Friday, March 30, 2007

Boring or busy

So either all of us have been very busy this week and couldn't write. Or we have had very boring weeks with nothing to write about....

My week has been full of meetings with basement waterproofers and landscapers. I guess that fits the bill for both busy and boring (surprisingly the mechanics of how water gets into your basement and how to get it out is very very uninteresting).

I also had a holy shit moment this week- we only have 14 weeks to go before the due date. Holy Shit!!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Identifying with my students

My college students are weird. They go out of their way to make excuses as to why they couldn't turn something in on time, when I know it would be so much easier if they would simply plan ahead and turn it in by the deadline. But no. For some reason, they like to play games with me, which usually results in a lower grade for them, and a snotty evaluation for me. Because I cannot medicate my frustrations with red wine, I decided to do some blog-thinking as a substitute.

I have been trying to find ways to identify with my students. Perhaps if I understand them a bit better, I can find ways to feel less angry when they play these same games, over and over. In the shower this morning, I recalled something that I did that totally reminded me of my own students. I have not shared this story all that much, because it's kind of embarrasing, but I think it is time for me to get off my high horse and start identifying!

Over one summer during my undergrad years, I decided to take one of my required classes. I chose a Biology Lab. I had already taken the Biology Class and had done quite well, if I might say so myself (I set the curve for around 150 students on one of the exams, thank you very much!). But now I had to take this Lab. There were around 15 students in the Lab, and our professor was a woman in her 60s who seemed like she needed more than a sabbatical to get her out of her funk. We discussed things like Gregor Mendel's genetic charts, Darwin's theory of evolution, as well as what kinds of animals you could expect to see in various climates and why. Although I remember quite a bit from this lab, we did have to do one really stupid assignment, which consisted of a trip to the University museum with a packet of info that had blanks every so often. Our job was to fill in the blanks while walking around the museum and reading all of the information. Stupid! But, I'm still not telling you about the stupid thing I DID.

I never bought mechanical pencil's until I began work on my Master's degree. I'm not THAT old- they DID exist! I guess I thought it was kind of romantic to carry an old fashioned pencil sharpener in my pencil bag and simply sharpen as needed. One day, while our professor was going on about Mendel's pea plants, I realized that I needed to sharpen my pencil, should she say anything that I might actually need to write down. So, I took my portable sharpener (which did not collect the shavings as they fell, by the way), and began to sharpen. I quickly realized that I was creating a masterpiece with my sharpener! The shaving wasn't breaking and I was managing to create the world's largest coil of pencil shaving! It was beautiful! In fact, it looked like a flower or one of those radishes that Japanese restaurants sometimes carve as a garnish. Well, I couldn't throw it away, now could I?! Our professor had strict rules about EVERYTHING. She yelled at students for sneezing, and we had assigned seats. Assigned seats, for Pete's sake, in college! I get very nervous around people with strict rules; I'm sure that I will break one of them at some point, and usually I do.

I realized that I couldn't let her see my beautiful flower, so, I let it drop to the floor. What else could I do? I didn't want to destroy it, I couldn't throw it away, because the waste basket was all the way up by HER, and I didn't want to put it in my bag, because I knew that would end up crushing it anyway. So, I left it on the floor.

When I arrived to the next class, I looked under my table to see the sad demise of my pencil-shaving flower. At some point, it had been demolished by a foot in the 2 days that had passed. How cruel! "I guess the janitor will sweep it up at some point," I thought. A class or two passed, and the shaving mess was still there. I was asked to stay after class by the professor. Did I do really well or really badly on the last quiz?! She proceeded to angrily tell me that she did not appreciate my littering in her classroom. I was chastised for a full 10 minutes for leaving that mess of pencil shavings under my table. When I was asked why I did it, and when she finally left room for me to answer, I totally lied! I said that I had seen it there, but I had not comitted the crime. She told me it HAD to be me because no one else ever sat there. Now, I KNOW I did not smash the thing. It was intact when I left it that first day. Clearly, someone else had been in that classroom. And just because she was SO uptight, I refused to give in. She eventually let me go. Bewildered and exhausted, I walked out of that classroom wondering why in the world some shattered pencil shavings would bother her that much. Still, I felt kind of guilty for not simply picking it up when I had the chance.

What's the moral? We all do really dumb things. Whether we repeatedly do really dumb things is another story, however, I think I am beginning to see my students' game-playing for what it is. Treat them like kids, and they'll act like kids (in my case, I lied about pencil shavings). Treat them like adults, and usually they'll act like adults. So far, all of my students who have missed a deadline have said that it was their responsibility and are willing to suffer the consequences. I have received very few excuses this semester, and the ones I have received were accompanied by something in writing. They will mess up. I guess they're still allowed at this stage of the game. But I'd like to think that they are learning more about consequences (good or bad) for their actions in my class. While it may not seem like much, to this day, I still pick up every piece of lint or miniscule piece of paper I may accidentally drop, and I buy mechanical pencils as a result of my dealings in Biology Lab. Here's to hoping for similar results from my own students...for MUCH more important things, of course.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Personalized plates....C,T,or S?

So, for whatever reason, I saw a rash of personalized license plates today. Some made me laugh, some made me roll my eyes. Made me wonder...are these classy, tacky, or stupid? Perhaps it depends on the letters stamped into them...YOU decide!

Plate #1: JURISDR

Plate #2: DR BEEF

Plate #3: SKYWKLR

Also, are there rules against plates like this?


Just wondering. It's time for me to renew my plate...

Prosecutorial Hoo-Hah

So, I'm assuming I'll just blog to the choir here, but:

The Prez will "allow" Rove and Meiers to be "interviewed" with regards to the firing of 8 federal prosecutors...just not under oath, and with no transcript., basically what he's saying is, with NO overhanging threat of perjury, these folks can...pretty much say whatever they want.

