Sunday, October 30, 2011

Procrastinatory Shoe Post

I have cleaned the catbox. I have done four job applications. I have requested a crapload of dossiers from Interfolio which is always tedious and tiring, filling out all those addresses individually over and over. While I still need to grade a zillion essays, prep Monday's classes and get groceries, I am tired and in that fuzzy-headed afternoon slump. Hence, I will post about shoes instead.

I've been feeling an inclination toward metallics these days, particularly bronze.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Fig. 4
Fig 5. I'm also really drawn toward wedges lately.

Fig 6. These might be a bit high. I still like them.

Fig. 7 And these are awesome and amazing! I might need a lot of new clothing to make them fit into my wardrobe, though.

Fig. 8 There were cute sparkly flats at Target, that did not fit. I kinda want something tacky and covered with glitter. This is close, but not really what I want. And I bet the glitter shoes track/leave sparklies everywhere and then look like crap after you've had them a month.
Fig 9. Yeah, see --- sequins just aren't cutting it. I want tacky sparkly. Huge glowing sparkly that makes everyone alternate between staring at my feet and shielding their eyes.

Fig 10. Dear Uggs: Congratulations. You have made these damn things even uglier than they were originally. You should have to pay me an eyeball-burning fee every time I encounter a student with these on.
Fig. 11. I love these strong graphic shoes. Of course, I love black and white anything so actually I cannot have them in my wardrobe ---- unless I could mix them with a stripey black and white blouse and a black and white polka-dot skirt. If I'm not careful, I will end up with a closet completely devoid of color.
Fig 12. The next few shoes are my candidates for "somewhat boring yet would fit nicely into my current teaching wardrobe." The problem with snazzy shoes in crazy colors is that then it is difficult to work them into outfits that also have something bright and interesting and/or crazy. I need some browns/blacks that go with dress pants but aren't completely boring.
Fig. 13

Fig. 14

Fig 15

Fig. 16. Ok, these are both awesome and crazy. I have plenty of boots and would never wear something _this_ level of crazy anyway, but I still love to look at them. Maybe I can convince one of you real fashion mavens to go for this look.

 I must say I've been doing pretty good lately --- I bought a pair of flip flops over the summer when my old ones snapped, and nothing since. Now, of course, I am sighing over various job openings and telling myself that everything I can hold off on buying now is one less thing to pack and move next year. Doesn't stop me from looking at all the pretties online.

Vote for your favorite, make snarky comments and/or suggestions in the comment box below!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chicago Freakin' Style!?!?!?!?!?!?!


It is week 8 (seriously? already?) of Another Damned Notorious Writing Group and I have been tootling around my article instead of working on job apps or grading essays. It's really getting there, if you look at it from one direction; if you look at it from another direction, there's a long long way still to go. This is what I hate about writing ---- how do you know when you are done? When can you cross off a writing task from your day's to-do list?

Anyway, I need to get this article movin' along. I need faster progress than I have been doing. But I'm not going to be able to do the tough parts of revising late at night when I am so tired I can't see straight, so I am making a big list of stupid little fixes I need to make and I will work on those in the evenings.

I have a journal all picked out that I really really want to get published in even though I find them snooty and I hate them. Oh, and they have rejected my articles before. And were obnoxious. And yet their articles are delicious tasty mental snacks and I want to be listed alongside those big name snooty-mac-snoots. So one of my little mindless tasks is to find their submission guidelines and suggested article length and make a list of biblio stuff to finish.

I had forgotten these idiots use Chicago Style. Oh fuck me.

Do you know how many freakin' parenthetical citations are in this damn thing??? This is gonna be a mess.


Today I do not have to teach or go anywhere (yay!) so I had the wonderful and crazy plan of sleeping in until it got light and warm. But it's still cold! Damn! I might just not get out of bed all weekend, if you believe the weather report.

 Please bring me a hot chocolate and some breakfast in bed. And feed the damn cats again so I don't have to climb out of these warm comfy covers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The ... 8 paragraph essay?

