Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Case Against Stevens-Henager College

Late in the year last year, a guest speaker from Stevens-Henager College came in to talk to my Concurrent Enrollment students about career preparation. She used my classroom projector to show samples of resumés and cover letters, and led discussions on interview skills also. The only part of this part of her talk that was out of date was her recommendation to include a career objective, a detail that's outdated. 

However, she started her presentation talking about Stevens-Henegar College itself, which I really did not appreciate, partly because I did not want her espousing a particular college to a captive audience. And then I noticed her use use of logical fallacies.

She mentioned that the average time to complete an Associates is four years, but at her school it takes 20 months. What she didn't mention that for those whom it takes four years, it's often because they're also working, or raising a family, etc., whereas she said nothing about those who might take breaks at her college. The audience is different; few schools offer Associate degrees (mostly community colleges, which accepts a wider range of students whose life situations, because they are older, may be more complicated than for younger students ). Not only that, but students often take more classes than are actually required for graduation (I did, as an undergrad: I didn't look at my classes that transferred from the college where I earned my associates to the college where I'd later earn by bachelor's degree).

The speaker did not mention that one of the reasons that the average degree completion time is so short is that students did not take any breaks; students did not have time off between semesters. To some of my classes did the speaker mention that students do not take as many general education classes as they do at Stevens-Henegar College, but she disparaged taking classes like bowling because, as her argument went, "When will you ever use or need these classes?" This is partly true; if a student takes a particular class, she may never use that information ever again, but there are multiple reasons for taking these classes:
  • You may, in fact, wind up using something you learned from these classes, but you won't know until you take that class, nor will you necessarily know what you will need to know right away.
  • You may discover an aptitude for the subject, or you may discover that you thought you had an aptitude but not to the extent you thought. (I discovered this when I briefly minored in physical anthropology, a subject I continue to find fascinating, but which, after barely passing the introductory class, I dropped.)
  • You may actually enjoy the class.
In other words, not everything will have a directly professional or personal application, but there might be elements that are, in fact, professionally or personally relevant. You don't need to have a degree in music performance to have this be an important part of your life.

A few students had questions about transfer credits; Stevens-Henegar College never accepts transfer credits, nor do their credits tend to transfer.

I will not allow representatives from Stevens-Henegar College back into my classroom; I did not appreciate my students being held captive to learn about a college that withheld information. Fortunately, I was able to talk to all my Concurrent Enrollment classes about this, and their excitement about completing a degree in such a short amount of time all but evaporated.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Problems with HOAs

There are an ever-increasing amount reasons I really dislike our current living arrangements. Our house itself is fine, if a bit small for us at the moment, but it's in a good location. I don't especially like that we're a gated community; this means that on a regular basis, packages don't get delivered because the delivery dudes can't get in. Usually we know we're expecting a package, but not always, and of course it's not practical to never leave the house because we might be getting an unexpected delivery.

Rather, it's the HOA itself that I really have begun to strongly dislike. As an entity, its passive-aggressive board dictates behavior that is unnecessary; half the time I feel like a small child. A few examples:

  • A few years ago, our trashcan broke (the lid fell off). Ed called around and discovered that the garbage company would replace the can for free, but we'd have to leave it out. Our HOA charges people $25 if the trashcan is left out more than (I think) 24 hours after trash pickup, so Ed called the HOA and left a voicemail explaining why the trashcan would be left outside. Unfortunately, the garbage company blipped and didn't get us a new trashcan right away, and someone from the HOA board came by, took a picture, and printed up a notice with a copy of this picture, and stuck it to our trashcan saying that the next time we didn't take in our trashcan, we'd be charged $25. Ed's car was parked in the driveway, so at least one of us was home. Instead of knocking on our door, we got a note.
  • One of our neighbors likes to restore old cars; he has (or had) one of those VW Beetles from the '60s he'd been working on for some time. The car was in his garage; he never kept tools on his driveway, and he never used any of the guest parking spots - he always kept his cars parked in his own driveway. Yet it was mentioned in multiple newsletters that restoring any car, even in one's garage, was not permitted.
  • Finally, in a newsletter we received just today, according to "governing documents," storing anything in a garage that prevents you from parking your vehicles in the garage is a violation. A garage can't be used for storage, in other words. (I'm sure there are people who store nothing in their garage, but I also know plenty of people who store things in their garage. We certainly do. Units in our housing development don't have attics or basements.)
I've really begun looking forward to moving.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Quitting Principals vs. Quitting Schools vs. Quitting Teaching

In response to "Teachers Quit Principals, Not Schools," in which the author argued that teachers leave because of poor leadership, I would say the following: I'm absolutely certain that this is absolutely true in some cases, but sweeping generalizations that encompass an argument that all teachers leave schools for a single reason oversimplifies the issue. Schools are cultural fits, and it can take several tries to find a school with a culture that matches an individual teacher, which is why it's a bit sad when young, inexperienced teachers believe that because they didn't like teaching at one particular school, they don't like the profession, period.

