Thursday, February 26, 2009

Non-Post Post

I don't really have much to say, and I'm rushing off to class, but I don't really like the title of the last post, so I wanted a new title to pop up. Not sure this one is much better.

Off to a conference this weekend (a not-so-interesting conference that will be focused on a assessment), and so I will be very busy and will get way behind with all other work, off which there is a load. Not sure how I will get out from under it.

Nevertheless, off I go!


Sunday, February 22, 2009

How Kids Learn Racism

So, this morning, the kids were happily playing together, which is always a bonus. But then I realized that they were talking about how the "Mexican Guy" was coming to get them. Yes. Their bad guy was "Mexican Guy." Now, I'm sure they don't even really know what that means, but, of course, I had to stop them. I also asked where they got that game, and my son said he got it from a certain friend at school, and based on my knowledge of that kid, I'm not a bit surprised. (And that's not a stereotype; that's my knowledge of that individual kid, who is a certified stinker.)

So, then I began to try to explain why their game was inappropriate and why they couldn't play it anymore, why they needed a different bad guy (e.g., Darth Vader, Pink Panther's cartoon nemesis, whatever). I found it very hard to explain to little kids why they can't talk about "Mexican Guy."

I don't know if they understood what I was saying. They cried because they felt bad. They cried and asked if they needed a timeout. They cried because I had buzz killed their game. I didn't yell at them, mind you, and I told them it was okay. They hadn't known it was bad. But they still acted as if their spirits were a bit crushed.

But, of course, it had to be done. I just have no idea if I explained it well, and it made me wonder how I will continue to deal with those kind of things as they pop up in the future.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mommy as the Consolation Prize

Scene: Breakfast table on Valentine's Day, discussing the day's activities. I am at the table with the boy (age 5.5). The husband is on the other side of the counter, in the kitchen. The Girl is nearby, in the living room.

Boy: I want a Daddy day. I want another day when I go with Daddy and Girl goes with Mommy.

Me: Oh, do you want to do that today?

Boy (with enthusiasm): Yeah! Let's do that!

Me (looking at Husband): Does that sound good?

Husband: Sure. Let's do it.

(Girl, age 3.5, joins us at the table)

Boy: We're going to have another day when I go with Daddy and you go with Mommy!

Girl (starting to cry): But I want to go with Daddy!

Boy (looking surprised and baffled about how to proceed): Well. Okay. So, who do you love more?*

Girl (head in hands): Daddy!

Me to Husband (with no notice by the children): This conversation seems to be devolving.

Boy (to Girl): I thought you loved Mommy.

Girl (crying): I want Daddy!

Me (trying to navigate the minefield): Girl, we can go to dance class and then maybe I can take you to tea . . .

Girl (stemming the flow of tears): Oh, actually, I want to go with Mommy.

Boy (speaking like a professional mediator): Oh. Okay. So you want to go with Mommy? You can handle that? You can handle going with Mommy?

(Husband laughing. Me, watching and bemused.)

Girl: Yes. Mommy.

Boy: Okay then!

End Scene.

*This question has a lot subtext since the Boy regularly makes it clear that he loves Daddy more than Mommy. This love is mostly founded on the fact that Daddy will pick up snakes and Mommy will not.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Supervisor's Reply

Dear Good (Enough) Student,

Please do not feel under pressure to produce anything polished. The main point is to get something down on paper if you can. I have seen work at various draft stages from all students and that is part of the process. When the children are ill it is just impossible to function let alone think in a coherent way. Let things settle and then write, say, a couple of pages or so and just send them on.

I hope everyone is better now. It is a tiring time of year anyway. Roll on Spring!

Thanks for the King reference. I have ordered the edited book we discussed for the library – will probably take a while.

And don’t worry!

More-than-Good-Enough Supervisor

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dear PhD Supervisor

Here is part of the message I just sent to my supervisor. I copied it here to share with you:

Dear Supervisor,

I’ve been intimidated by this next bit of writing I need to do, and I’m afraid I’m going to writing something that’s not very good and that I’ll embarrass myself and that you’ll think I’m stupid. It might be of tremendous help to me if you could give me “permission” to write something that might not be very good—just so I can get some things on paper—and if you could reassure me that you’ll try not to think I’m stupid. I keep feeling as if I need to read more, to know more, before I write, but that feeling might go on for ever, so I need to just do it. This means I will certainly have holes in my knowledge base.Would that be okay? If I give you something that might be mediocre or even bad? Then I can revise and move forward as necessary.

Good (Enough) Student

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mumbo Jumbo

I am in despair over our report from ACCJC, our accrediting body. I spent all last year editing the mass of "prose" written by faculty and staff at our institution and spent who-knows-how-many hours at meetings with administrators to get the job done.

We got the verdict today, and it's not good. Some of it seems bogus to me. But we are under their thumb, and I'm sure there really isn't much we can do except click our heels and get busy. But everyone at the college is so tired from doing last year's self-study (when we were seriously lacking in administrative leadership), and now we've got to re-navigate and turn around a ship that feels like it's sinking under these massive budget cuts and an overwhelming amount of work and reorganization.

So, shall we talk student learning outcomes?



Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Shout Out to The Knitter

Here's a shout out to knitter and soon-to-be published novelist--the voice of Yarn-a-Go-Go! Way to go-go! Cheers! Clink, clink! All that . . .

The Community College Gig

There have been a couple of discussions over at Dr. Crazy's blog and at New Kid on the Hallway's blog with which I have become somewhat entangled. And I thought I would share just a bit here at my place.

