Thursday, September 30, 2010

Life lessons, part three: Packing

According to government travel regulations, you can bring neither sabers nor brass knuckles on planes.  The good news is that they have started allowing tweezers again.  Cricket bats, unfortunately, still a no-go.  Dominic will have to get his very first cricket bat from someone else.

Need more info? Here's the best itemized chart I've found:

Conceived in love: Dominic

I have a new baby nephew!!  Dominic Josiah Lopez, was born at 10:39 a.m. on September 30, and weighed 8 lbs. 5.5 oz.  I am flying to TX to see Dominic and all my family!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

thinking in the abstract

My students' reading comprehension quiz for today was on a chapter they read about research and using sources, including online databases.  Question number 5, what I thought was a gimme, was "What is an abstract?"

The answers were awesome.  I was in awe.

Q:  What is an abstract?
A: An abstract is something out of the ordinary.
Not too bad, I least they were thinking of one sense of the word.

Q: What is an abstract?
A: An abstract is a unique way to quote an author.
Getting cooler.

Q: What is an abstract?
A: An abstract is a way of writing that doesn't reveal everything but keeps the reader interested.
Ha!  Close, but no cigar.

Q: What is an abstract?

A: An abstract is an interview with a professional in the field.
Hmmmm...  Is that what is wrong with the nightly news?

Q: What is an abstract?
A: An abstract is going outside of the box to create your own idea.
Nope, but you tried hard.

Q: What is an abstract?

A: An abstract is a piece of writing that is off topic or vague.
Oof. Cute, but way, way wrong.

This is why it's called a reading comprehension quiz, and not just a reading quiz.  Of course, doing the reading wouldn't hurt, either.  :)  Which one of these is your favorite??  Or do you know the answer?!  I'm looking for some doozies. :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

response from journal

I received a response from the film journal this week.  It turns out that they won't send my article out to reviewers yet because it's still too long, even after all my cuts.  I hadn't counted the footnotes, and I thought I was barely below the maximum, but it turns out I'm still over by about 1000 words counting all the notes.  Back to the cutting board.  I really want to publish this article!  (Nag nag nag blargs the list of other, more pressing things that need to get done right now, such as my dissertation.  Blarg.)

PS:  My sister is still pregnant!  This baby boy simply will not come out.  It's 3 days past d-day, but he's just relaxin, hanging out in the warm belly.  I'm starting to think about this baby the same way I do about my film article.  It's (taking) way too long, but I love love love it.

where's that red pen?

I'm a professor of college writing, which already tells you a lot about me.  It tells you that I have one, if not two or three, degrees in English.  It tells you that I'm not in it for the money.  It tells you that I love grammar more than most, and I probably drool over clap my hands at appreciate well-placed semi-colons.  But, it also tells you that I have to work extremely hard at my job to see improvement in my students' writing, if only because they resent me for the fact that they 1) didn't score high enough on the SATs to get out of taking freshman comp., 2) didn't score high enough on the AP exam but think they know everything after taking AP classes throughout high school and, thus, refuse to listen, or 3) have to take a general ed. class when they'd rather be gathering credits that count toward their majors. 

And I know they resent me for these things that are completely outside the realm of my control.  However, with most students, the resentment usually only lasts a month or so.  Once they start to trust me and let go of all the residual resentment from bad experiences in previous English classes, things start clicking in amazing ways.  Trust is key because, you see, writing is a very personal subject.  Students are attached to their words in levels of intimacy they never attain with math proofs, nor chemical equations, nor Spanish vocab flashcards.  In my job, I walk a precarious line between crushing their dreams and cherishing their ideas.  They love their words.  They believe their words...

...which brings me back to things you must know about me because I teach writing.

I have a wonderful sense of humor.

I've occasionally used my blog as a forum to discuss my students' slip-ups with word choice and their very cute works cited blunders.  If you've been reading long enough, you probably remember the famous poultry mishap and the infamous citing of the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  As I was cleaning out my closet this evening looking for a purse I haven't used in a year, I found an old spiral notebook that I had used as a gradebook several years ago.  Flipping through, I had a sweet moment of nostalgia reacquainting myself with the students names and other tidbits of information I wrote down in my spiral.  "Absent b/c of basketball. Memo from coach."  "Broke arm, can't write in-class essay.  Find alternative assignment."  "Late AGAIN."  "Brought me coffee."  "Not on task during peer review."  Each of these little notes-to-self brought back a memory. And then I turned to the very last page in the spiral.  This was where I had written my students' funny sentences for their last essay cycle!  I totally struck gold.

"Once lost and confused, John Newton went through a time where he was looking for something he simple could not fine, God.  After changing his ways from being a self-proclaimed wrench, he was finally saved by what we could all call, amazing grace."

"He was a monk and had certain expectations expected of him."

