Sunday, September 18, 2011

Adjunct Faculty Conference, Part I

UVU held an adjunct faculty conference yesterday morning. I was hesitant to go for several reasons, partly because it was being held on a Saturday, partly because it started at 8:45 a.m., partly because it's a long (35-mile, 45-60-minute) drive. Attendance certainly wasn't mandatory, so I could have easily not shown up and no one would have cared; at the very least, it would have been presumed I had something else going on. (After all, it is presumed that adjuncts have other obligations outside of their part-time teaching gigs, which is often why they're adjuncts.)

Nevertheless, I decided to go, and not only because breakfast and lunch would be provided, but because there was a stipend (not a big one, but one that would pay for a tank or two of gas). Plus, if anyone's keeping track of these things, I want it to be on my record that I'm interested in professional development - which I am, actually.

My problem with many of these sorts of conferences is that they're aimed towards adjuncts who don't have a background in education, meaning the adjunct in question acquired an advanced degree or two, developed professionally outside academia, and then for whatever reason decided to adjunct. There are valid reasons for adjuncting: One might not want to teach full-time because one has a small child at home (or several small children at home); one may be a caregiver to an elderly relative; one is retired and does not want to work full-time anymore; etc. Adjuncting does offer a flexibility of schedule that is rather nice and not likely to be had when teaching, or otherwise working, full-time; and there are other obligations people need to take care of.

Those who come into adjuncting more often than not have had no formal education in teaching; they've never taken methods or other education classes; they've never student taught; they've never taken any teacher certification exams (the format and title of which, as well as passing score, can vary by state). This sort of preparation is immensely helpful when it comes to teaching at any level, and the more I teach in higher education, the more I think there should be some manner of adjunct teacher certification training.

(One gentleman with whom I spoke yesterday mentioned that he preferred lecturing; this is called running a teacher-centered classroom, instead of a student-centered classroom, and while I recognize that there are times when it's necessary to lecture, especially in math and the sciences, this is much less necessary in the field of English - which is the department for which both this gentleman and I teach.)

There is a small group of adjuncts, though, who have degrees in education, or, like me, went through a professional teacher education degree program. Although trained and certified to teach in secondary education, we wind up in higher education (again, for a variety of reasons; sometimes teachers develop professional interest in higher education; some get advanced degrees and move "up," as it were; etc.) Teaching this group of people classroom and teaching strategies as though we had never been given classroom and teaching strategies before is a bit of downer. ("Don't ask, 'Anyone have any questions?' and then not wait 10 seconds." The guy sitting next to me at yesterday morning's conference had been teaching some time and actually wrote that down. I learned that before I got to student teaching.)

That said, I'm trying to learn to keep an open mind, and learn what I can learn from teachers who have, in fact, been teaching longer than I, whether or not they have the formal background in teaching. It's the theoretical background that I already have that's missing in their training, a background I don't need to be given multiple times, that I'm wary of. It's this that makes me hesitate to go to faculty conferences like this.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gay Marriage Arguments

My students' first paper was due today; their assignment was to write a two-page paper in which they choose an issue and examined why the issue is a problem, why it should be talked about, why the issue is a complex one, being sure to include at least one oppsosing viewpoint. Writing a short paper means one doesn't have the space to really get into some of the nuances; it's more of an overview. 

I just finished reading a student's pro-gay marriage paper, and I was thinking of some of the arguments I've heard from those who are in opposition of the legalization of gay marriage. Religious reasons aside, we have the following:

