Posted in Professor

How Many Faculty Members Does it Take to Eat a Pan of Sweets? The World May Never Know…

Two days ago, I blogged about taking on a blog-a-day challenge, and I ended the little writing with “so, now I’m gonna go bake a cake to avoid all this.” Yesterday, I blogged about low energy for me and my night class students, and I ended by deciding to bring them nibbles.

It took me a while to see the connection.

Eventually, I did figure out that problem A solves problem B.

There are only a handful of students in my night class, though, and that handful wasn’t all in for cheesecake coffeecake. There was talk of dieting, avoiding cheese, and one helpful, semi-professional weightlifter who ate two pieces.

I ended up with this much left.

Leftover Night

So, I brought plastic wrap. It was time to be a food fairy in my building.

Now, I’ve tried this before. There was the mochi giveaway of 2015. The boston crème pie cupcakes of 2016. A few sprinklings of snacks since then.

Unfortunately, trying to give food away in an environment where people are heartily educated about things like transfats is difficult. I suppose I could try to give away the occasional vegan fruit tray, but…

Meh.

Courage! Do not yield! And individually wrap those cakes, so dear coworkers can’t weasel out with a convenient “I just ate.”

I love y’all, by the way.

wrapping

Gift wrapping goodness.

Plated

All done and easily transportable.

It’s food fairy time, but these are technically my office hours. It wouldn’t be right to just leave without a note.

Note

 “Trying to unload cake to people who are undoubtedly on some sort of diet. Back in 10. –S.T.”

That bought me a few quick minutes to make deliveries. I’ll run around upstairs, and see if I can find some takers.

—–

The office staff came through! They saw the cake and were like “come here to me.”

A surprising number of “yes, please!” from the upstairs offices. I’m getting my hopes up that I won’t have to eat this by myself.

One plate

I’m down to one plate! This is happening! Maybe November is like a time where we all come together to ignore our diets as one happy, jiggly, academic family.

It’s beautiful.

Okay, I’ve exhausted my building, so it’s time to hit the campus.

Outside

Sunshine and cake. Lovely.

I’ve been surprised so far. I love soft cake, so coffeecake takes a lot of dressing up for me to like it. I was thrilled to see a creamy cheesecake filling recipe. Yet, when I am trying to gift a slice, it’s the cheesecake turning people off the most. I thought lactose intolerance was a bit rare in the US, but maybe…

We just don’t like to talk about it much.

Library, writing center, and a few colleagues on the way were happy to see cake. I’ve got to get back to office hours, though, and I’m still hefting a pound of sweets.

Four left

(Sigh)

Four slices left. After covering the building AND going for a walk.

There’s no hope for it. I’m going to have to (gulp) try to give some to students.

That is dangerous for the ego. Do you know how it feels when an actual 19 year old linebacker for the school football team says “no thanks” to your cake? I mean, these are the guys we worry about when the travel bus breaks down, ‘cause it could turn into one of those cartoons where their seat neighbor suddenly resembles a talking turkey leg. They’re supposed to be always on the lookout for food!

I don’t know if my baking heart can take another teen’s rejection of home baked goodness.

Maybe I won’t offer. Maybe I’ll just position them next to the student chair during my office hours.

Student chair

Now, we wait…

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Posted in Professor

Night Class Energy Struggle Bus

If energy was money, I’d be broke by 7 p.m. I don’t know how to make ends meet until bedtime. It’s always gonna be a stretch.

My husband is NOT a morning person, so, if his energy was money, he wouldn’t even get paid until about 9:30/10:00 a.m.

For Morning-Person-Me, though- flat broke by 7, every night.

Unfortunately, I teach a night class from 5:30-8:00. Also unfortunately, I don’t get to see my kids much on night class nights, so I do the whole bedtime song and dance when I get home.

Strategy is a must. I should rest during the mornings, when I know I’ll have to go strong all evening.

