Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ridiculous Religious Arguments

This weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week, the week before Easter, which is of course the single most important holiday in Christianity (if there were no Easter, there would be no Christianity). 

I don't know why I thought of this particular argument this afternoon; RCIA is winding down, and Ed will get confirmed at the Easter Vigil next Saturday night. He had neither been baptized nor received the Eucharist until he was seven because his mother wasn't sure she wanted him to be raised Catholic, but Ed had never really been taken to Mass regularly nor am I sure he was taken to religious education classes while growing up. He started coming to Mass with me because he wanted to spend time with me; the church to which we are currently members is led by a priest who had a sense of humor and explained things in such a way that appealed to Ed. (When I was a kid, we referred to said religious education classes as CCD. Mom was the church organist and my brother was an altar server; we were taking to Mass weekly and on all religious Holy Days of Obligation, and got all our sacraments at the appropriate times.) 

I'd been thinking of the arguments I've heard from parents who say that they don't want to raise their child in any particular religious tradition because they want their child to be able choose her own religion when she grows up.

That's like saying that you want your child to choose her own career when she grows up, so you're not going to send her to school because she'll get all the info on how to choose a career later in life.

I don't know that there are statistics for the number of people who are raised in one religious tradition and fall away from that religion, but if you want your child to have a foundation in some manner of religion, it seems like raising them in one's chosen religion would be a good idea, if for no other reason than for purposes of comparison and analysis.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


This is on my mind today because a student recently asked if I would talk to her about my previous experience having flunked out of college, yet having gone back to school and become a teacher. I had shared that I had not done especially well in high school - I can't remember at this point if I was in danger of not graduating, but I certainly wasn't a good student - and that I had flunked out of college in a rather gloriously bad way - I had a 0.00 GPA both semesters, which is easy to obtain if you never go to class or take any tests. I simply wasn't ready to for college when I was 18, and I wasn't ready until I was in my late 20s. I'm neither proud nor ashamed of this; it's simply part of my past, like having grown up where I did. That I've completed college and have 30 graduate credits negates whatever embarrassment I may have otherwise felt.

A few weeks ago in one of my classes, we were discussing a difficult assignment - the rhetorical analysis paper - and why teachers assign difficult things that may or may not ever be used once you leave college. (And that's a different discussion: You simply can't know what you may or may not need to know at some indeterminate point in your life, so students are taught a range of subjects in the hopes that they're being given a basic foundation.)

It was lighthearted, but a valid conversation, and we (and by "we" I mean "I") got on the subject of education vs. college. This is not something I'd ever heard anyone tell me, and I've put a lot of thought into this.

I'd told my students that there can be a distinct difference between college and education; that because one does not go to college does not mean that one is stupid, and that going to college does not necessarily indicate high intelligence. I said that there a distinction could be made between "college" and "education" - and some of them, I could just see this look that told me that they'd never thought of such a thing before. I asked if we could agree that we have a need for people who know how to do useful things like fix cars or do electrical work and the like, and most of the students nodded their heads. I said that many of these positions require post-secondary education, but that this didn't necessarily mean that the people who had acquired extra training had gone to college, although it's common now that community colleges and vocational schools offer certificates or two-year degrees.

(On a side note, I have no patience for people who tell me they're "too old" to go to college. That to me says you're simply not interested in learning. You don't have to go to college, but you can still learn things.)

My having been a terrible student who didn't do well in high school and who flunked out of college has, I believe, made me a better teacher than I could have been had I been a great student and done things "the right way." (I did do well later on.) There are a lot of great teachers who were fantastic students in high school, went to college at 18, did wonderfully, graduated at 22, and immediately began teaching. There's nothing wrong with this, but in terms of advising students how to navigate the non-academic world, experience in the non-academic world can be integral. At least, for me it was. And it has helped me enormously when talking to the mostly non-traditional students that I'm teaching because I don't believe that everyone needs college to be successful. I believe in post-secondary education, but I don't believe that always needs to be in the form of a college degree.

I think so many students were, like I was, told that they had to go to college, that college was the only way to succeed, that something beyond high school was vital. And it is true that post-secondary education is vital, but I can't remember a single conversation I've ever had with someone who helped me explore options other than college. It was simply understood that college was the end result, and that it must be done at age 18.

I didn't know how to explain that I was tired of school; I was mentally exhausted and I wanted to work and have some financial independence, to be on my own for awhile. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and going to college would not have helped me find a direction; what was singularly helpful was having experience working and not being surrounded by teachers and the world of education. I needed first a different type of exposure. It simply wasn't a consideration as far as my family was concerned, and for quite some time I was hurt by this lack of understanding. I understand their view and I would be in a better positoin now to explain my thinking, but I'm aware that there are different and possibly better ways to go about presenting a student with her options. I think I would have done better sooner had I gone to work out of high school.

Of course, at the moment, that's an academic exercise, since I have the college degree now and, ironically, I've wound up as a teacher. But I worked in a variety of jobs and wasn't sure I wanted to be a teacher until I had wandered into Stony Brook University's Writing Center, which happened to be under the direction of someone who was the antithesis of most of the previous bosses I'd had. That work allowed me to explore the field and ask questions, which was the most helpful.

