Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You're majoring in what?

Sometimes my hormones make me stupid. More often, they make everyone else stupid...

People tend to react poorly when I tell them I major in English lit. Sometimes, in an attempt to be encouraging (or comforting, perhaps), the individual might ask, "Oh, have you read [insert some random paperback fiction]? It's really good!" Awkward. Especially because they seem to think me inept at my trade, if I have not read their latest fancy.

Then there's the reactions to hearing that I teach composition:

"My daughter's about to take that down at ____ University. I told her to prepare herself for a boring drudge of a class. I absolutely hated my composition classes in college."

"Yeah, I always hated English. I mean, I failed Comp I three times. But that was also because the teacher was so hot. I always had this fantasy about English teachers..."


Monday, October 27, 2008

Double Post

It's that time again!

...that time during the semester when I can't get to sleep at night, because I know they're there, lurking. Then in the morning, I can hardly motivate myself to get out of bed, because I know I have to face them--

the piles.

There's one pile of articles and books that have been sifted through and highlighted or post-it noted at random intervals. Actually, there's a few of these piles. But as I'm arranging these according to theme, it is all one pile, regardless of the actual number of stacks. Let's not even get into stacks.

There's another few piles of student portfolios. The Comp one pile is outgoing, thank goodness, but Comp II still needs dealt with. I'm trying to give myself some breathing room between the two, especially since the Comp II pile's got an oddly feral look to it... It never seems to be in the place I left it, and I think its getting bigger.

Piles of laundry, dishes, but that's almost comforting--I mean, what would my house be without them?

Pile of GRE subject test printouts, and Norton/Longman introductions. Ick. Standardized test cooties.

Pile of application materials. I'm trying to convince myself that its disheveled look is a sign of progress--being sifted through and marked in strategic places, but its mainly just disheveled.

On A Side Note:

This past weekend I went to the wedding of a British bloke whom I met on the bus about eight years ago. My grandpa would be proud; the man who could find a stranger to befriend even on a frozen tundra (he often introduced himself as "The ol' blister" cos there's nuthin' more irritatin' than a blister).

I have one more wedding to go to next weekend, and then I'm closing up shop for the winter. No more. I will send a gift in the mail if I have to. I am wedding'd out, particularly because they are no longer drinking affairs for me--I've got the sickness. More on that one, later.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Nerve damage

Or something like that. Perhaps its just a midterm anxiety attack. This semester, there is some type of strange mental blockage impeding my attempts to think clearly and engage with the material on any level below the surface without busting out a jack hammer, or at least hitting my head against a wall several times.

There were times, when I was a first year--heck, even just last semester--when I contributed to class discussion because I had things to say, and I had plenty of questions. Lately, I contribute because I am one of the many who would rather hear myself fumble than listen to the sudden whirr of crickets in the room; and I feel like despite having read the material multiple times, I don't have enough knowledge or understanding to even ask questions.

*Right now, I am inwardly shuddering at the ridiculous paraphrase I tried to make of a passage in Paradise Regained earlier this evening.*

Fuck. I'm doing the reading; I'm marking up my books; I'm trying to make connections-- sparks are firing but nothing is catching. Are these types of plateaus common in academia? I feel like an absolute dunce, especially when I consider several occasions of students with about five semesters less experience than me asking pertinent questions, and even actively sustaining discussions with professors! ACK! All the while, I scramble to keep up in my notes, which leads me to another topic that has been bugging me...

I became a notetaker this semester. Something new. I have been told that I "take good notes." I don't know what this means. Someone looking at my notes would have a pretty clear concept of what we covered in class on a given day, sure...but what exactly constitutes good note-taking?

The people at the notetaking headquarters had me fill out a check-list of good and bad note taking techniques (I don't have it handy, or I'd share it) and I was interested, although slightly miffed, that I did not have all of my check marks in the "good notetaker" column. Reflecting more self-consciously on my notes from class, I realize that I tend to take what I hear for granted, and write it down without considering it, without weighing its validity or hell--even my opinion of it. There is no filter, or any attempt at my own interpretation. Well, worse yet is when there is an attempt at interpretation, but somehow I never found a moment to ask for validation. I hate changing the direction of discussion in class; worse yet, the idea might just fall flat on its face. There are such things as stupid questions, after all.

A friend of mine from last year would have grandiose ideas transmitted to her through the lecture/discussion, which she would then record in a feverish haze and later turn into her final paper. I always wanted to trip her when she recounted her "lightbulb" moment. This has rarely, if ever, happened to me. My "great ideas" typically only occur in the process of writing the paper, which means that I have already taken the notes, read the material and its criticism, and yet formed none of my own thoughts until I was at least few pages into it. Herein lies my insecurity-where is the active and inquisitive, analytical mind that I was supposed to have acquired by now? The questions I am able to raise after several rereadings and a first draft--where are they when I first encounter the text (or at least by the second read through, or when the prof asks in class)? Shouldn't I be highly trained and sensitive to the material?

Enough. It's off to bed with me.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I have been dubbed "overly particular"

This is how a student described my comments on his/her first writing assignment which I returned to him/her yesterday. I was taken aback, to be sure. Since when do I have to let things slide? The extraneous use of words such as "quite" "very" "truly" "really" is not something I need to accept on any student's paper. It's not good writing--it's padding! What's worse is that while the student admitted to just throwing the words in there to meet the page requirement, he/she still seemed to fault me for calling it like I saw it. Just because this student's Comp I teacher was "more laid back" (to quote the student) does not mean that I am "overly particular." Grrr.

In other news, it is nearing midterm, and my home has, accordingly, reached mid-semester status: laundry baskets overflowing; boxes of kleenex everywhere for my "stress nose" (my tension tends to aim higher than my neck; it hits more in my sinuses); library books piled and serving as fortifications for kitten wars...To top it off, hubby & friends are reroofing this week. Lots of pounding, pounding, and pounding, and the cats tearing through the house screaming armageddon. Needless to say, it's been fun.

And we're off to a week of student conferences, followed by my first teaching observation (time to buy my students off with sweets!). I'll keep you posted, world.