But I’m a morning person! Trying to chill in the morning is counter-productive. I get butterflies in my stomach thinking about all of the work I need to do, and the very reasonable “you will have time for that later” response doesn’t calm me down.

I have the urge to work in the morning, and I have to work in the afternoon/evening. I have to be careful not to tire myself out, but…

My poor night students have it much worse than I do. Many of them get up earlier, work all day, then come to night class, often skipping dinner in the process. Their effort and persistence is remarkable.

If they can drag their exhausted selves to class, I can try to put some pep in my step.

I probably won’t have time today (the lesson plan is packed), but if I’m careful, I might have time to bring them some food for Wednesday’s night class. If I’m running on empty, they’re running on chocolate covered espresso beans.

One of my favorite sayings from when my kids were newborns is, “when you can’t sleep- eat.” We can’t nap in night class, but we can nosh. I hope it helps. Five weeks to go.

 

Posted in Professor, Writer

Some Work to Do and Promises to Keep

The holidays are in full swing, and that moves up a deadline or two for me.

                I had planned to be completely finished with the first draft of this book I’m working on by December. I have at least one more chapter to go (my “one more chapter” tends to turn into three or four chapters, so I’m ballparking).

                I had also planned to do a continual run of blogs. I want to know what that would feel like. There have been plenty of daily writing challenges- fiction, diaries, day books, etc. Blogs are their own genre, though, so I’m going to pay attention to those for the next several weeks. I hope to learn about fitting blogging into real life- and really and truly letting go of perfectionist fears.  

                Get ready for a whole lot of blogs. I intend to do one per day until the new year. Maybe I’ll even keep it going afterwards- like the Pioneer Woman.

                I love the Pioneer Woman.  

                And that just leaves the whole “one month left of class” thing. If I could draw, I would draw a picture of a teacher with a puny, breaking umbrella clutched in her fist as an avalanche of papers crashes around her.

                Like 10 times a day, I pause and wish that I could draw.

                Mostly cartoons.

                A book draft to finish, a blogging accountability challenge, and a paper concussion. I am literally going to go bake a cake, so I can avoid this list for another hour or so. Did you know there are coffee cakes without cinnamon? I was fascinated, too.

                I’m going to go try this one, while I don’t finish a book- https://justbakedbyme.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/cream-cheese-coffee-cake/   

                 

Posted in Professor

The Many Positive and Negative Aspects of English Class: One Student’s Perspective

It’s been a long week. Here’s some fun. 

The Many Positive and Negative Aspects of English Class: One Student’s Perspective

            Since the dawn of time there have been many aspects. Some of those aspects have been good (positive). Some of those aspects, I’m sorry to say, have been not so good (negative). Just like all things in life, English class has some positive and negative aspects. In this paper, I will explore the positive and negative aspects of English class.

            Merriam Webster defines “aspect” as, “a particular status or phase in which something appears or may be regarded.” Since English class has many such particular statuses and phases in which it appears or may be regarded, English class does, in fact, have many aspects.

          Some of those aspects are positive. Some such positive aspects are not having to do much in class, being able to chat with friends, and learning to grammar.

Firstly, not having to do much in class is a positive aspect. Many classes require a lot of note-taking or exams. English class, on the other hand, just requires one’s presence. There will be a lot of discussion about personal feelings. If the teacher is talking, one should listen, but there won’t be any exams on what she says. In fact, there are no exams- only papers. Therefore, missing the lecture is not a big deal. Considering how other, harder classes require one to attend every lecture AND pay attention, the less effort needed in English class is a very positive aspect.

Being able to chat with friends is also a positive aspect. Since group work is regularly assigned, but the class is only an English class, it is a great opportunity to get to know everyone in the group and even scroll through for some social media time. The teacher encourages group work for one to be social, which is definitely a positive aspect.