After doing conferences and getting final drafts for their second essay, I am surprised by how well my comp students are doing. I think the majority of them* are now to the point where they can take a strong basic side in an argument and write a nice clear 5-paragraph style essay. If you are horrified by the fact that we are halfway through the semester to get to this point or that I consider this adequate to pass comp 101, then so be it. In spring I had students who were on round one million of 101 and still couldn't figure out how to capitalize anything or to write complete sentences. I think I lucked out and got a good batch this time of students who have some basic smarts or training** and can grasp a new writing style with some models.

Ok ... so what next? One nice thing about switching to a new comp reader and handbook (besides sample essays for them to look at) is that the handbook came with an instructor's guide, mainly of instructions for how to build a syllabus, but also with some suggested assignments, which were helpful. But one thing that irked me when I reread it today was how so many of the instructions told you to not teach the "formulaic" 5-P essay or that topic sentences didn't have to be at the beginning of a paragraph (making me feel crappy for beating structure into their heads) and then the sample paragraph or bit of writing they had for us to bring in to class was a perfectly formulaic paragraph. Humph.

It made me think about why we teach the 5-paragraph essay at all. First of all, I think it is necessary at a particular developmental stage. When I worked at that for-profit k-12 tutoring center in their writing program, I mainly fought with worked with middle-school boys who hated writing and may or may not have had ADD. Their inability to understand essay structure totally meshed with the developmental stuff the center trained us on: they were just incapable of thinking very abstractly or structurally (the kids a bit younger than them were totally unable to really understand "people" in the abstract, that there were groups of people out there in the world who the kids didn't know and who didn't think or act anything like the kids) and you needed a strong framework that you could beat into their writing. You also needed a strong checklist because the boys hated writing and sitting still and making them write was a constant battle of: "Write a sentence. No, 'I ran' is too short. Write three paragraphs of five sentences each and each sentence has to be at least 10 words. Sit down. Sit down. I will count every word! Focus back on your paper." When you get students tell you a sentence has to be this long or a paragraph has to be this many sentences, you are probably seeing the result of beating a bare minimum amount of effort into them, effort that they have then incorrectly understood the point of. (Quality, or grades, don't motivate at this age --- not if their parents eventually felt they needed to bring their kids to the tutoring center.)

And man, that was my spring class! Two sentences is the minimum! You need more than that in your paragraphs! Stop hyperventilating; yes, you can write a whole four pages! Just try!

But I think the other reason we over-rely on the 5-P essay is because it can be taught. And it can be assessed. I used to fret and worry about whether you could actually teach writing for the longest time, that whole "writing can't be taught/you just pick it up on your own," debate, not seeing any improvement in my classes, until I got good at teaching the 5-P essay. Now I can take students from unorganized crap to clearly organized simplistic thinking. But this comes at the expense of the actual content and development of their ideas, which get a little cramped and lopped-off when squished into the 5-P mold. And it is easy to grade on a checklist because you are looking for clear parts in a clear order and everything must be in a specific place for it to count. Makes grading faster, too. No wonder the SAT writing section and all sorts of essay testing services grade to that format, to say nothing of the poor overworked high school teachers. It takes a lot longer to think about whether this point that might be the thesis here in paragraph two is actually a worthwhile stylistic choice to build up slowly to the thesis --- and often takes reading the essay twice before making a single mark on it --- than to look at the end of the first paragraph and then the first sentence of each following paragraph and check it off.

And my students seem to like it (with one exception) because writing is hard and it's reassuring and fairly pleasant to follow a formula instead of the trackless desert of blank paper. After reading several models and doing a workshop on a three-point thesis and peer reviewing two separate student groups, they pretty well have a grasp on what a three-point thesis should look like. The exception, of course, is that I want four-page essays from them and the 5-P essay doesn't stretch quite that far, so they often get stuck on what they should do to add a paragraph to the structure.

So now that they have been familiarized with this structure (I'm not going to say "mastered" yet), I am stumped. How do you teach students to go beyond the 5-P essay? How do you tell them "here's a rigid and constraining formula you have to use" and then go to complete structureless freedom? How do you go from a simplistic one-size-fits-all --- ooh, Procrustean works even better there --- to, "you should let the content and purpose of your various writings determine their form." Once again I am back to "can you even teach students to write?" Sigh. 