"After a facelift you can obtain nerve damage that can make your face insensible."

"The argument here is that speaking in tongues is elf-edifying and Paul shows disapproval."

You bet he does!  Those elves can get out of hand so quickly.

Monday, September 13, 2010

send article to journal, check!

I've already posted today, but I couldn't help adding a little note since I can't keep my news to myself any longer.  I submitted my first scholarly article for publication today!  I'm trying not to get excited at all since it is a top-tier scholarly film journal and I have very little hope of getting accepted the first time around.  I mean, people that are BIGshots in the industry are frequently rejected by this journal.  And film isn't even my major field of study.  But, all that aside, what I am most excited about is the opportunity to receive professional feedback whether or not it is accepted. (YAY!)

When I sent my lovingly- and painstakingly-crafted 42 pg. article through email attachment to the editors (as the guidelines requested), I thought I might have a nervous breakdown.  It's my first one.  I felt like I was sending my firstborn off to kindergarten or something.  To a kindergarten from which she still could be rejected!  Anyway, here's to having it checked off my to-do list, which, to be honest, is kind of a big deal!

life lessons, part 2

It seems that sleep is no longer just my dissertation topic.  It's the one thing that never seems to happen at the right time.  When it's time for bed, my body is all spazzed out and ready to party.  When it's time to be up and alert, my body feels like molasses on a cold day.  Sllllllowwwwww.  (Yeah, bad analogy, but give me a break. I'm tired.)

I'm trying to eat right, minimize the caffeine, and get at least 3-4 hours of exercise a week.  And yet my body can't get into a good sleep pattern.  If this keeps up, I might just konk out in front of my classroom of students.

Innnnn other news, my sister's baby is almost here.  Her due date is a week and a half, but she probably won't last that long.  This kiddo wants out!

*Added thoughts from later in the afternoon: It occurs to me that I have provided zero life lessons in this post.  So, here's my attempt at reconciling my title faux pas. 
  • Lesson #1 of the day: always email professors when you plan on visiting their office hours.  99% of the time, the hours will be cancelled on the one day of the semester you show up. 
  • Lesson #2: Try not to cringe or laugh when a student asks you if you're Asian when you're clearly a southern white chick.  Stick to yes or no.  Or there's always the joke, "Why yes, I'm CAUC-Asian."  Seriously.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

difficult life lessons, part one

School started today, which means hubby and I began our fall schedule of waking up at 5:30 on MWF mornings to go teach, between the two of us, our five writing classes from 7:15 a.m.-11:35 a.m.  Early does not describe that time of morning adequately.  But perhaps painfulQuietPrayerful. And this morning, rainy.

I already love my students.  I can tell they are pumped about starting to party college, and as much as I joke about them, freshmen hold a special place in my heart.  Ten years ago this week, I started college far away from my family and friends, and my choice of college has impacted nearly every part of my adult life.  It's been a wild, wild decade.  What surprises will the next one bring?

Life lesson from today:  it is exponentially more difficult to put on mascara at 6 a.m. than at 8 a.m.  *Sigh.*

What have you learned today?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Me. Only better.

Last week, I reached a critical mass of stress and anxiety in my head, muscles, nerves, mind...

I started complaining about any and everything to any and everyone who was within earshot.  And, when I was by myself, that didn't stop me.  I complained to myself!  Why why why? I whined.  Why do I have to work so many jobs to make ends meet?  Why have I not lost more weight after an entire summer of strenuous workouts?  Why am I not further on this chapter of my dissertation?  Why do I have to pay tuition even though I'm done with coursework?  Why is our house such a mess?  Why did my professor let me down and forget the details we've discussed four times in twelve weeks?  How could she?  How could I?  How could they?  Why me?


And then...

...when I had quieted my mind long enough to hear myself and register the words I was saying...

I felt so ashamed and unworthy of the blessings in my life.

  • I was complaining about having too many jobs while millions of people have none.
  • I was complaining about my weight while millions have no food to sustain their bodies.
  • I was complaining about working out all summer and seeing minimal results while millions are sick, handicapped, arthritic, or unable to move their limbs freely.
  • I was complaining about my dissertation while millions go uneducated and cannot read or write, much less engage in the privilege of scholarly research.
  • I was complaining about housework and clutter while millions are homeless.

Quite simply, I had made myself mentally sick.  And, quite honestly, I was disappointed in my words, actions, and mindset.  Once the scales fell from my eyes, I sat down and--instead of complaining--I gave myself a stern reprimand.

I have a roof over my head, food in my stomach, clothes on my back, books on my shelves (and, yes, my floors), a candidacy in doctoral studies, and an excess of employment for the number of available hours in each day.

So, I propose a movement away from this narcissistic feeling of entitlement.  Out with sickness, out with disappointment, out with inadequacy.  In with action.  In with energy.  In with beauty.