If you're an older first-time teacher, one who has worked in other fields or industries prior to teaching, or you've taught at different schools, you may understand the distinction. You come to realize that because one job was terrible doesn't mean that all jobs are terrible. That professional experience, whether gained from teaching or simply from having worked at multiple jobs, is invaluable in making that distinction. Teachers ostensibly incorporate self-reflection into our teaching, teaching students how to reflect on their learning, and needing to reflect on our own teaching methods; yet teachers can be just as bad at reflecting on an experience and admitting hard truths to themselves.

Sometimes a school just isn't a good fit. Sometimes the administration is not good (one school at which I've taught had unethical administrators who passed failing students without consulting the teachers); sometimes teachers don't agree with how administrators lead and direct the school; sometimes teachers act unprofessionally and don't fulfill the terms of a contract; sometimes teachers just aren't very good at their jobs; sometimes there's not even any one particular thing wrong, or there's not anything even "wrong" as such - it's a matter of personality and fit. And sometimes teachers leave teaching altogether for better-paying pastures, or their professional interests change, or various other reasons have less to do with education and more to do with external factors. It's an oversimplification to imply that all teachers "quit principals." Teachers quit teaching, not necessarily people.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Year Six

Today marks our sixth anniversary, which is really not a long time to be married, but Ed and I were remarking last week how quickly the time has gone.

Ed realized very quickly what he had
gotten himself into. At that point, it was
too late to renege, though.
I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage this past week. I remember the priest with whom we met while going through Pre-Cana saying that at around the seventh year of our marriage, we would become disillusioned; this was a common and regular occurrence. I wonder if that happens only if you go into one's marriage with a lot of illusions. I disagree with the adage that love makes you blind; I think that real, actual love makes you see very clearly.

I know people get divorced for lots of reasons - and in cases of abuse, those reasons are good ones - but I also wonder how many people get divorced because the marriage didn’t “mean that much.”
We were married, just not very well. The marriage didn’t mean much to us, and so when things got rough, we broke up. I had been too immature to know what I was getting into. I thought passion was the most important thing. When my romantic feelings left, I followed them out the door. It was just like any breakup, but with extra paperwork.
I don't know much one can know what is getting into when getting married. I still remember reading accounts by (usually) women who would proclaim uncertainty, or worse, but didn't want to postpone or cancel the wedding because of its cost, others' expectations, hurting the would-be husband, etc.

In any case, this year for one was a quieter one. I started a history endorsement just this past week, mostly because I want a raise (I need four more classes to obtain the raise), but since I need eight classes for a history endorsement, I might just keep going. Ed is continuing to work as an analyst for SkyWest.

Last summer we went to Dinosaur National Monument in Vernal, where we saw a couple thousand dinner bones exposed on the cliff face inside the Quarry Exhibit Hall, as well as some really beautiful geology formations and petroglyphs. We're staying in Utah again for our summer vacation; we're going to the Bryce Canyon Annual Astronomy Festival.

I presented the MLA Convention in Philadelphia in January, and I'll be presenting again at CCCC Summer Conference in June in San Jose, which Ed will accompany me to. And since Ed grew up in San Jose, he'll show me around, and we'll be able to have a mini-vacation while we're there.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


For no good reason, a week or two I was thinking about an online exchange I had with a professor whose name, rank, and affiliation I no longer remember, except that she was not an adjunct. She had been arguing that one's career always took precedence, and that if one was really interested in advancing one's career, one would simply move to where the job was, regardless of distance. I argued that for many, it was not so easy to do that; her response was that "what I did not get" was...well, I can't even remember anymore, but according to her, there was something that clearly I wasn't understanding when it came to simply moving to where the job was. She then tried to engage me, stating that she honestly did not understand my point of view, and asked - noting that she was being serious - how I came to believe that this wouldn't simply be an option if one's career wasn't important. This was a woman who had never married, had never had children, and whose parents did not need her care.

