) died the following February, a few weeks before my 19th birthday. My remaining two grandparents died within about six weeks of each other (first my grandmother, Bridget Hynes; then my grandfather, Sam Solomon) , in late 2006. They all saw my brother and me grow up.

My church does a very nice thing in which parishioners can write the names of deceased friends and family members into one of two books that have been placed on the altar, and who are then remembered at all Masses said throughout November. I remembered by grandparents; my aunt Esther and Uncle Mickey; and their daughter, my dad's cousin Carol. Ed wrote his maternal grandparents' names in there, too.

Friday, October 28, 2011

NaBloPoMo 2011

November is NaNoWriMo, a novel writing program by which participants aim to write a 50,000-word novel between during the month of November. Quantity is valued over quality; the goal is to simply get people to write and have fun, which is, to my mind, a wonderful thing. I've heard of folks using it as an excuse to jump start the novel they'd always wanted to write, using November to kick-start things, and then revising said novel during the months following.

Well, I'm not interested in writing a novel. I don't especially enjoy creative writing, and, quite frankly, doing so would really stress me out, especially trying to do so on top of everything else that I'm doing. (And yes, I'm sure you're all doing a lot more than I am, hold down more jobs, have a longer commute, etc., etc., but I want quality time with my husband every day, eight hours of sleep a night, time to grade papers and plan for my classes, and read for fun, among other things. I don't feel compelled to be doing something "constructive" every minute of the day.)

Last year I stumbled upon NaBloPoMo, a concept similar to NaNoWriMo except that instead of writing a novel, one's task is to blog at least once a day during the month of November. With one or two exceptions, I managed to blog every day last November. Some days were more difficult than others, but I found that I looked for interesting things to write about. The more I wrote, the easier it became. And while I didn't personally use any of the writing prompts found on the NaBloPoMo site, they are offered daily such that if one is having difficulty coming up with a topic to write about on a particular day, one can take advantage of one of the writing prompts.

I do enjoy blogging; there's this mental need I have to write when things bother me; it helps me figure out what I think and what I need to do to process an event or an issue. Once I blog about something, I'm more inclined to actually tell people what's going on, too.

Bring on the this year's NaBloPoMo!


Visit NaBloPoMo

Monday, October 17, 2011

Religion & Culture

A few interesting tidbits from recent news:

  • A Catholic priest, who supports the ordination of women, was briefly detained after marching on the Vatican to lift its ban on women priests. In Catholicism, women cannot be ordained because, the reasoning goes, Jesus only chose men as apostles. This particular priest is facing dismissal for supporting the ordination of women; earlier this year, Pope Benedict removed an Australian priest for suggesting ordination for women, which the Vatican has made as grave a canonical sin as sexually abusing children.
    • The Middle East today is not a bastion of gender equality, and was less so 2,000 years ago; imagine Jesus having brought along single, unmarried women apostles who were in the presence of a group of men who were not relatives of the women.
    • Until about the time I graduated from high school, girls were not permitted to be altar servers, but it's now very common for girls to assist the priest during Mass. Altar servers were originally candidates for the priesthood.
    • Catholicism is inherently patriarchal, which in many cases is unfortunate. I'm fairly liberal myself, and do not buy into the thinking that because the Church says something to be true, that it should be accepted blindly and without question. I would like to see a lot of reform done such that the Church reflects a more moden, equitable culture that reflects more contemporary views on gender and sexuality.
  • Utah ranks 50th out of the 50 states of women with college degrees. There seems to be a strong correlation between LDS women feeling they need to choose between having a family and completing their education. Family often trumps education.
    • There's intense presssure here in Utah for members of the LDS faith community to get married and start a family as quickly as possible; this especially affects women, since they're the ones bearing the children. I see no reasn to get married before one completes one's undergraduate degree, especially under the age of 22, and especially for women, whose education - or the lack thereof - affects the quality of life for their children, who need to see their mothers as independent, educated, and self-sufficient.
    • I've only been married for about five months, but I have a very good sense of myself; I'm also a bit older so I have a good idea of the financial needs necessary to support myself and my husband. When one goes straight from high school to college, without ever having lived on one's own, without supporting oneself, one can know on one level what it takes to be self-sufficient, but being independent is another matter entirely. Learning to be independent, get a college degree, and navigate a new marriage should not even be considered.
    • Not for nothing, I, and I think Ed as well, was glad that I could bring a basic level of education to our marriage. Why one wouldn't want to bring a basic level of education (whether that be a college degree, or some other manner of post-secondary training) to a marriage is inexplicable.