Warning: This is a long post, but even if you don't want to read the whole thing, please at least skip down to the bottom where I quote someone who says that my degree has "no point" to it.*

Okay. So. It started when Dr. Crazy (who has a great academic blog that I read on a regular basis) posted a detailed analysis of her thoughts about the best way to advise her undergraduates who express an interest in pursuing grad school, particularly with the PhD in mind. The crux of the issue was whether one should encourage or discourage said undergraduates from pursuing jobs in academia, the realities and challenges being what they are. In the post, Dr. Crazy discussed her advising process, and in the course of that discussion, she mentioned high school teaching, university professorships, and non-teaching jobs--but no mention of the community college (CC) option. The comments also omitted the option of teaching at a CC. So I entered the fray and made a comment about CCs being an option.

(I will mention, however, that in a follow-up comment, Dr. Crazy explained why she didn't talk about CCs in her post, and I understand her explanation.)

That said, the issue got taken up by New Kid, but the topic shifted a bit after what I think was a misreading of my initial comment to Dr. Crazy's post. New Kid took up the question, "Why don't PhD job seekers look for jobs at CCs?" But I didn't ask that question. I know why PhDs don't (typically) seek CC jobs. But I do think that it might be valuable for some undergraduates to know that the CC option is there.

My Story:

I went to a big R1 school, and though I loved English, I was intimidated by the idea of going into a PhD program. I wasn't sure I was good enough. So I got an M.Ed. first and worked in student affairs for three years. Alas, this was not the place for me. I missed literature terribly, and decided to go back to grad school. I had the PhD in mind, but I wasn't sure how competitive I'd be since it had been five years since my graduation. So I applied to a couple of MAs so I could bone up for the GRE and get my foreign languages going again.

I loved being in my graduate program. Loved it. We took classes. We wrote papers. We drank lots of wine. We had a lot of gin and tonics at the local Irish bar while we talked about books. I worked at a hip, used bookstore where I earned a decent hourly wage and store credit. It was idyllic.

I was also living in a beautiful place in California that felt like paradise, so I started thinking about staying local rather than going to a PhD. But everyone said, "If you don't get the PhD, you'll teach basic writing (part-time) at the CC for the rest of your life, and it will be terrible." That didn't sound good, but I wasn't sure I believed them.

When I finished the M.A., I took a part-time job at the CC, along with another job as a writer, so I could work while I put out my PhD applications. But then a funny thing happened. A full-time job came up at the CC. And I thought, "Hmmm. Do I want to apply to PhDs and go to the best one that accepts me, wherever it might be, and then be there for 5-6 years, and then maybe (but maybe not) find a tenure-track (t-t) job somewhere, mostly likely somewhere I don't really want to live. Or, do I want to go for this t-t CC job in this beautiful place and start making a pretty good salary right now?" I was 30. I decided to stay in paradise.

Granted, there are times that I wish I had gone for the the PhD then (which is why I am now in a PhD program), but I'm not really sure if I'd rather be teaching at a four-year school or not. Truth be told, the more I read the blogs of faculty at four-year schools, the more I'm glad I'm not in that mix. The opportunity to do research would be great, but it seems as if many of them teach almost as much as I do and have to write their articles and books on the weekends. I don't know how they get it all done, especially if they have kids as I now do. (BTW, Outside Voice, how do you get it all done? You amaze me.)

Okay. So. I teach a CC. And I don't teach only basic writing. In fact, though I do teach comp, I teach quite a bit of lit, including Brit lit (my passion) and lit by women. The doomsayers were wrong.

Now, I know that a lot of people get stuck in the part-time community college thing. It is a competitive market, and in bad budget times, there are no jobs. But it really is, for some people, a good gig if you can get it, so it's important for undergraduates and beginning grad students to know it's there for students with MAs. This is especially true in California, where I live, because the CCs are such an integral part of the education system here.

*Okay. So. What most amazed me about the whole thing was when Bardiac, in a comment to Dr. Crazy, says, "I always wonder what the point of an MA in English is. " Bardiac also says, "Except for some K-12 jobs (where an MA can mean a pay increase), there's little career benefit to doing an MA."

Huh? Just for starters, there are about 500 faculty at my CC, and most of them need and have MAs. And there are over 100 of these colleges in California alone. No career benefit?

Bardiac also says, "AND, the great thing about English literature is that you can read, write, and talk about it without a degree of any kind. You don't need a university library, a lab, or a major museum. You just need a decent public library (and by 'decent' I mean a library whose librarian knows how to access interlibrary loans), and bonus if you have some friends who like to talk about literature, too. Even in fairly small communities, there's community theater, poetry readings, and people talking about books."

Okay, yes. You can do all of these things without an M.A. But does that mean that we should tell students that an M.A. is useless; therefore, they should either get a PhD or else just skip graduate school and go get a job as a sales rep and join a book group?

Perhaps I am just being sensitive since my career is based on an M.A. (and because I loved, loved my M.A. years), but I am shocked by these notions that there is no point to an MA. And I am alarmed that students would be advised on the basis of said notions.

Monday, February 2, 2009


A hearty thanks for your comments and encouragement during lo, these many days of my identity crisis (brought on my the big switch to digital TV).

The problem is solved. We bought a new TV. It is digital. It's pretty big but it's not huge. It just fits into our current TV cabinet so we can still close it away. After the switch, it should continue to get the channels we get now, I think. And when we do watch it, it looks really cool. Our one HD-channel is so clear (even though it's sort of at the bottom of the market when it comes to LCD TVs). It's like the first time I got glasses (in 8th grade) and was so amazed that I could see all of the actual leaves on the trees. Who knew life existed in such detail? And now, I'm learning how much detail is in filmed versions of life!

So. Cool TV. No satellite (at least not for now). Our DVDs will look awesome. And I helped stimulate the economy!

I am at peace.