I mentioned to my officemate that I was getting really strange penultimate paragraphs --- sometimes completely off topic, sometimes two separate conclusions, sometimes "background" that was so obvious it was clearly padding, and my officemate mentioned the point that the 5-P essay is too short to follow blindly. "I wish I had some other sort of essay structure to teach them that was, like, one level up in difficulty from the 5-P," I said. "Like what, the ... 8 paragraph essay?" she snorted. "Yes, totally! That's it!" There's a huge jump from simple structure to complete freedom in writing, and so much variety in my anthology's text they hardly work as "models." What I want is some sort of semi-flexible form my students could both copy and tweak, so that we don't have to regress to complete structurelessness when I push them to complicate their analysis and extend their papers.

Can somebody please invent this?

* I have quite a few that didn't bring drafts to peer review or have had "troubles" getting in the final draft and who are never paying attention during class. If they're not mentally there I'm not counting them as part of my class.

** I have a couple who took honors English but haven't been asked to write an essay for two years. And another who said he went to a bad school: "man, I cut class almost every day and still I got Bs. I didn't even show up!" But I have a lot who were very familiar with the whole concept map-outline-draft-revision thing.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Tylenol PM post

Urgh. I don't know what's up. Last night I had two beers and stayed up late to watch a movie. That shouldn't really have any effect on me. But this morning I was tired, and I had a haircut appointment, and when I got back I just felt miserable. Huge stabbing headache and (still, from earlier this week) cramps.

I drank water (maybe it's a dehydration headache?) and ate lunch and tried to work on job apps for a little while, and then gave up and went for the medicine. All I had was the drowsy nighttime stuff, so I took it. I just woke up from a couple hour nap and the headache is now gone. The cramps mostly are too. But they appear to have taken my brain with them, and I am sooo groggy. Rested enough I don't think I can nap any longer, but man.

I may print out a warning to myself and post it on the wall: Do Not Touch Your Job Applications. You Are Totally Mentally Incompetent. I keep getting pulled back to them and wanting to get work done today, but I also got up to go to the bathroom and forgot where I was going along the way. Job apps are not the things I want to screw up while suffering medicine head. Or really, screw up at all.

Got any suggestions for shiny mindless things I could look at on the internet?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nope, this just isn't working...

Awww, it's beautiful; it will go so nicely with my red dress.

I love playing Angry Birds and annotating all my PDFs with this new purchase.

It's so exciting to unwrap a new package full of shiny things!!!!!

I've always wanted a complete set of these.

Sure, I'll have to eat ramen for the next three months, but the photos and memories from this experience will make it totally worth it.

Sigh. Nope. No, this just is not as fun to budget for and recover from. This is even worse than shopping for replacement underwear or such. Seriously.

At least everything else went well on the checkup and the mechanic says we can wait another month or two to update the tires. Sigh. I kinda need more groceries, too, to balance out my leftovers. At least those are marginally fun to shop for.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

No good deed goes unpunished

So, being a nice person, when the email went out that Professor Overwhelmed had become so overwhelmed that she had run herself down into a serious illness and was in the hospital, I immediately agreed to take over two of her class sessions for one course (I'm still waiting to hear back if they need me again for this week). One session was on an author who I had taught before but hadn't read the specific stuff I would be teaching, the other was an author I had had in an undergrad course and who naturally had been on one of my reading lists, although I don't think I was ever asked a question about that text. So clearly this threw more prep and a little more stress into an already jam-packed week.

Now, I don't want to imply that my level of stress was anywhere near this professor's --- I don't know much about the nitty-gritty details of shepherding a program through the reaccreditation process but it seems to provoke physical and/or mental breakdown in the program administrators if what I have witnessed at two different universities is to be believed. Whoah. And although we ("we" meaning Postdoc U, although obviously I am not really part of this "we," being temporary) recently got permission from the higher-ups to advertise and fund a new full-time lecturer, who is here starting this fall, that doesn't really take away any work from the position of the faculty member running the program. In fact, it probably increases it: she had to chair the search, get approval for the search, train and mentor the lecturer, and still deal with all the logistical stuff of running the now-expanded program, and then do all the reaccredidation stuff to show that this bigger faster better program is meeting whatever benchmarks it is supposed to meet. (I told you I didn't know anything about this stuff.)

In fact, to continue this digression, hiring a full-time lecturer only helped with the course coverage of this program ---- sure, Fruit Studies now has a line devoted entirely to the program, but everyone who can sit on or chair a meeting or do anything with faculty governance is an "affiliated faculty" who is in another department, so there is still a tremendous amount of work to be parceled out amongst these already overworked faculty. So while full-time lectureships with benefits are good, I demand the creation and hiring of more tenure-track lines!!!! More power to the Fruits.

Ok, anyway. Can I go back to petty griping after making some trenchant institutional analysis? I'm going to anyway. Like I said, although I am not under so much stress that I am getting hospitalized, it did take away a few hours from my week for the class period, and I had to read the class material and plan something for it, and then I had sleepless nights because I didn't want to prep to the usual level of control and preparedness I do for my own classes but I tend to not sleep or have bad anxiety dreams when I am going to be teaching something for which I am not prepared, and then I had tons of homework grading to catch up on, which I still have not completed. But I am getting there. Anyway, that is my life at the moment. Not quite so sure I want the whole tenure-track job thing if it means a workload so stressful I'll be on antibiotics and an iv for two weeks, but there's the hope that the more work would also be more interesting work.

Of course, I would also just accept bags full of money instead. Inquire within for a mailing address.

Monday, October 17, 2011

You can lead a student to water, you can show the students the water, you can even splash the water on the students but...

Yes, it is midterm grading time once again! The one bright spot is that I have gotten much faster at pushing through them. Oh wait, that could be because they left so much blank this time compared to the last two times I taught this class. Dude.

I don't know what to do about these students, except maybe shoot them. Since I have worked out a decent syllabus and lectures, this time around I am working on making the class more interactive for them --- quizzes every week, more discussion questions, more practice writing in the beginning of class where  I ask them what is the most important word in this poem/passage. All the stuff I couldn't quite get to when I was reading the material and trying to figure out what was important about it the first time or two around.

And I have been "connecting the dots" for them in excruciatingly painful ways. "Guys, why aren't you doing the reading? This is a literature class. I notice that there are a lot of zeros on this quiz I am handing back; that is a good sign that you are not doing the reading and will fail the midterm. You will need to identify passages we have read and connect them to our lectures, you know, and you won't be able to catch up on an entire class worth of reading the night before!"

And you know what? They totally bombed the midterm. Like I have said before, I don't give any credit for blank answers, and there just isn't any point to curving or grading these up. This is all on them. I went back to my files and they even did worse this time than the last two times. For example, here is last fall:

1 A
6 B range
9 C
2 D
7 F (three of those being in the 10 % range)

Compare to this time around:

1 A
8 B range
5 C
4 D
12 Fs (2 of those are in the 20% out of 100 range)

Yeah I have no sympathy; clearly students can do fine on my midterms. I asked the students what was important in class so far and they generated a big list of terms and names of movements on the board and I took straight from that for the definitions section; if you get 3 out of 40 points on that section I can tell you didn't even copy down the list of terms from the midterm review.

What are these people thinking? Do they hate literature so much in general (or this class topic specifically) that they are dead set (perhaps unconsciously) against passing the class? Are they so invested in magical thinking they think that they can pass this class without doing any of the reading? Do they secretly want to fail? They have to take a literature course from this list of requirements to graduate from college, but they don't have to take this course. And yet (something I did not know last fall), students failing my course have tried to pass it 2 or 3 times in a row now. Any time you teach one of these required surveys you have a fair percentage of repeaters. Why do they come back to the same course they didn't bother to do the reading on last time and expect it to be better this time around? Arggh!