In other words, I was talked to.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

St. Louis: Highlights

It wouldn't quite be an English teachers' conference if I didn't buy some books. I was good - I waited until the last day, when the exhibitors were having clearance sales: I wound up buying two paperbooks for $3 each, and three books for a dollar apiece at a different table. In the end, I came away with Grammar Girl's 101 Words Every High School Graduate Should KnowGrammar Girl's 101 Words You'll Never Confuse Again; the Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Novel; Girl in Translation; and You Are Free

I managed to have some non-English teacher fun in St. Louis, too. The weather cleared up and on Saturday I was able to take a tram to the top of the Gateway Arch, which was nifty (although it entailed a very long wait; I spent close to two hours waiting to get to the top, and spent perhaps 15 minutes at the top). 

The Basilica St. Louis, the King was a stone's throw away from the Arch, so I took Mass there. It's a really beautiful old church - the oldest Catholic church west of the Mississippi River.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

2012 CCCC Annual Convention: Saturday

Today was a short day: Since it was the last day of the convention, only three concurrent sessions being held. Between the limited number of sessions being offered, and my brain being a bit overloaded, I only stayed for two speakers at two different sessions.

In the first panel of the day, "Privacy, Rhetoric, and Composition: Addressing the Public/Private Distinction in Digital Environments," I heard my Twitter friend Michael Faris from Penn State speak of analyzing the rhetoric of Facebook's privacy policies, the implications extending to the conflict of public information versus private information and the accessibility of information (how easy it is to access and understand privacy policies, for example, or the overlap between private profiles, public profiles, and the in-between), and the way(s) in which privacy policies affect not only our online presence, but our understanding thereof.

In the next session - "Immigration in the Writing Classroom" - Glenn Hutchinson from Florida International University addressed whether education can be illegal; he spoke at length regarding the problems "illegals" can face when attempting to go on to higher education. For me this was an eye opener in that I hadn't quite realized the severity of the situation that students who have lived in this country for most of their lives might face.

Friday, March 23, 2012

2012 CCCC Annual Convention: Friday

I managed to get to quite a few more panels today, many of which were quite interesting:

  1. In "What Is Our Profesionalism For? The Role of Composition and Rhetoric Scholars in the Public Practice of K-12 Literacy Educators," Maja Wilson of the University of Maine gave a talk ("The Rhetoric of Literacy Instruction: Engaging Parents") in which she discussed the importance of professionalism as means of engaging parents in an effective manner.
  2. The session I chaired ("Designing Engaging Writing Assignments with Video Games and Fanfiction") went well; the panelists were funny, spoke well, and :
    • Mark Mullen from the George Washington University gave a talk ("Getting Back to Basics by Going Back to the Future") in which he discussed his using game reviews to teach critical thinking and writing, as something the students might find "useful" and actively engaging, to cultivate beliefs that writing matters and how much criticism means.
    • In his talk entitled "Deconstructing the Borders of Digital and Analog Identity, Understanding the Relationship between Architects, Rule Sets, and Player Characters," Peter Brooks from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee discussed agency and social structure in games, and how they equal different objectives and rationalization, and how rules are interpreted. I interpreted this as analogous to the classroom, that teachers might be the architects of their classrooms, rule sets their rules, and player characters the students.
    • Daphne Daugherty from Missouri State University and Sarah Wynn from the University of Southern Mississippi gave a talk entitled "The Unexplored Gate: Charting Compositional Energies of Fanfiction Writing"; they spoke of the potential in using fanfiction in the composition classroom because of the skills one might use in writing fanfic - recognizing discourses and code-switching, having a critical eye, analyzing audience - are all things we want to teach in the compisition classroom. They noted that fanfic writers read for a specific purpose, place emphasis on very detailed observations, and place an importance on reviews (a form of peer review). They further suggested that fanfic could be used as a peer review model and editorial authority.
  3. Next up was "Critical Food Literacy: New Territories of Inquiry in Rhetoric and Composition," which I'm glad I went to because I'd been considering integrating some manner of food writing into future courses. Maxwell Philbrook of the University of Missouri, Columbia, spoke about food literacy movements (you can listen to his talk here, while Naomi Clark, also of the University of Missouri, Columbia, spoke of the correlaton between food production and writing pedagogy (her talk is here).
  4. I also heard Marjorie Roemer of Brandeis University speak of her experiences teaching memior in "Framing Experience, or What I Learned from Frank McCourt." (Her talk is here.) She contended that as an authentic writing assignment, memoir is an effective way for older writers to write.

The last session of the day allowed many of us to come together and talk about developing papers and sessions for next year's convention. I made contact with three other teachers, and we're (hopefully) going to try to put together a proposal for next year's convention, which I'm very excited about. One of the problems, of course, is that it can be difficult to meet folks who might have the same research interests and/or background, so this was much more helpful than I had anticipated.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

2012 CCCC Annual Convention: Thursday

The convention began Wednesday with pre-convention workshops, with sessions beginning Thursday morning. I, however, did not arrive until Thursday afternoon, just in time to make it for the last session of the day.