Learning to grammar is probably the most important positive aspect in English class. Some teachers say that the point of English class is not to just learn grammar, but grammar is the number one thing in papers, which is where all of the English grades come from. So grammar learning is very important and very positive.

For all positive aspects in life, unfortunately, there are some negative aspects. English class is no exception. Some such negative aspects are the readings, the attendance policy, and the papers.

To start with, the readings are a negative aspect of the English class experience. While one would expect all discussion in an English class to be about one’s feelings and personal experiences, occasionally the teacher will ask how one’s feelings and personal experiences relate back to the readings. Since there are no tests on the reading, only discussions, it is, of course, optional, though it makes class a little confusing when skipped. If this is the case, one should only talk in class when one has a personal anecdote that is in line with the title of the reading being discussed- or, in a pinch, one can google for a quick summary of the reading. If one is careful, one can avoid the negative English class aspect of readings.

The attendance policy is another such negative aspect. It may seem confusing that the lectures can be missed without incident and taking notes is not necessary in class- but there’s an attendance policy. While it can be frustrating, showing up does not have to be endlessly frustrating. If one would have skipped because one is tired or burnt out from other, actual college classes, one should attend anyway and lay one’s head down on one’s desk. That’s how one can both be present and catching up on rest, thus avoiding this negative aspect of English class.  

The last negative aspect of English class is actually the most negative of all: the papers. While the class material is about nothing in particular, papers will be graded with an iron fist. It is as if the teacher doesn’t realize the class is a relaxed place for personal narratives. She will, instead, write on the paper things like “no thesis,” or “no research,” or “needs citations- plagiarism flagged,” as if she actually believes the class went over these things called thesis, research, and plagiarism.

          Unfortunately, this last and most negative aspect of English classes does not yet have a quick fix. The good news, though, is one can complain about these harsh and confusing grading standards to the teacher’s superiors, such as the dean and school president- and don’t forget the power of student evaluations! Even if one must deal with the negative aspect of harsh paper grades in English class, one can help make sure future students don’t have the same problem.   

          In conclusion, all things have positive and negative aspects, and English class is no exception. While there are many positive aspects, the negative ones show that the world is still a hard place to live.

Posted in Professor

The Class the Students Chose

I had no idea that I needed it. Just no idea.

Let me go back a bit. Like most Composition Instructors, I could potentially end up teaching every single student on campus. Why? Because no matter their major, likes/dislikes, or even level, there is no way to completely circumvent required campus writing courses.

All students must take some writing classes in the writing sequence.

This is a good thing. Love this.

I remember arrogant little me trying to weasel out of my writing classes at UNC, years ago, because I had good AP Exam scores. I’m happy to report that my advisor laughed and put me in a class that paired my Composition class with the New Testament class I wanted to take. That Composition course dove deep into New Testament history, and it taught me how to tackle real subjects- with nary a 5-paragraph essay in sight.

It’s true. All college students, regardless of major, need to dive into some writing classes. It’s good for them.

Like broccoli.

Those teaching them, though, might need a break.

That was sudden, wasn’t it?

Most Composition teachers I know adore their jobs and feel committed to their students. However, no matter the talent level of the teacher, the students are still a powerfully important element in the classroom.

And, boy, oh boy, does it take a lot to convince some of these students that they need to be in these required classes. In my experience, it takes time, effort, and, most importantly, me modeling my passion for the subject.

Can do!

But tired, y’all.

I didn’t realize how tired until this very week. This week, I got to skip the song and dance.

I got a class that involved student choice.

Why am I so dazzled?

Because, like most Composition teachers, I’ve been a little stuck in my groove these past few semesters. I’ve been teaching remedial and 101 classes, which are all very, very required.

Especially for the remedial courses, class usually must start with an explanation and defense of why the students are in the class. They have been placed in that class by the powers that be. It wasn’t their plan; it makes their graduation date stretch further away; they don’t even like writing, and now here’s some “extra.”

Some students take it well.

