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.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Interesting Books

A few weeks ago I got a copy of MLA's "Approaches to Teaching World Literature" catalog in the mail. I love these catalogs because there tend to be really interesting books I'd like to use in my classes. I came across several possibilities, some of which I bought for use for next semester (in the hopes that I'll be teaching at UVU next semester); others will just have to be saved up for:

Adjunct Faculty Conference, Part II

At the adjunct faculty conference I attended recently, there had been several different breakout sessions one could attend, four of which were designed such that one could attend any two. I chose the longest of the breakout sessions, a two-hour workshop focused on learning styles and interactive teaching strategies. It turned out to be a really useful session. We ran short on time, but many teaching strategies were modelled, and all those who attended received a packet that modelled or explained the teaching strategy.

One activity was especially interesting was Four Corners: In each corner, a giant Post-It was stuck to the wall with one of the following phrases written on the Post-It: Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree. Sean, the educator training consultant who led the workshop, gave us the following statement to consider: "Regardless of academic background or academic experience, any student can achieve success at college." (I may be paraphrasing a bit, but key phrases such as "academic background," "academic experience,' and  "can achieve success" were part of the statement. If we were to use this exercise in our own individual classrooms, we would obviously use a more apropos statement, depending on the lesson at hand.)

Each teacher in the workshop was then to go the corner with the appropriate post-it, depending on one's own viewpoint. I was surprised by how many teachers went to the "strongly agree" and "agree" corners; at least two-thirds of the teachers went to one of those two corners; I went to the "disagree" corner.

I suspect that it's not a politically correct view in thinking that not everyone should attend college. To my mind, this has less to do with intelligence (many intelligent people do not attend college; likewise, there are some pretty dense people who attend) and more to do with professional interests. Likewise, not everyone should attend college right out of high school; again, this has less to do with intelligence and much more to do with self-esteem and emotional and mental maturity. Some (like me) need to grow first and get a better sense of self. These people would get more out of college - and "succeed" by going later.

How "success" is defined is also something to consider; if the goal is to learn and grow as an individual, then many students can indeed attend college and succeed without graduating. If the goal is to get a college degree, then not everyone will succeed. Hopefully, one grows and learns something at college and manages to get a degree, but this doesn't always happen, at least the first time around.

It was an interesting exercise, and I came away with a few ideas to integrate into my classroom.