I had hoped to attend one of Thursday's featured session, "Gateways to Leadership: A Reflective Roundtable on Opportunities Within NCTE and CCCC," a session designed "to help conferece attendees think about ways in which they might seek out and occupy small or large leadership roles," but the session was double booked, and no one quite seemed to know how to resolve it - and the group kept up and walking off, without making general announcements, so I gave up trying to figure out where they might be headed.

Instead, I randomly wandered into what turned out to be an interesting session: "Online Instruction: Teachers, Assessment, and The Writing Center." I missed part of the first presentation, the result of which led to my missing his key points, but the other two speakers had some interesting points. Nanelle Norcross of Western Illinois University spoke of the benefits of serving contemporary students in the online writing center, opining that the availability of online tutoring sources and resources allowed for students to develop and strenghten different skills. Furthermore, the availability of online tutoring, and well-trained tutors, reached another segment of students who might not otherwise have persused help. And Tim Jensen of Ohio State had used online surveys extensively in his composition courses, namely as a means to get his students more involved and have them take more ownership for their learning, thereby creating a more collaborative learning environment within his classes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


There are no adjectives strong enough to describe my dislike of shoes, both shopping for them and wearing them. ("There is no emoticon for what I'm feeling!") I have feet that are larger and wider than most other women's (12W), so the selection is automatically much smaller. 

Being a teacher means that when I teach, I'm on my feet. Although I wear sneakers while teachng, I do have other shoes in rotation if the need arises (usually for interviews or the like). What shoes I wear while teaching has never been an issues; you'd be hard-pressed to find a school in which there aren't teachers wearing sneakers.

In the professional world, teaching is a whole other kettle of fish when it comes to clothing choices: One could be on one's feet for several consecutive hours, and not just standing - running around the building, pushing or pulling things, leaning and bending and lifting and carrying various piles of papers and stacks of books, and being otherwise active. It's not a formal profession; I'm not meeting clients, for example.

I tend to wear what we in the education world call "practical" or "comfortable" shoes - sneakers, mostly, but generally anything with either a low heel or no heel at all. It's just not sensible to do otherwise, given the active nature of the job. Nurses and doctors are in the same boat; telling a nurse that she should wear "something cute" while working is likely to get you a strange look under the best of circumstances.

This does not mean we're slumming it, of course; there are plenty of "cute" shoes that can be worn. I haven't seen any of those, but I keep telling myself that just because I'm not aware of their existence doesn't meant they don't exist.

The last time I bought a pair of sneakers was more than a year ago. I finally gave up trying to find a pair of sneakers in the women's section, and had found a pair of men's sneakers that have been doing a good job. But they're getting a bit raggedy, so I hied myself to the local Payless to check out their selection. I was immediately pounced upon and directed to the appropriate section, which was fine, except the sales lady kept pushing "cute" shoes. ("You have got to try these; aren't they cute?") When I explained I was looking for something with no heel, she directed me towards a pair of flats, in a style I don't especially like. (And they were for dressing up, which is something else I don't do much of.) I finally mentioned, in a more direct manner, that I was looking for sneakers. There was one pair, possibly two, in my size, which she didn't point out.

The helpful sales lady did, however, mention the accessories, jewelry, and makeup almost immediately.

Shoe shopping stresses me out. I just want to go in, find a pair of sneakers, and get the hell out.



Sunday, March 11, 2012


In the past two years, I've heard of several acquaintences getting married.

Of all these new weddings I've been hearing about, Ed and I had the shortest dating span (8 months) before we got engaged, which itself was a lot shorter (10 months) than many of my acquaintances.

While a few of these folks are around our age or a few years older, more than half are five-to-ten years younger than we are (those five-to-ten years can make a big difference in terms of financial security and readiness; had Ed and I started dating 10 years ago, we probably would have had a longer engagement).
  • I'm grateful we aren't starting out our married life in an apartment, that Ed already owned a house years before we even got together. (Apartment living has lots its appeal.)
  • I'm grateful we don't have roommates. (Roommates never had much appeal.)
  • I'm grateful Ed works for an airline, and that if we have a flexible schedule we can non-rev (fly standby), even internationally. 
    • (This is not to say that we wouldn't buy tickets if necessary; for our wedding, for example, we bought tickets, since otherwise we'd have a standby situation, and we didn't want to miss our own wedding because of flying standby for the week beforehand.)
  • I'm grateful Ed hasn't been married before, that this is the first marriage for both of us. (From the view of a practicing Catholic, I wouldn't have been able to marry someone who's been divorced.)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Tonight's Menu

Alex (our heretofore Best Man) and his wife Karen are coming over tonight. They live a few towns over, but, rather embarrassingly, we haven't seen them since the wedding (in May). We really do need to do a better job at keeping in touch, but to be fair, Alex is a pilot and therefore has a wonky schedule, and we can't afford to go out for dinner much these days, so we decided to invite them over for dinner.

Tonight's menu: