Monday, April 30, 2012

Last ditch, hail-Mary job advice?

Ok, I suck so bad at football that all my passes are Hail Mary passes. But anyway, some last minute stuff is coming up on the job boards and I wonder if it is worth my time to apply.

Remember how I got a rejection letter that I was not qualified within an hour of submitting my application and I was peeved? Especially because it wanted a specialist in 18th-century nose picking with teaching experience in Fruit Studies and I consider that to be a totally accurate description of myself as a scholar*? Well it turns out that when all the searches for that school were frozen, some idiot in HR sent the wrong mass email out to everyone who had applied. And now they have turned all those into one-year visiting positions. And sent a nice note saying I am welcome to apply.

Hmm. Is it worth it? Do you think there would be any advantage to be the visiting person there if they managed to re-open it as a tenure-track thingy? Because I don't think that it is worth it, per se, to move randomly across country again for a visiting position when I can just as easily be exploited in this visiting position here ... UNLESS it really could give me an edge up on moving into a permanent gig there.

The second thing is that the place I interviewed with at MLA (which hasn't made any postings about the search on their web site, making me wonder if they actually ended up hiring one of their campus visit people or not, but anyway) has an opening for a postdoc. Also temporary, but less teaching, so possibly worth it. I can't dig up any salary numbers, but it can't be less than I'm making here. But, it is a "new scholars" postdoc and they want someone who has defended in the last couple years or will have by fall, so that puts me out. Do you think I should bother to apply? To contact my contact person from the search committee and ask if I should apply? Hmm.

We are coming up on the end of the job listings for the year, as they get increasingly stranger and/or sketchy sounding. Also, I am very tired and have lots of final exam week grading to do. As well as plan my friggin' summer, since I don't know what I'm doing next year and want to do whatever would actually be useful for future stuff. Oh, and I learned last minute that I had to officially re-submit my application to the postdoc committee through the campus HR site, which was stupid and sucky, as per usual. I had to check all the stupid anti nepotism boxes, too, which amused me ---- I already work here; if I try to get myself the same job again, am I being nepotistic? Heh. It depends if you think of me as me, or as me, myself and I.

And with that little De la Soul reference, I'm out.

*except for the whole pseudonymous nature of the description, of course.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

End of the semester grumpiness

  • Arrrgh! Why am I not done already? Why are there so many things left to grade before I go into finals week? Why have I allowed people to pile me with late and make-up assignments? Grumble grumble, because the department policy is that you must complete all major assignments to pass the course, and there are a lot of student who I like and have been working hard and who are capable of passing but they did not complete one essay assignment. If I were savvy about my workload I'd have failed and booted all of them already. Which brings me to...
  • Dear officemate: you have weird, fucked-up priorities. And you make all the wrong things be a comment about you and your teaching ability. The fact that half of your remaining students turned in poorly- or un-revised research papers? That is all about them and not a sign you are a failure as a teacher. However, the sign that you have only about 6 down from over 30 students left in each of your courses? That sounds like it is about you and your demeanor in some way. I've only lost about 2 or 3 per class and they are all showing up well within the attendance policy. And don't bitch and moan that you have so much grading right now --- I would love to have such small stacks of assignments. Also, I find it very strange that you had over 20 cases of plagiarism last semester and I had 2. Angry Anarchist beat us all out last year with 5 in one semester. I still feel that if entire classes are doing cut-and-paste jobs on your assignments, you are either structuring something wrong in your assignments or you are coming across so frighteningly (or confusingly) in class that nobody understands what you want and it seems safer to steal what someone else has created than to attempt it themselves. Also,
  • Dear other officemate: I know you are trying very hard and had some good showings in the job market these past couple of years, but I think you are getting some fucked-up advice. Just because you don't have much "committee service" on your cv doesn't mean that you should work on that. You have tons of "research field" service including helping run the national conference for your research area and being a journal reviewer for your favorite author's journal. Every time I saw you this semester, you were doing fiddly crap service for the undergraduate committee, and it seems like you have put everything in life on hold for the last two weeks helping do class observations of all the adjuncts. That is crap work and I don't think it's going to be taken very seriously on your next go at the market. Even if it does help a smidgen, I don't think the payoff is going to be anywhere near the effort you are putting in. And you have added, on the advice of your advisor, a section on your cv listing all the places your research has been cited? That sounds terrible! Seriously, it sounds very chintzy and like you don't know the norms of academia. It's just a given that eventually people will cite you and not really the same sort of "accomplishment" as writing a review or an article. And this is coming from someone who is 99% sure she has not been cited anywhere yet. it just feels one step up from me citing the google searches that find my page.
  • Also, a note to my department and all the various search committees, VAP and lectureships and other jobs I have recently applied to: My summer is about to start very soon and I have no idea what I am doing or where I am going. Let's get some acceptance letters and contracts in the mail, people! Chop chop! (NB: good news only. Rejection letters need not apply.)
  • And as long as I'm bitching about various academic things I would just like to shout a bit about my article, which has been sitting in the "submitted --- awaiting managing editor review" online file of the journal I sent it to since March 15th. Hello, people! Send it out to some reviewers already! I am starting to feel bad that my brain has been 100% consumed by grading for so long, and I would like to see all the research and writing I did earlier this year actually go somewhere.
  • Maybe I should go somewhere and drink heavily instead of grade the rest of the night. Unfortunately, everyone I have talked to in the past couple days is trying to get through their own big grading push. Grumble grumble grumble.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Whose bright idea was it to bring back winter in April, anyway?