  • If we legalize gay marriage, then groups of people will want to get married, or some other weird combination will want to get married. [Well, no; we're saying that two people, above a certain age, will be permitted to get married. Polygamy was made illegal some time back.]
  • I know a lot of gay people, and they tend to be immature because they haven't had as long to gain all the experience and maturity that comes with years of dating. [Well, I know a lot of gay people too; many of them are older than I, and they've been in monogomous relationships longer than I was before I got married - and I've only started dating when I was 20. I know a lot of straight people, too, many of whom get married in their early to mid-twenties, who then proceed to get divorced within a few years. How mature you are when you get married has more to do with hold how old you are when you get married, and how your life experiences have shaped you. Also, remember when New York legalized gay marriage and you saw all those pictures of men and women in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, folks who have been with their partners for 20, 30, and 40 years? The point is that you personally do not get to decide who's ready to get married, when.]
  • Won't somebody please think of the children?! </Helen Lovejoy> [Actually, studies have begun to show that children of gay and lesbian couples are just as grounded as those raised by straight couples, although there are also counter-arguments. Yes, exposure to both sexes is important for children's well-being, but this is why children go to school and have teachers of both genders, are close to different members of their family, etc. What seems to be most important is the child having the loving care of a stable household, regardless of gender or number of parents
  • They can't have children! [Well, neither can many straight couples, for a variety of reasons, including infertility and age. Should only people who can have biological children be permitted to marry?]

I really don't know what people are so worried about. If you have two consenting, mature adults who love each other, want to spend their lives together, can care for each other, can potentially raise children with honesty and integrity, then what's the trouble? "Family" is becoming redefined as more people are marrying, divorcing, remarrying, adopting children - how one defines one's family is an individual decision.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Acceptable vs. Avoidance At All Costs

I'm reading a book about narcissistic mothers, and it's pretty interesting (I dig books about psychology even when they don't apply to me). There's a line in it that I'd heard elsewhere: that people tend to seek out relationships with those who provide some manner of similarity to a parent. I've heard this sort of thing before, and it started me thinking again, especially because the traits I had specifically decided to avoid were traits and practices I see in my family and friends.

(This is not to say that members of my family don't have good marriages. Neither my parents, nor both my sets of grandparents, nor my mother's sister and brother have been divorced, and have all collectively been married for more than 20 years, in many cases having celebrated 40 or more years of marriage; these are all first and only marriages. I have one peripheral view of divorce in the form of a cousin of my father's cousin having had been divorced - twice - but the cousin's marriages and divorces happened either before I was born or while I was very young.)

But hearing stories of family members' early days of marriage made me realize how important it was for me not to marry someone with any of these traits:

  • Smoking: It's just disgusting, and it's like kissing an ashtray. Under the right circumstances I develop allergic reactions to cigarette smoke, so I don't want to puy myself through that.
  • Drinking: I have no problems with social drinking, but drinking heavily and getting drunk is stupid and unappealing. (I've never been drunk; I could never understand its appeal. Most wine doesn't taste good to me, and I develop an allergic reaction to beer.)
  • Drug usage: I've heard stories, some firsthand, from folks who got married during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when drug culture was pervasive. Saying that "it was the culture of the time" doesn't really excuse it; if someone is doing [insert drug of your choice], and you don't like it, yet presume that said drug usage will stop, why would you marry that person? I distrust these types of presumptions. Either get the person to stop or don't marry him - unless you're okay with that person possibly doing drugs for the rest of your marriage.
  • Inability to control one's temper: This one has always scared me, actually; I inherently distrust those who lose their tempers easily and yell. Stories of getting upset at a spouse to the extent that you're dumping your dinner on his head to me shows an a level of immaturity that should have prevented you from getting married at that age. 
  • Atheism: I have no Catholic friends; I have one pair of married friends who attend weekly religious services and are active in their church, and one friend who's a Druid. I've had acquaintances and classmates who are Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, several denominations of Christians, those who identify themselves as "spiritual but not religious" (I still don't understand what that means), atheists, agnostics, and those who were disillusioned and apathetic; I have one high school acquaintance who identifies herself as polytheistic and earth-centered. It makes for interesting conversations, which I really enjoy. And while I prefer to marry someone (and did so) with my own religious traditions, I would not have dismissed someone because he was actively involved in another religion. I would not have married someone who did not believe in God, nor was not in some capacity involved in his church (even if it's just attending weekly).

I wanted someone even-tempered, who didn't drink, smoke, do drugs, or lose his temper, who had a similar religious background, who would go to church with me and raise our children as Catholics. A number of years ago I got told two or three times in as many days that I was too picky, but I've never been one to just casually date for the hell of it. I can accept many of these traits in my friends, but not someone with whom I want to spend my life. 