Since most people will LIE rather than risk telling an ugly truth, isn't the whole POINT of oath-taking and keeping of a written record supposed to help compel people to tell the truth, at least as they see it? You know, "Gee, if I'm under oath to tell the truth, and if later I'm discovered to have lied, I guess I'd better tell the truth." Instead of: "Gee, with no recourse of legal action against my statements, I'll say whatever it takes to make this shitstorm go away."

Yeah. Here's hoping that Michigan Rep. Conyers stands strong and insists on issuing subpoenas to these two, so that their "interview" seems a lot more like "testimony" and if they get caught lying, they can be legally prosecuted for perjury.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Body overlooked in bustle of hurricane rebuilding -

It happened again! You would think that people would come out of apathy when death is on the line.

Body overlooked in bustle of hurricane rebuilding -

Monday, March 12, 2007

Paying students for grades

On mornings that I do not get up with Scott, I sometimes watch a little bit of the morning program, Today. While watching this program usually makes me want to vomit due to the unnaturally polished faces as well as the smut that those reporters call "news" (sorry folks, but whether or not Anna Nicole Smith is buried in the Bahamas is not news), I cannot rip myself away. As you may already know, I am a "Bad TV" junky. But there's another reason for watching this filth from time to time. I am fascinated by the information that is presented to the America that seriously watches programs like that for their only source of news. I find myself learning a lot about the moral fabric we have created in this country. Unfortunately, awareness usually brings a deep sadness.

I watched a little bit of Today this morning, and they were presenting us with this brand new program designed to pay students for their grades. I remember friends of mine mentioning a financial reward for their As and Bs, and I know that this practice exists throughout the country, depending on the household. Apparently, the Advanced Placement program (remember those AP classes you could take?) has done a little research into this "Pay for grades" practice and have decided to create a "scholarship fund" to pay AP students for the grades they earn in their AP classes.

After the smarmy AP men presented their ideas, Dr. Keith (the Today show's equivalent of Dr. Phil) responded with his feeling that this practice is wrong because it will not teach students the value of internal motivation. Poor Dr. Keith could barely get his words out when AP men, full of smirks and hypertension, cut in and said again that this is only a "scholarship" program designed to help students pay for college. AND, they added, it would help teachers get bonuses they deserve for a job well done IF their students do well on the exam. So, not only are we bribing students, we are also bribing teachers to work harder as well. Dr. Keith, of course, reminded us that the teachers that inspired us most in our school days were the ones that were motivated out of the desire for the students to LEARN and not necessarily earn good grades.

As a college teacher, I am continually facing what was or was not done at the Public/Private/Home School level. Many of them cannot write. I don't just mean the occasional misspelled word or run-on sentence, I mean they don't even know they can't write. Send them to the Writing Center, you say? Sure. Like they're going to miss their fraternity/sorority meetings to go to a stupid Writing Center. They don't know how to read. You must be thinking to yourselves, oh come on you MUST be exaggerating! But no. I have had to point out to my students that they not only have Listening Guides that accompany each track of music on their CDs (so they know for what to listen), but there's also a glossary and an index if they need to look up specific terms and/or composers. This was a revelation for some of them. While I am very happy to help these students hone their learning/studying skills, I'm a bit reluctant to think that I should be doing this at the college level.

One of the reasons, I believe, for this lack of learning skill is due to things like the MEAP as well as certain bribes, like the ones addresses above. I do not believe students understand why school is necessary. I have heard many of my students say that the only reason they are going to college is 1.) to have fun and 2.) to get that piece of paper that allows them to apply for a high-paying job. This is what they learn in school. Somehow, along the way, they got it in their heads that a college degree (NOT an education) is their ticket to financial security. Further, the fact that financial security is a reason for being in school makes me want to cry. These zombies will continue this attitude after college- the only reason they will be in their jobs is to make money, the only reason they make money is to send their kids to college so their kids can make money, and so on.

Can somebody PLEASE tell me why money is so important?! Yes, money gets us stuff. That stuff in turn makes us happy. I just went through a whole bunch of old stuff of mine in my parents' basement yesterday. It smelled like the basement and no longer made me happy. I have a lot of stuff around the house. Do I think about all of my stuff on a daily basis in order to feel happy? No! Eventually, I get tired of my stuff and get rid of it. What makes me happy, then? People. My friends. My family. SOME of my students- when I feel that they are "Getting" it. My cat. The anticipation of spring. The thought that there's a life inside me. Did I go to college for any of these things? In terms of friends, that was kind of an added bonus. I didn't get family in college, except for Scott, but again, that was, as they say, icing on the cake. Did I get financial security? Heck no! And neither did very many of my friends, and I'm not talking exclusively about the musicians. Are we all unhappy because many of us are financially unstable? Heck no! I feel more rich than George Bush any day.

So, I'm rambling. But I am curious to hear your thoughts about paying for grades. Is it sending the wrong message, or is it creating at least some kind of motivation for students in a society that is incapable of teaching the concept of internal motivation?

I just spell-checked my post and it showed me that CDs was incorrect. Apparently, CD's is the preferred spelling by this program. What is it that the CD owns?! So much for the spell-check designer's education!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Best candy bar ever

I am not sure how it happened but some how I have gone most of my life without eating a Twix candy bar. I have always beleived that snickers was the best candy bar ever (kit kat, 100 grand and peanut m&m's were all quality ones too but not even close to the snickers bar). Only recently did I try a Twix and had to admit maybe I have been wrong all this time. Yum. I want one right now actually.

I know this will make some people mad but Mr. Goodbar and Almond Joy are by far the worst. Bleh.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Chicken Police

If you haven't seen this already, check it out. It makes me laugh every time!