Archive for August, 2014

First Day back to CLASS!

In about three hours I will be in front of 19 students in my first writing class. Tomorrow I will have FIVE classes back to back and by the end of the week, I will have met most all of my 90 students. I would say that is a LOT to deal with. I’ve done it before when I lived in Almaty, Kazakhstan when I had FIVE classes with 100 students. Those were ALL very difficult names to pronounce. By the end of the semester, I had mastered saying all of their first names and knowing one from the other. My secret was to take pictures of each class and then the next session I passed the pictures around for them to identify themselves.

Fortunately, I can go on the web and see their photo that goes with their name. I have one class where half the students are from my home town, it is my smallest class. Another class must be a LOT of football players because they are from Florida, California, one from Georgia. They will need extra help because they are on a team that doesn’t win much. As freshmen they will not be playing but tough to practice day in and day out and then lose every weekend. I knew one school in the Twin Cities that boasted about their losses and purported to be more interested in studies. One game score was really lopsided at about 96 to 4 or something outrageous like that. I think the visiting team would probably have more fans than the home team in that case. I don’t know if they still have such a bad team but their emphasis is on preparing their students for law school.

I look forward to meeting all my students, it is a different kind of student than the ones I taught ten years ago. I also won’t be having them submit their first story about their grandparents for publication as I usually do. Too much red tape regarding the consent forms that I have used for YEARS! Times are a-changing. Well, I will find the best stories and try to highlight them in some other way. Some are so very endearing and the newspaper reading audience in our town needs something lighthearted and fun to read. We are reading too many headlines these days that threaten war, outrage, lawsuits, etc. I KNOW people want to read the good things and I am used to providing that.

With so many classes and students, I won’t be writing any newspaper articles until about January of 2015. I’ll miss the positive feedback I get from people. I do all pro bono and I know it helps me sell books about my hometown. I have had some good conversations with people about things I have uncovered from the past. I hope that my students, some of them will be interested in history as well.

Better sign off to get ready for my first class of the semester. I have my big office all ready with plants and much color. Things from Ukraine, China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. It has my mark on it since I am borrowing it for the semester from another person who has another office elsewhere.

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Back again to WRITING…and teaching writing!

It has been a very busy month in August and now I am looking at the end of this month on the calendar and realizing that I have some catch up to do.  I have said “yes” to teaching 12 credits of composition I classes so that may mean that I won’t be able to write as much for the local newspaper every week.  However, what I should do is document all that I go through as a teacher in dealing with freshmen students who do not want to be in their respective writing classes.  I will have to convince them that writing is GOOD for them like taking your medicine everyday to feel better.

Somehow I have to persuade these postmodern products that it IS about them but that they have to know their audience in order to be “listened to.”  I have come to learn that postmodernism is more about what the person who is reading a script what it does to them, it is all about them.  Whereas before, like a century ago, it was more about trying to figure out what the writer meant and what his or her intentions were.  We certainly have it backwards now because you can interpret any message any way you want to, never mind what the main point of the author’s is.  

I am not sure when the swing back to the way I grew up will take place. If I am teaching my students to find their own “voice” and then to declare a message they are passionate about, how can I get them to also think that they have to do a sales job in getting their readers to buy into what they have to promote or what they care passionately about?  I haven’t had to think about this for a couple of years but I was re-visiting all my powerpoints from when I taught a comp class and I was struck with how much work I had done every week to teach my students the rudimentary principles they need to keep in mind to write an academic essay.

Must I tell my students every time that they CAN write?  Do I need to remind them that they can think and they can verbalize so all they have to do is put that down on paper.  If I can encourage them to write using ethos, pathos and logos, then I will have won half the battle.  Some will come crippled with a grammar problem because they did not get proper training in school as a young person.  Some students will repeat things they have heard and I cringe when I hear irregular verbs improperly used.  I’ve heard it with teachers I work with, those who should know better.  I suppose it is no different from those in Texas who might say, “I’m fixing to…”  When northerners might say, “I plan to…or I intend to…”  I have to keep in mind that I know what they mean.  I had caught my Texas friend who had just come back from a trip to Texas from Ukraine saying that phrase “I’m fixing to…”  I ribbed her about it because ordinarily I would not hear her say that while we lived in Ukraine.

I have lived in so many different countries and early on I learned that you do not use the question “How come…” with internationals who only know the way to ask is “Why?”  Where did the “How come” configuration come about?  When I come back from living overseas I also do not use expressions we take for granted and feel clumsy using them when with Americans again.  Things like “fit to be tied” or “six of one, half dozen of another” or “the whole nine yards.”  That would be too complex for my foreign students to understand and then without hearing these kinds of phrases or using them for years on end, I find I mix up these common place phrases.

Well, I hope that I can work back into my teaching writing routine without feeling like a fish out of water. Ha!  Yes, looking through the textbook thoroughly and re-doing the two different syllabi that I am working with will help get me back in the groove.  I’ve been working on getting two books out and selling them this past year, I am a bit out of sync with how to get back in the classroom with my heavy load of teaching again.  Indeed, it will all come back to me once I am in front of the fresh, expectant faces of my composition students.


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Eventful week at the home base

When it rains, it pours…as they say. Actually, we could use some rain because the roads are really dusty and the crops could enjoy more moisture. However, I believe this expression fits my living circumstance this past week because both of my parents ended up in the ER on the same day. It was two separate events but it kept us hopping getting one out and admitting another one in. The ER people seemed to not mind the business because the day goes faster when there is activity.

Apparently one guy escaped the police from his emergency room berth while my Mom was in her adjoining room at the hospital. Fortunately, she was discovered earlier by a neighbor in her back yard. She was not feeling well and the neighbor thankfully called the emergency room right away. My mom was zipped off by ambulance to the hospital which is only 5-6 blocks away.

Later that evening, my dad was loading a lawn mower into his van and the board slipped which meant that the mower landed on him and he broke four of his rips. The neighbors saw the aftermath of this accident and immediately went to help him out. That’s my 84 year old dad, he always sees the bright side of things, forever the optimist and so he believes he stands straighter now after having this injury to his ribs. He is also currently on some very powerful meds and so he may not see this as a good thing once he eases off of that and feels the pain again.

The day before her spell, my Mom had carpal tunnel surgery on her right hand. She is so active and such a doer that for her to NOT be doing something is agonizing. She was out picking beans from her vegetable garden and doing general puttering. I have to remind her NOT to use her right hand, at least she doesn’t have the ice pack on anymore.

That is life at our locale, I wish for the humdrum after all this excitment but am glad to be alive. I’m glad my folks are alive as well. It was a good day for my dad…and mom. I’m thankful for my sister who came up with the traveling exhibit load that my Dad and I had intended to get which was four hours away. How good to have a big family. We just celebrated my Mom’s 80th birthday last weekend. They are both going strong still except for this minor bump in the road.

I’m glad they are still alive!

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