As the saying goes, "Your mileage may differ." Everyone has to decide what they're willing to put up with and accept, but I could not spend my life with someone if he did any of those things.

8:46 a.m.

The first plane hit at 8:46 a.m., while I was still on my way to work.

I worked at the Bed, Bath and Beyond Buying Office in Farmingdale, New York, at the time. I got to work shortly before my 9 a.m. start time and sat down in my cube; I hadn't heard the news. One of my co-workers came in; I greeted her, but she walked right by me (unusual; she would have at least said hello), and I knew from her manner that something was very wrong.

The second plane hit at 9:03 a.m.

My co-workers and I spent the morning huddled in our boss' office, listening to the news. My boss and I didn't especially like each other, but I remember her asking if I was all right. No one in the entire Buying Office (and it was a large office) was working; many were in tears and panicking. This was understandable, since we were 30 miles away from the Twin Towers: Many of us knew people who worked in the city; many of us knew people who worked in or near the Towers.

Our boss sent everyone home; it was pointless trying to get any work done. A co-worker who lived in New Jersey couldn't go home. No one could leave Long Island; all bridges and tunnels were closed. (If you want to leave Long Island, you need to take any one of a number of bridges, unless you take one of the two ferries to Connecticut, or fly out of Islip airport.)

I remembered seeing Godzilla when it came out in 1998 and thinking, Why would anyone live in Long Island? If anything happens to New York City, no one will be able to leave. I felt this feeling of entrapment that day.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


"When a guy is happily married, no matter what happens at work, no matter what happens the rest of the day, there's a shelter when you get home." It's a wonderful thing, knowing that Ed is my shelter, always protecting and taking care of me and loving me. I feel a sense of security I didn't feel before I got married.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gmail Run Amok

When Gmail first went into beta, even before it was an invite-only service, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sign up for an account; I grabbed msolomon at gmail dot com, which was lucky, because Gmail became huge and soon everyone was signing up for an account. Of course, because "msolomon" was already taken by the time Gmail went public, a lot of people were, I'm sure, signing up for accounts with similar handles. On a fairly regular basis - at least once a week, often moreso - I got registration emails that should not have been sent to my email address but were, because people had accidentally forgotten to add the extra letter or number or some other variant. In the same frequency I would get emails addressed to actual people, sent by actual people, who had, again, mistyped their friend's or relative's email address. The registration emails I alternately ignored or unsubscribed from; the personal emails I replied to, letting the person know that they had reached the wrong person. Usually people were apologetic, although often I simply didn't get a response, which was fine.

Once I got married, since I no longer wanted my maiden name as part of my email address - I wanted my email address to reflect my legal name - I set up a vacation responder that notified people that since I had gotten married, I was using a new email address, and if they wished to reach me, I could be reached at my new address. This was a good move; although I'm not one to get many emails, a few folks did try to reach me at my former email address.

However, once in a while I get a weird one. I got an email from a college kid who had been advised to get a professional-sounding email address, and wanted to know if I would give him msolomon at gmail. (I said no, partly because I was just recently married and I was still using that address; partly because I could foresee it taking me a few months to update all my online accounts with my new email address).

I had an email exchange with a gentleman who insisted I knew him. I insisted that I didn't, especially because this gentleman was either a lawyer or a judge (I've forgotten which) from, I believe, Georgia. (I know exactly one lawyer; he lives in MIssissippi, and when we are in touch, which is rarely, it's through FaceBook or LiveJournal.) He just couldn't fathom why I didn't acknowledge that I knew who he was.

Most recently I got a series of emails from the Volvo North American headquarters; they were very kind and polite and quickly understood that somehow, in some capacity, someone had used my email, and are working on removing my email address from their system, but that despite his initial advice (that I or my local admin would need to change the email address which VCNA stores on file, that from their vantage point they cannot make that edit because they don't have the necessary access rights), I had no idea what VCNA was an acronym for or what it was. It was very confusing.

The main reason I'm glad to be using a new email address is that no one will "accidentally" email someone else; my married name is somewhat uncommon - at least outside of Poland - and there are, I'm sure, many fewer Michelle Szetelas than Michelle Solomons (of which there are apparently quite an abundance).