Some students take some time to take it well.

Denial. Anger. Resignation. Acceptance.

I can do it. I’ve been doing it for years, and I am so ready to tell them what they need to hear in order to understand the value of their education in the class. I am proud to say that most of my students, by the end of the semester, get it.

But I didn’t have to do it this week. I’m teaching a class that, while still required, was chosen based on student preference. They could have gone the literature-based research argument route or the research-based, classic rhetoric route. They chose what suited them, and their majors, best.

It feels like I won some sort of lottery. I came in, ready to overcome the groans by sheer force of will and my love of writing.

No groans.

I gave them work to do and choices to make right away, and they started talking as a class. After a bit of debate about topics, they reached consensus from back row to front.

I stared at them.

I’ve had my share of good classes, but it’s been a while since I’ve walked in on the first day to a class full of students who already knew why they were there- and didn’t mind.

This was the necessary refreshment my teaching needed. It is a completely different feeling to monitor and support discussion, instead of leading it (I could have included some metaphors about bulldozers, kicking and screaming, or pulling teeth, but let’s keep things light. I’m in a really good mood).

Composition Instructors, like me, need that balance of required, yes-of-course-this-class-is-important, classes with student-chosen classes.

Just like it would weigh heavily on students to only have required classes, it can weigh on teachers, too.

I didn’t know I needed a reprieve. I didn’t even request it. My boss-lady just handed me a schedule like it was no big deal.

It turned out to be good medicine.

 

Posted in Professor, Writer

Oblivious Me

What if I’m the “problem”? And what if I don’t even know it?

The image used here is one of many where my husband has been snapping photos while I was talking- and I never notice until after he’s collected at least a dozen of these gems.

I wonder what else I’m not aware of. I know it’s a lot, but I wish I knew exactly what I’m missing.

I’m a teacher, and my students show me how prevalent being oblivious is- not always in a bad way, but I teach developmental and beginner college English courses. Some negative experiences are my most handy examples.

Me: there’s no thesis in this paper.

Student (looking shocked and almost outraged): I was arguing ___ (insert something that was absolutely, 100%, NOT in the paper).

There is a problem in the paper. It is a problem that I can circle, point to, and explain.

But they still don’t see it.

This obliviousness keeps me up at night. My mind goes spiraling into a kind of self-paranoia.

It has always been my greatest nightmare that I would be, or have, the problem- and not know it.

You know, like:

-Those movies where it turns out the main character was one of the ghosts scaring the crap out of the little boy all along. Even though the ghost thought he was helping, he was actually a big part of the problem.

-Or the guy trying to solve a crime in the lunatic asylum, only to be told he committed a crime, and that’s why he’s in the lunatic asylum.

-Or that obliviously difficult person who makes other people give each other the side eye when she walks in the room. This person automatically assumes the people around her are rude. She will never suspect that it’s her own behavior causing the situation.

That’s the one I worry about the most. What if I’m inspiring the side eye? I’ve known quite a few people who were very, very difficult to be around- people whom, no matter how hard I tried, made my heart sink a little when I would drive up and see their cars already in the parking lot.

And I am almost certain that these people had no idea my heart was sinking.

Now, I am glad that this particular kind of obliviousness might keep me from hurting these people’s feelings. However, I am also terrified that I might be under the same kind of oblivious cloud.

What if I am doing something blatantly wrong, often, with an audience, and no one ever says anything, and I don’t even notice? What if I am making someone’s heart sink with my behavior, all unbeknownst to me?

What if I’m the problem? What if I’m the person who is convinced that I make sense, but I absolutely do not make sense?

And what if I’m the villain? The villains usually don’t think they’re villains, right?

So, when my students read out loud the incomplete sentences I have circled for them, and they look at me like I’m crazy for telling them that they have written an incomplete sentence (since, to them, it is absolutely a perfectly complete sentence, and this teacher has obviously lost her damn mind), I can’t help but wonder if they’re right.

Both of us, side by side, are convinced that the other person is oblivious to how wrong they are.

And I’m the right one… right?

Posted in Mama, Professor

To the Struggling Single Mom in My Night Class

 

Let me start off by saying, I am so glad you’re here. School is a tough goal. It will be even tougher for you, and I have no doubt that you are fully aware of the workload and the sacrifices involved. From where I’m standing, at the board, I see you undertaking school, scrambling to work your jobs, and always making sure your kids are cared for.

I’m impressed. I’m rooting for you, and I know a number of other professors who feel the same way.

As we start our semester, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you a little about my policies. You won’t find this particular set of policies on the syllabus, since these only apply to my experience with the needs of the single mom student.

  • Yes, you can answer your phone and run out the door with it in the middle of class.

I’m not an unfeeling machine who will assume your call is about something shallow and, therefore, a needless interruption of class time and my teaching.

I assume it is important. I assume you are listening to the voice of a child, a caregiver, or one of the schedulers of your two part-time jobs.

  • Speaking of part-time jobs- you have to leave early on Tuesday? Because they changed your schedule again, and they don’t seem to care that you have class at that time? And I’m supposed to believe that?

I absolutely believe that.

I suggest tag-teaming for the notes you’ll miss with the other single mom in the second row. She will probably be in the same boat at least once this semester.

  • Oh, and around midterms, when everyone is absolutely dissolving into puddles of mucus from some type of plague, and you are firmly in your seat coughing, wheezing, and going through the large box of Puffs Plus you brought to class, I don’t want you to pop three Dayquil and tough it out.

Humans don’t learn under those circumstances, and I 100% understand that you already used your allowed absences on someone else’s sick days. You spent those “days off” wiping someone else’s nose, and now don’t have any allowances left for yourself.

Go home. You heard me. We will figure something out.

My school is a good school. It’s a caring place. We have policies for extra consideration for all sorts of populations, from our first-time college students, to our veteran students, to our disabled students, and more. I see no reason why a hardworking single mom like you shouldn’t also receive our consideration.

Don’t forget- there are teachers like me rooting for you.

 

Posted in Mama, Professor, Writer

Work-from-Home Parents “Playing” on Their Phones

trying-paul
Sending an important email

This morning, my son plopped down next to me with our book, Jellaby: Monster in the City, and said, “Let’s read this one!” I was checking my syllabus and prepping a lesson plan on my phone. I told …

Source: Work-from-Home Parents “Playing” on Their Phones

Posted in Mama, Professor, Writer

Work-from-Home Parents “Playing” on Their Phones

This morning, my son plopped down next to me with our book, Jellaby: Monster in the City, and said, “Let’s read this one!”

I was checking my syllabus and prepping a lesson plan on my phone. I told him we could read it in a few minutes.

He huffed and said, “Just get off your phone, and let’s read!”

First off, he got a talking to about being rude.

Second, that talking to came after my spluttering, “I… Did you… I can’t even…” for a good couple of seconds.

The tone really caught me off guard. My son, who is pretty accustomed to how much I work from home, still sees me on the couch typing and scrolling away, and thinks, “Mom is playing on her phone again.”

Now, he’s five, so my angst there is short-lived. However, I am a little sensitive to this type of disrespect in general, since I do work from home a lot.

You don’t have to go far to see the disrespect I’m talking about. At the playground, a mama is scrolling on her phone when one of her little monkeys decides to try jumping off the swings at the highest possible point.

(Whoever designs playgrounds should not actually be trusted around children, btw).

She rushes over and kisses booboos, but the moms on the next bench are already murmuring that if she’d put her phone down once in a while, she would have foreseen this problem.

With her fortune-telling mind powers, I guess.

I often see and hear the assumption that all parents utilizing screens are selfishly addicted to their fun-time, leaving their little ones neglected, lonely, and sad.

This stereotype has the potential to label almost all academic career parents and work-from-home parents as negligent. But, the truth is: we have homework, y’all.

I’ve read that paper (too many times) about how heavy phone use isn’t good for us in general- socially, emotionally, and physically. These arguments, though, tend to focus on the added stress cellphones give individuals who are now, all of a sudden, able to bring their work lives and social forums home with them.

Since people like me were already in that boat (working from home at least part-time), all I can say is that the cellphone has made bringing my work home with me easier, far more convenient, than ever in the past. I can’t regret that my job, my professional development, and home technology use are all tied together. I’m grateful for the time I can be home with my kids, even if I am often busy on screen during this “extra” time together.

Yes, we should take time to be in the moment. Yes, children need our attention.

HOWEVER, does that mean I have to save all of the reading, grading, and writing (that I could do while my kids play at the playground) for late at night, when everyone’s asleep? ‘Cause I tend to fall asleep, too.

I can be in the moment. I can give my kids attention. I can also grade papers on my phone while they build rockets out of legos. That’s why I wanted my huge-screen cellphone in the first place. My laptop was difficult to maneuver around little kids (in fact, they killed one a little over a year and a half ago. RIP, Lenovo).

My cellphone is a compromise. I can tag-team with Husband more, if my workspace is flexible. Since he is the full-time parent, if I just locked myself away in my room to work, the man would never have a chance to breathe. The phone is so important in this arrangement.

We have family time, play time, reading time, school time, and meal times. All of these times are phone-free.

But, then, there are still, like, 6 more hours in the day. And I have work to do. My kids have playing to do. So, we do our jobs at the same time.

I wish tech-shaming pop culture would stop telling my kids that by being on my cellphone/laptop I’m “missing all the important things.” Not only does it cast me in a bad light in my babies’ eyes, but it is bound to make them feel twinges of guilt in their future pursuits.

The future is looking like a big screen. Our kids will need to be involved in screen worlds, at least as much, and probably more, than we are. If we are going to keep repeating that balance between screen and non-screen time is important, then we need to stop judging people for using screens. The cellphone is the future. It isn’t just a toy.

I mean, my facebook app is always open (of course), but so are my gradebooks, syllabi, lesson plans, writing notebooks, camera, and email. I’m willing to bet that’s the norm for a good many of us, and that’s not changing any time soon.

We need to set a more positive tone for these work-from-anywhere practices, before our kids join us in them.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Mama, Professor

17 Moments that Prove Being a Professor = Being a Mom

There are plenty of differences between being a parent and being a teacher of adults.

However, this list of similarities was super easy to make.

It took me, like, 5 minutes.

Let’s all think about that for a second…

17 Moments that Prove Being a Professor= Being a Mom

cap-lunchbox

  1. Checking homework just to see if student/kid actually did it.

  2. Limiting screen time so student/kid will 1.) focus and 2.) not be so damn rude.

  3. No matter what you and the students/kids are discussing, being interrupted with, “Can we go outside?!”

  4. Only having their undivided attention at story time.

  5. Teaching respect.

  6. Loving their lightbulb moments.

  7. Understanding that recess and/or sports practice is their favorite “class.”

  8. Reprimanding student/kid for something and knowing all they somehow heard was, “She must not like me.”

  9. All slip-ups resulting in lame excuses- “I didn’t do it because everything else was more important, and I fell asleep.”

  10. The whining.

  11. Inspiring loyalty, effort, and love just by whipping out the candy.

  12. Equipping all of student’s/kid’s important lessons with a multimedia slideshow, preferably with a video.

  13. Repeating yourself at least 10 times.

  14. Bragging about your successful teaching/parenting strategies.

  15. Being told about how their other teacher/parent let them do it THIS way.

  16. Swapping horror stories with other teachers/parents.

  17. And, finally, turning out the lights in a quiet room? Guaranteed to send student/kid straight to sleep.