I replied:
  • Moving requires money; the further one moves, the more money one needs. If one does not have the money, either in the form of savings, credit, or being able to borrow the money from someone (or by taking out a loan), "simply moving" is not viable. Because it was possible for one particular person does not mean everyone has the same level of financial comfort. This professor chose not to recognize her own privilege.
  • If one is married or otherwise partnered, one generally (I hope) takes into consideration the needs of the spouse/partner/whatever-term-you-want-to-use-that's-applicable-to-your-situation. Some might find it easy to get a job; others would not. If you have kids, you take them into consideration...up to a point. If you have kids with special needs, I hope one would take into consideration what support, medical, etc., services are required for your kid, and compare them to what's available. If one's parent(s) needs care, financial, medical, or otherwise, that's something else to consider. Who will care for them? Can you afford (and/or want to) put them into a long-term care facility where they currently live, or where you're moving to? Can you take care of their needs yourself? Will someone else provide those needs?
None of these facets of "just move" seemed to cross this professor's mind - or she dismissed my arguments out of hand because, after all, if you really wanted the job, you'd just move. This is ignorant at best and disingenuous at worst.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Concerns about Concurrent Enrollment Programs

This is a thoughtful response by a community college dean who responded to a colleague who expressed objections to Early College High School programs - programs that I'm in part interpreting to be Concurrent (or Dual) Enrollment programs.

The curriculum I teach my Concurrent Enrollment (CE) students is 100% exactly the same as the curriculum I teach at Salt Lake Community College I use the same readings, assignments, videos, etc., for all English 1010 and English 2010 classes, regardless of whether my students are in high school or in college...because the high school students who are taking my CE classes are also college students.

As Dean Reed noted similarly, I must be approved annually by the academic department of the discipline in which I teach; I must meet the same academic standards as someone hired to teach at the main campus. Each semester, a liaison from the SLCC English department comes in to do evaluative class observations, and, I'm assuming, can make decisions to rehire, or not, based on what he sees. Each year I go to a mandatory multi-hour training workshops in which pedagogy, grading standards, expectations, etc., are discussed.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Calling

In Catholicism, there is a tradition of promoting and being open to different vocations. This is not limited to career choice; although we tend to say that one is "called" to be a teacher, health care professional, or other profession in which others are cared for or served, there are other ways in which we are called to serve and love.

A vocation in this sense means that some of us are called to be married; some are called to be married and raise children; some are called to take holy orders; and still others are called to be single. There is a distinct lack of hierarchy which I find extremely comforting given that our society often promotes marriage and parenthood as "higher callings," something I see as detrimental to those who, whether by choice or circumstance, do not follow those paths. We are all called to love and care for each other, but there are a multiple of ways in which we can do that. 

 I've been staying away from the Catholic church for more than a year now. I still believe in the same tenets and teachings, with the same disagreements, but it's been a long time since I felt any kind of holy presence in a Catholic church. I haven't felt especially welcome, although I haven't felt unwelcome, either; I've felt overlooked. I think Catholicism had inadvertently made families and the much older and much younger central to its services. This is partly how it should be, but I know from Catholic tradition that I have as much value, as a childless, married woman as someone who has children. Attending Mass alone, or without a family, can lead one to feelings of exclusion. 

I could volunteer for one of the Liturgical Ministries at my church, and I may start doing so in order to feel a connection again.
Tushnet, Eve. “Beyond Religious Life and Marriage: A Look at Friendship as Vocation.” America Magazine, America Magazine, 24 Jan. 2017,

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Rhetorical Choices That Bother Me

I'm only partly joking that this is the first in a series of rhetorical choices that bother me, but I leave myself open to the option that it may become a semi-regular feature on a blog that no one but my mother reads. (Hi, Mom!)

At the moment I'm reading One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment, which is generally well-written and quite interesting. The author, Mei Fong, examines the repercussions of the one-child rule; she intersperses her statistics and other data with stories. She writes well; however, I'm becoming frustrated because the author uses the word "some" before an exact number. I understand she means to indicate an approximation, but I take issue with that particular rhetorical choice. "Some" is inexact in a way that "approximately" is not. The the former is a measurement while the latter is imprecise buy close in quantity or amount.

If you "approximately 15," say so. If "some of the 15" do something, say that. Yes, I understand that language is fluid. And if writers were to write "some [number]," I'd shrug and move on, but it's like an over use of block quotes. One or two is fine; before many of the numbers being included is too much. As I tell my students: Vary your word choice! "Some [very specific number]" just bugs the hell out of me.