Friday, October 28, 2005

Thoughts from Kate's brain

  • Now I recall why it's called an insitution of higher learning. And the inmates are definitely running things.

  • Can you really expect people to act like adults when you insist on treating them like children?

  • I really like to knit, but I'm not sure what about it I really like. Maybe yarn really is a drug.

  • I still don't understand rhythm and meter, but I really enjoy poetry now that I found
  • this collection.

  • God, I miss sunshine.

  • You really can't learn anything until you admit that you don't have all the answers. I'm glad I've learned this, but I wish my students would pick up on it soon.

  • No, for real about the sunshine.

  • Maybe I'll knit something yellow....

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Don't know WHAT to think

Today, one of my better students told me that he's not sure if he will still be enrolled after this week.

He really screwed up a couple weeks ago, landing himself in the hospital with both alcohol poisoning and a concussion. Now, this is clearly a Bad Thing. He knows it, he owns it, he has expressed both regret and deep disgust with himself. Either he's the best liar I've ever met, or he really gets it.

He has told me that a member of the administration has repeatedly demanded to know the names of the people who supplied him with alcohol, threatening him with expulsion if the information is not forthcoming. He refuses to name names, feeling that it is not his place to participate in a type of "witch hunt", especially in light of the fact that while he knows who he started the evening with, he does not clearly remember the particulars. Excess alcohol consumption combined with a mild head injury do not usually contribute to perfect recall.

Perhaps the administrator has a very good reason to be concerned about the student's behavior, and also with finding out who is leading these freshmen into temptation, as it were. And perhaps the student is exaggerating the threat. But I still have a few problems with the situation. I'll try to explain.

Our college has a code of conduct that all students, faculty, and staff are expected to adhere to. It includes requirements of speaking "honestly" and "respectfully" to others. Threats and intimidation don't seem to fit into that. It includes the practice of "personal integrity". How does encourgaging a student to testify against his friends fit into that? It includes learning from other's experiences. But don't we learn more from our own experiences? The student seems to have learned the right lesson from his experience - that drinking to excess is a really bad idea, one not to be repeated, as it threatens his chances of survival and success. What is to be gained by threatening him and treating him like a criminal? What happened to that final component of the code: demonstrate compassion?

I'm not talking about a kid who mouths the appropriate apologies and goes on doing exactly the same things that got him into trouble in the first place. I'm not talking about a kid who is failing most of his classes for lack of effort. I'm not talking about a kid who ignores every chance given to him to make a change. As I said before, some students are not ready, or even interested in college. But even the ones who are make dumb choices occasionally. And neither should be treated with such disrespect. Bitch in private. (I do) But when that student is in front of you, maybe listening would serve better than lecturing.

I don't know. Maybe I'm naive. Maybe I'm being inconsistent. I don't know.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Can't win

So now that I'm healthy again, I was all excited to teach this morning because my early class is a bit behind and I thought we could catch up today. Fifteen minutes into class, I twist around and bedn over my notes for a moment, and PING - back goes out. Out, out, brutally and irretrievably out. Feels like a spike being driven through my spinal cord about three inches above my tail bone. Nauseating, sickening pain shoots through me every time I move. I thought I was going to throw up right there in class.

Somehow I pulled it off, mostly by allowing them to work together in pairs on the practice assignment. We're still trying to master the identification and repair of fragments, run ons, and comma splices. (If it's not a complete, independent clause, it's a fragment. If there are more than one independent clauses separated by only a comma, it's a comma splice. If there are more than one independent clauses without any punctuation between them, it's a run on.)

Been grading the other class's rough drafts since then. It's not pretty. Some of them are only lacking specifics in their supporting examples. Some of them seem to be utterly unacquainted with the priciples of logic. The worst of them are a jumble of apparently unrelated, yet repetitive statements. No, I don't know how that's possible either, but it is.

Yesterday some members of the class accused me of making them feel stupid. I told them that they would feel less stupid if they did the assigned work beforehand instead of trying to do it as we corrected it. Also, paraphrasing Phil,my psychologist uncle, I said, "I can't make you anything. You choose your own reaction to my words." Which, when you think about it, is just another way of saying "I don't make monkeys, I only train them." But I don't think they would have appreciated the Pee Wee Herman reference as much.

But thinking more about their complaints, I realize that my problem is that I see these kids more than I see anyone else besides Jay. I have been talking to them as if they were my peers, and they are not. They are my students. So I guess I need to cut back on the sarcasm, and save it for people who appreciate it. Bah.
Meme 2

1. Delve into your blog archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, subtext or hidden agendas…
5. Tag five people to do the same.

From October 26, 2002:

"I have to admit, there aren't many things as satisfying as stabbing a big ol' knife into the top of a pumpkin and scooping out the guts."

How can you argue with that statement? I stand behind it one hundred percent.

As for tagging others... most everyone has done this by now, or has decided that it wasn't worth the effort, so let's just let it slip quietly into the blogosphere.

Sunday, October 23, 2005



If you are reading this, leave one memory of you and I together. It doesn't matter if I know you a little or a lot, anything you remember. Next, post this in your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you.

**stolen from Devan

And for all those people who have never met me... how did you find me and why in the world do you keep coming back?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Three years

There's been a spate of "blogoversaries" lately, so I thought I would mention mine. I started this in October of 2002, just as I was starting my masters program and mere weeks before Jay and I moved in together.

I don't think anyone but me read it during the first year, but I wasn't writing for an audience. I've always kept a journal, either handwritten or on my computer, so taking that a step further and blogging didn't seem like much of a stretch.

I had some of my grandmother's journals, handwritten and filled with clippings, and I feel like I got to know her a bit that way. Otherwise my memories of her would have been limited to her weaving/crocheting my baby blanket and singing "Old McDonald" because she died when I was only two years old. So the thought of someone reading about my thoughts and experiences didn't really phase me... why write if not to allow the words to be read?

But I've also always been rather introverted. And by that I don't necessarily mean shy, though I definitely can be in some situations. I mean more that it generally doesn't occur to me to reach out or communicate with other people most of the time. I find it awkward to leave messages on other people's blogs, because I can't imagine that they would care what I have to say. Though once someone else comments on my blog, I feel obligated to return the exchange. No, not obligated. Pleased, rather. I enjoy the interaction, but it would never occur to me to initiate it. Does that make sense?

In any case, I've blathered on here, more-or-less continuously for the last 36 months and expect to keep on for many months more... because I like to.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

They got me

My students finally broke through my immune defenses and passed along their colds. Started out Tuesday with a raw, scratchy throat... Now the sore throat is mostly gone, but I'm fevery and weak. Tried to teach class this morning and gave up after 15 minutes. I just couldn't form a coherent sentence. So I collected their homework, assigned more for next week, and sent them back to their beds. And now I'm going back to mine.


Monday, October 17, 2005


Or, Why Jay is Like a Puppy

The Jersey grandparents were in town this weekend, this unendingly rainy weekend. I love Jean and Lou, but I also love my free time on the weekends, something that doesn't happen when you have guests. But at least they weren't crammed into our apartment... living in B&Bland does have its benefits.

I actually did get a break on Saturday, when Jay played tour guide and drove up around the lakes with them. Poor Jay Puppy didn't get any downtime, though, and certainly no exercise. And when Jay doesn't get exercise, he becomes very, very cranky. Sulky, whiny, snippy, cranky. I must have threatened to kill him in his sleep at least twenty times. (He is still alive and mostly well, thanks.)

See, my eleven mile trip to the town to the south of us was silly. Just silly. All that way for yarn and Earth Balance was just too ridiculous.

And my car? My car is awful. It smells, it's starting to overheat, it's running rough. WHY oh WHY haven't I done something about it? Don't I KNOW how to take care of my car. (Note: when it's running, it's OUR car. When there's something wrong, it's mine.) (Also Note: the car did overheat and is currently at the garage for repairs and maintenance... so what he's saying isn't untrue, just unkind.)

But mostly, besides the idle death threats, I mostly just laugh at him when he gets like that. First, because sometimes I can be a cranky wench as well, but also because I know he's just venting some of his stress. Normally he goes out and runs for five or ten miles, or hikes up a mountain, or bikes the trails around us, etc. When he doesn't get a chance to exercise until his brain shuts down, however, all the work stress and perfectionism explode outwards in bursts of nastiness. Puppies chew slippers, Jay snipes at me. Both problems can be prevented by forcing the creature in question to run back and forth until he can't run no mo'.