Stupid weather people! The heat is on in my house, people! And it is cold and windy and dark! I would say it was winter weather, but it's more like California winter weather, since when these people here have winter, they do the whole-nine-yards snow and shit. Crazy, I tell ya.

I don't know if I'm ready for the quarter to end because I am seriously behind in my grading and there is a lot to do and hand back before going into finals week. And I need to make two of the three finals. And I am about to get all the final papers/research projects/other big assignments at the end of this week before finals even start. Say it with me everybody: Aaaaaaaaaaah!

I should really be grading, but I want a nap. You'd think that this semester would be better than the crazy-overload-death-in-the-department drama of last semester, but stuff has come up that has totally eaten up all my time for the past few weeks. I am so tired.

The only possible upside about being so buried in grading that I can't see is that I can avoid worrying about the summer. Seriously, people, what am I doing this summer? Or the rest of my life? Am I packing and moving, publishing, traveling, taking a side job for the money, what? I have no clue!!!! My dad has been nagging me like you wouldn't believe because he wants to know right now what my plans are and when I am visiting the family. I don't know! Leave me alone and let me get the rest of my crap planned out first! It's not like you'd have to drop everything to fit me in your schedule; I can just show up whenever!

In other news blogging is dead or possibly just needs a makeover to bring some magic back in the blogroom, but I am too damn busy and overwhelmed to ponder this or anything else people have written lately. I hope to shovel out from under all this crap and do more interesting things on the internet soon. Wanna help? Here, take this stack and this glittery purple pen. If that's not to your liking, I may have some snow for you to shovel here in a minute or two.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012






Shit. I can't get there from here.

Actually pulling my head out of the sand to deal with the problem in 5... 4 ... 3...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Gift wars

You might remember my previous post about students giving me things. Well, things have escalated. I had another student come into class a little late and chirp, "they have tons of free stuff over at the Student Wellness Fair!" "Awesome!" I say. "Will they still be open after class lets out?"

The booths will be, we are all informed, but the free five-minute massage tables are all booked up for the rest of the day. However, there are many informational pamphlets at the various booths, and "Here, I got this for you..."

 ...wait for it...

Bwahahahahaha! I love it. I almost made a salacious gesture of licking it but managed to stop myself in time. It's actually quite appropriate to our class discussion topics for the week.

Unfortunately, the student also gave me a card for the people from Bethany and said they would love to come give a presentation in the classroom. Sigh. I bet they would. I just said "hmm." and took the card. Also appropriate to the discussion topics. Luckily my lessons are all booked up for the rest of the semester!

(And this student came up looking very worried and asked if that was inappropriate to bring in the sucker and she hoped she hadn't offended me, and I said I thought it was great, don't be worried. Heh.)

Now, I think my other student could not let this stand, because the next class section he brought cookies! And I got a separate box all for myself:

Yum! Yes, there's only one left. The box had a bunch in it but I ate them all (almost) before thinking I should get out a camera. This was my dinner the other day, unfortunately. Remind me to get back on track with healthy eating and some exercise! Or, help me grade so that I'm not in crunch crazy mode til the end of the semester. Sigh.

So we all had cookies in class the other day. It was great. It's almost making me reconsider my statement that I'm not paid enough to provide food to my classes. But I have a *lot* of students, and not any disposable income these days.

I'm both looking forward to and worried about the next chapter of gift escalation. This could get out of hand. OTOH, it could get even more delicious.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A fuckton of backpedaling

My students are doing research presentations in comp today and through next week and it is fucking hilarious. Also incredibly painful to sit through so many bad presentations. But mostly hilarious.

I'm not taking these presentations very seriously or making them a large part of their grade, but man are my students nervous. And messing things up. I am actually surprised. If I were to stay here I would definitely have to keep the presentations because it is clear the students need the practice and to confront their public speaking fears. And because these are such a great learning experience ... for how not to do presentations. Ideally it would be a good time to model kindness and acceptance of someone else messing up and overcoming and embarrassing situation, but I'm afraid that instead I am teaching them that they can survive public ridicule because I keep laughing at them. I did also tell them that they did good jobs, and I hope they take my laughing as part of my lack of uptightness that doesn't quite fit in at this school, but it might not.

(One student asked if they need to dress up professionally for this presentation and I said, no, I don't care --- I'm from California; it's not like I have a dress code or care about that shit. I did not tell them that; I told them I would be grading them on how clearly they explain the background and thesis of their research paper. But this student has done presentations in Spanish and some other classes and they insist on ties and suits and full Sunday church type outfits and grade on smoothness and professionalism. So I repeated that as long as they were not naked, I did not care about appearance and professionalism.)

The presentations so far? Nervous, shaky, dropping notecards and losing one's place, running completely over the time limit without actually getting through, powerpoints have not been emailed to the right address, crashed upon opening, and were white text on a black and white photo background of a cell. They are funny yet also painful, since they are not news to me --- I have read proposals and annotated bibliographies on the topic and I know exactly how much good, well-researched material they have that they have not actually included or conveyed successfully to their classmates --- I sit there in excruciating pain willing them to include this or that good point they made in the draft, like the audience that holds its breath when a player sets up for a free throw and then cries out in disappointment when the player misses.

The highlight, however, was when one student was explaining all that shi--- sheee--- sheooo--- random stuff they have in hospital labs and they just throw a fuckton of antibiotics at the infection which leads to resistant strains. (tiny pause.) Priceless priceless expression of shock and then an ohmygod I just dropped the f-bomb in my class presentation! I was laughing so hard I was wiping tears from my eyes, and the whole class had exploded into laughter. I don't care; you're doing fine, no problem no problem, I said. Just keep going, you're fine. (I toyed with saying I don't give a fuck about that, but I do think my students will need the ability to turn off the profanity on command by the time they are applying for jobs, so I tried modeling that for them even if wasn't doing a good job showing them serious behavior.)

So: presentations. Not much prep work on my part, and so far, entertaining. But not in a pleasant way, that's for sure.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Analyzing Conclusions

(Random side note before we start: on Tuesday I woke up and felt totally fine and rested, got out of bed right away, and was grading papers at my Starbucks by 9 am. I'm just posting this here to remind myself that I do have mornings where I feel full of energy, since I usually only post about sleepless tired days. This morning was much more of a "bleh" morning. Gotta figure out if I'm overheating with blankets at night or what.)

In the spirit of sharing and togetherness and free internet whatnot I am posting the handout I made for class the other day. I wish I had come up with this assignment right when we finished our sample readings for the semester, but now that I have it, I will re-use it all the time:


Get in groups of two. You will need paper, but you can mark up this handout as well.

Choose three of the essays we have read this semester (I have a list up on the board, or see your syllabus) and look at their introductions and conclusions. Answering the following questions, as well as using your own judgments, write a comparison of these introductions and conclusions, first analyzing what they do and then evaluating how well they do it. You will probably want to divide this into two paragraphs. (Note: you are looking at how they use the strategies, not the topic or the content of the essays at all.)

Discuss and take notes before writing up your findings. You will turn this in at the end of class.

·      How long are their introductions/conclusions? (note to self: this one confused them. I'm not sure if it was the wording or the seeming lack of a point to the question. Rephrase?)

·      What specific strategies do they use? (thinking back to Monday on conclusion styles)

·      Do their introductions resemble the typical “funnel” introduction I have been teaching you? Why would they choose to use/not use this format?

·      Compare the three essays against each other --- what different strategies do they use? What similar strategies do they share?

·      Which strategies seem most persuasive or successful? Why is this?

·      Which introduction and conclusion strategies do you like the best and why? Which ones do you dislike and why? 


(In case you were interested: I center all of my class sessions around producing writing, pretty much. Even a good full-class discussion means that only a portion of the students are actually speaking and engaged (remember, I usually have 28 in a classroom) and having small groups discuss and answer questions means I can go around and push people to stay on task/take it further/work harder/answer questions while everyone is thinking and talking. But any group larger than 3, in my experience, has someone slacking. Two people have to discuss things and come to consensus and make decisions and do a fairly equal amount of work in writing a paragraph, and I usually force people to alternate being the scribe from one day's exercise to the next. I read over peoples' shoulders or ask them (especially if they are off topic) to read what they have to me so that I check on their progress instead of really do much more than glance over the pile when it gets turned in, so it doesn't add to my out-of-class grading.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

In conclusion, the end. Or, how do you freakin' teach conclusions?

I admit it: I hate writing conclusions. Often I just stop or trail off and submit the essay without any conclusion at all, because I am so sick of the article and don't want to bother to figure out how to sum up a big complex argument. Sometimes I end with a really punchy closing line, journalism-editorial style, rather than anything that wraps up my argument and points out to further implications.

And if I hate writing conclusions, I think I hate teaching conclusions even more. I just went back through my folders and flashdrive files from the past couple years of teaching comp and can't find a single thing on conclusions --- no handouts, no powerpoints, no directions to students. I probably just didn't really bother teaching them at all.

Now, when you teach the first semester of comp, there is so much to cover, and the students (at least here) need so much repetition on what is a claim vs. what is a factual statement, or how to structure a paragraph, that I think it's ok to skip something like conclusions or have the students patch something together on their own. But I'm having huge troubles filling my second-semester comp class schedule.

First of all, I had to have a graded assignment back to them by "early grade reporting time," which means I really compressed a lot of the prep assignments. And in order to get the proposal draft on the early side of spring break (so I had time to grade grade grade), I compressed a lot of the writing process steps even further. Now it seems weird to go back and re-teach stuff that they pretty much got the first time around.

Second, I modeled my schedule off of the one schedule the adjunct comp coordinator was willing to pass along to me, which means my stuff came due much earlier in the semester than everyone else's. (meaning my fellow postdocs.) He has them all present their finished research papers at the end of the semester, but then also has them return to the anthology and present on readings for a week. That just seems like silly filler at this point.

My officemates and such just got their proposals and are spending the next few weeks going over how to turn the proposals into the longer research paper. I've already done that, and drafts are due next week, the research paper the week after that. So I have all of this week to "fill" as well as all of the last week of the semester. This week says we will go over APA and documentation styles, but I already did that when I ran out of stuff to go over last week.

So, help. Anybody got helpful guidelines on how to teach conclusions? Any suggestions for filling a week or so of MWF classes for students who have already got down the basics of research and writing? Someone suggested grammar exercises, but while each of them have a few (different) major grammar troubles, that seems like pure punishment on them this late in the semester.