We have been doing group work/discussions where I have them pull passages as evidence for or against an interpretation of the text and then come back and discuss it. I think I am up to about 7 or 8 different people actually talking in class and saying good things. Maybe 3 or 4 of them are actually fun and saying interesting things that count as literary analysis. I would looove it if all my Fs would drop and just let me teach students who talk and seem semi-willing to be there and work with me, instead of folding their arms huffily and glaring at me from under a baseball cap. The class would be just so much more pleasant in its vibe and more like teaching if I only had to work with the students who were attempting to learn in good faith.

Sigh. But I know that none of the Fs will drop; most of them won't even miss a day since there is an attendance requirement in our department, and I bet I will get nasty horrible emails once again as soon as I hand back the midterms and have to have another series of meetings with my chair and my students about how I "disrespected" them by making them fail an assignment. Jeezus Fucking Kerist on a Cracker.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Window Shopping

It's that time of year again where I am too tired to work until all hours and there is nothing on tv! You know what that means ... I am trawling the internet shopping sites and going ooh and ahh.

Let me note that I have been pretty good about not buying things this fall, and I hope to continue. Hence the "window shopping" of online browsing.

Boden sends me catalogs, since I bought some stuff last fall, and when I first flipped through it, I was not impressed. However, it must have grown on me, since now I want many many things from them:

I stocked up on brightly colored and brightly patterned dresses over the spring and summer, and now I do not stare at them droolingly (for the most part) on websites. I seem to have moved on to funky patterned skirts.

 Or colored skirts. I have quite a collection of black and brown skirts in many shapes and styles, and now it seems I want craziness covering my ass instead of blah neutrals. Though I don't know that I can do the long straight pencil skirts like these --- they tend to be very stiff and not working well with my various curves and bumps.

And while these are so cute (look at the swirly hem patterns especially!) I wonder if I would have to ruin or re-make them when hemming them to a length that didn't swallow up my short little legs.

Also, I bought a bunch of "interesting" tops and/or cardigans with patterns and adding patterned skirts as well would make matching up outfits just that more complex. I am not brave enough to venture into pattern mixing. 

Hmm, I liked these when I pulled them and now I am not loving them. Good thing I am just "buying" them by putting them on my blog and not actually going real shopping.

There were also some nifty looking coats, if you are looking for coats. I am not, because I just bought those two coats in December and don't want to spark some hitherto-unknown Coat Addiction. In fact, maybe I should just close up my browser now.

What a difference in cynicism a year makes...

You might remember that last year I was annoyed that this Historic Anniversary/Homecoming school thing ran in the middle of my classes and I was supposed to cancel some of my classes for the rally.

This year it came around (at least it was noted in the master schedule this time) and I'm all like, thank god I get a day off! Finally! A day of not dealing with my comp students and one less class to prep!

Heh heh.

I should go off and do all sorts of job search stuff or write an article or whatever, but I think I'm going to go off wandering in the woods, if I can get the other postdocs on board. Whee!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Random Teaching Updates

Hmm, what am I up to these says? I dunno. I should be grading madly --- I handed essays back but have other things I need to catch up on --- but I feel like I want to rest and relax instead. Wait, when is that not true?

I got the word about spring classes and they are the exact same ones as this semester. Eh. There is a chance, though, I might be able to trade my Stripey Class for a Nosepicking Survey class, my specialty, which would be great. If they let me do it. And I would then have to prepare a new course from scratch, which is extra work, but I think it would be worth it for the fun of reading and teaching stuff I know something about and love. Who knows if I'll be running amuck on flybacks or retooling for a different career. I'm bound to have something crazy on my plate, so I might as well trade classes with this adjunct who doesn't like Nosepicking. (How can you not like nosepicking?)

And of course, after switching the comp book on me for fall, Fruit Studies is switching to a later edition book in spring. Figures.

My comp classes have been going pretty well. One class can go from "excitable and willing to talk" to "entirely too loud and shouting at each other." The other day was weird; I had lots of shouting at them to settle down. I may have to rethink class management in that class (which is always weird when you have two back-to-back classes turning out totally differently). Other than that it seems to be coming along. Right now should be the end of the "honeymoon period" since I have handed back the first essay and totally crushed their little egos (welcome to college!), but it doesn't seem too bad right now. Except for the students going nuts and shouting in our "what is the value of the liberal arts" discussion. Weird.