The grandparents left this morning after we dropped off "my" car, dropped Jay at work and me at the car rental place. So maybe I'll get my sweet, lovable puppy back soon... and trade in the hellhound.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Headcase update

Mr. Smartass violated some school rule (drug-related) and is getting kicked out. He, of course, thinks it's vastly unfair. (I mean, what do they really expect from him? He's young and having FUN.) :shaking head and rolling eyes:

I do not think I will shed any tears over this. I do hope, however, that he figures out why he got kicked out... because he is a bright guy with the potential to do a lot of impressive things in this world. If only it weren't for the extreme Narcissism. Ah well.
And he's cute, too

So for anyone listening to VPR (Vermont Public Radio) yesterday around 12:30pm, the "expert" commentator discussing the forecasting of last week's storm was my lovely husband. Gasp. So proud. After he stopped heavy breathing into the receiver, he did quite well, I thought.

Good job, sweetie.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bits and pieces

Holly has an interesting link to commentary about the Red Cross and New Orleans and where all the donated money is going. I think I'll have to find a new charity.

Word of my outburst spread to the students who were not in class. (We heard you really FLIPPED OUT.) And I had a little "come to Jesus" meeting, as one of my colleagues last year used to call them, with my biggest head case. I don't think he will pass the class, but I told him that if he turned in absolutely everything from now on, he still had a chance. I doubt he will take it. I doubt that I still care one way or the other.

After listening to the news this week, I've decided that my NaNo project this year will be an apocalyptic tale, set in Pittsburgh and elsewhere, featuring a romantic subplot. Heh. I don't know how it will turn out, but it should be interesting to write.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Lost my shit

Consider that Pittsburghese for flipping out on my students.

But really, in terms of flipping out, it was really pretty mild, following a two step progression.

1. Smart ass student who has missed 6 classes, complains that he doesn't understand something that should be simple review. When I tell him that he must have missed it when he was absent, he makes a face and turns around in his seat to talk to the guy behind him. (neither are passing at the moment) He continues to talk to the guy, distracting from the quick grammar lecture I'm giving. I tell him to stop talking. He says, "I'm sorry, Kate. I'm really sorry." To which I reply, "You're always sorry, but what you really need to be is quiet."

Startled silence from the class, a few surprised looks. Lots of "ooooooh"ing.

2. Smart ass comments continue. More general talking while I'm at the board. I lose my train of thought and become so furious with the blatent disrespect that I can't continue. I turn to the class and hiss, "I am soooooo furious with you!" which I quickly amend to "Well, not all of you, but... Just check your grades. Just check your grades and see how you're doing, eh?"

Dead, stunned silence.

Silence continues and I am shocked to find how easy it is to get the lecture done now. A few students continue to ask relevant questions and I answer them. The rest of the class remains quiet.

SO.... clearly I have been way too nice to these kids. As a result, they've become disrespectful and smug. That's my fault. I own it. And even though it's hard to shift from being "easy" to being strict, I know it can be done. My other education books insist that it's never too late to fix your classroom. I hope they're right.

As much as I hate losing control like I did today, I think it might be just what this class needed.

We shall see.

Monday, October 03, 2005

NaNo is upon us

Sign ups for National Novel Writing Month started Saturday, October 1st. Everyone ready? Right, me neither. Not quite, anyway. I'm trying to decide whether I should start the third book in my fantasy trilogy, even though the second one still isn't quite finished, or if I should do a romance (maybe with a contemporary fantasy spin) set in Pittsburgh, which we've all agreed is populated by rather odd characters to begin with.

I'm leaning towards option #2. Mostly because, while I THINK I know how book two ends, stories have a way of changing (usually for the better) in the process of writing them. So.

And just to sabotage myself further in the actually-getting-writing-done department, I just bought Diana Gabaldon's new book. And on top of that, I bought Neil Gaiman's new book. And on top of that I bought new yarn and a new knitting book... well, I suppose I better finish those before November 1st rolls around and I have to get back into the habit of writing 1667 words per day (on average).

But, strangely, all that doesn't sound so bad, eh? Heh.