Now the Stripey Class ---- sigh. Jeez. You can totally drag a horse to water but not make it drink, you know? I have been giving quizzes regularly, handing back quizzes while pointing out that getting a zero on the quiz is a good sign that they might not pass the midterm, explicitly pointing out how they should be marking important passages we close read and that they should take notes, and still I had to yell at them on Tuesday, because it seemed like they were even less engaged than usual. A bunch still haven't bought their book. And to top it all off, I revamped what we were supposed to do today, and instead of giving them two quizzes in one week I made up a handout where they had to find quotes about each of the main characters while in small groups. And then they were pissed cause they had done the reading and were expecting a quiz! Crazyness. You will hear more from me once I give the midterm, I am sure.

I spent 20 minutes on my article though! Let's see if I can devote some more sustained time to it again on Friday. I was surprised --- or maybe disappointed --- to find how much time rereading the subsection and pulling my books and then turning two bolded things into cited endnotes took to finish. Grumble. I have so much more to do on those sections! Ok, Sisyphus: baby steps, baby steps. Just keep on plugging away at it.

Actually, I guess I should wrap this up and go back to plugging away at my pile of quizzes and homeworks to grade. Or figure out what I'll be doing in my classes tomorrow.  A cog's work is never done!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Looming Uncertainty Returns

(side note: finished my essays at the last possible minute and handed them back today. Yay! Still completely buried in other grading and need to get back on that damn article and job app stuff. Need, need, need, need --- I am so sick of what I need to do.)

I just booked a flight to see the fam for thanksgiving (waited too late and it is pricey), and was inspired to grab a flight for winter break too. (Still pricey but way less and probably the best I can manage given I am flying way the hell over there.)

Of course, my fam doesn't live in Seattle, so if I get an MLA interview I would need to go there. I didn't include the trip in my original ticket, which means I will either a) break down and buy another ticket in the next few days, b) get an interview and buy a last-minute-expensive-freakout ticket around December 10, or most likely c) not get any interview and also not have a plane ticket to Seattle. Quel domage. Seattle's a nice city to visit. If you have the reason to go, the time and the money, that is.

My officemate has been annoying me by discussing this issue at length while I am grading. Should I sign up for the grad student or the full time convention rate? We don't make enough to really count as fulltimers even though we are full time. I need to find someone to split a convention hotel room with. Are you going? Are you booking the hotel and registering now? Should I look for other people? I think this officemate has a paper to give and therefore a reason to go regardless. Me, I never get on top of it in time to hit those very early calls for papers for MLA. After far too many years of going, I won't be going to this MLA unless I have an interview.

(And if the luck-givers of the universe want to punish me by granting me an interview and making me pay through the nose for everything, then please, have at it!)

I hope that people have become accustomed to Skype enough to want to do Skype interviews with me instead of me flying out there, 'cause damn, that is a huge expense you are putting on us impoverished jobseekers year after year. If I do get an interview I'll camp out on someone else's floor and borrow a nametag to get me up the elevators. I don't have the money, yo. And my advisors' advice that these expenses are a worthwhile investment in return for a job wears thin after so many years of investing and not getting any job in return. However, I am a pessimist and think that more likely I will be sitting around my parents' house being depressed and interviewless and not spending any money on travel, which is fine if my niece takes me out to this dive bar she has found that she likes (OMG I am old; she is old) but then that raises the question of what I will be doing if I don't get a job this year once my postdoc, which cannot be extended, ends.

What the hell am I going to do?

Eh, I can't focus on that. I am lucky I have managed to get my tgiving and break plane tickets before the prices went through the roof. I have so much stuff to do and so much immediate stuff to worry about I can't be bothered with planning Plans B through Q and a possible Escape from Academia where the Kurt Russel role is played by your humble blogger.

Nope, I'm too busy to think about all that. But that doesn't stop it from looming over me like a dark cloud, like one of many dark clouds creeping up over my horizon. You can't do anything about uncertainty but it weighs on you. You'd think a cloud couldn't weigh anything but it does.