Month: January 2009

Teaching Moment

Today I was going over introductions, conclusions, and body paragraphs and after class I had student say, “I wish I would have this lesson last semester with my other teacher.”

I have to say that felt pretty good. She was feeling good going into her paper and that’s what’s it’s all about. It’s about knowing that the kids feel confident to go at their writing alone.

Today was one of those days that makes me know teaching is my calling. I’m glad to have answered it.


Stream of Consciousness, Again

I have a lot going on. As much as I like being busy sometimes I think I take on too much. Right now I’m stage directing a play that has at least two weeks left to go and I am taking an extra course so I’m taking 12 credits, teaching, stage directing…oh! and the director also put me in the show. I enjoy doing everything single thing I’m doing but holy crap it’s tough to read and write while your making sure the scene changes are going well in the dark.

I think once this play is over I’ll be ready to focus on this semester but right now I have a list of props that we still need and we open in less than a week. I’m also thinking a lot about scene changes I was being yelled at all day by the director and it feels good to be back in my house where it is quiet and I can sit and just decompress.

I feel like I really need to do my writing and reading. I have to have a novel read by tomorrow evening and another 100 pages to read for Tuesday and then practice, reading writing and so it continues. I am not complaining I promise I signed up for all this but suddenly I feel like I went through a buffet and took a little bit too much of everything.

Right now I could really use a few things:

1) A hug from my other half

2) Someone to tell me I’m going to make it. (I am going to make it because failure is NOT an option)

3) A high five.

4) And a beer.


Well, I should go read. So much to do, so little time.

There is a song by Rilo Kiley, it’s old but it’s wonderful and one of the lines says:

“But you’ll fight and you’ll make it through
You’ll fake it if you have to
And you’ll show up for work with a smile”

This is exactly how I feel.

Student Papers Depress Me

It was a bit of a depressing day yesterday at least as far as my student and teaching life is concerned. I will say on a note that is off topic, I was and still sort of am still pumped about having a new and great speaker as president. Back to the semi-depressing day. It seems as if my students are not as enthusiastic about being in college. First semester freshman are bright eyed and have good attendance and care about what they hand in. Although I was warned by veteran TA’s that this would happen I have always been the type of person who thinks that things like this don’t happen to me. Well they do.

I collected the rough drafts of their first papers this week and holy crap. I know I’m teaching freshman but and this is a huge but, this isn’t their first college writing class. I’m teaching a 102 class where the 101 class was a pre-requisit. WTF! I had papers that were horribly formatted after I spent two weeks just on MLA formatting and of course that wasn’t the only issue, but the formatting issues alone put my heart in the blender.

At first  I was angry at the other TA’s. I kept thinking that they must have neglected to reinforce MLA formatting and having a thesis and using quotes from the text as support. It’s not the student’s fault. But the more I think about it I realize it can’t be. Although, as my professor pointed out to me yesterday evening, “You can’t guarantee what was taught” by the other instructors you can assume with confidence that it was probably talked about.

So why all the elementary mistakes?

I wonder if it has to do with the fact that it is labeled as a “rough draft.”  I think to many students that has the connotation of “it’s okay to be crappy because I can redeem myself later.” I see many students either not doing anything with the rough draft and handing in practically the same document for a final draft and then some students basically rewriting their rough drafts and turning in a whole new paper. I don’t understand why these (the latter)  students give themselves so much extra work. Instead of writing a decent rough draft they are essentially writing two papers.

I don’t think there is a solution to this. I’m sure that teachers of writing have been dealing with this issue since the writing classes have been around but it is depressing to see such basic errors. When I see MLA formatting errors in papers it makes me think that the student doesn’t care enough to fix their margins, put the heading in the correct place, double space, et cetera. I just wonder if, as a teacher, I’ll ever be able to teach the lesson that says, what you turn in is a representation of yourself.  I think what saddens me most is that I have explained this to my students and still the not caring continues. The lazy representations are still present.

I would say the most challenging lesson the teacher must learn is that no matter how hard you try you can’t make them care.

NOTE: Now that spring semester is in full swing I’m noticing writing blog posts has become more challenging but I’m going to try to post as often as possible.

Library Time

For the first time since undergrad I’ll be trecking it over to the library. I remember liking the library as a kid but hating it as I got older. I’m hoping today is my turn around day.

I went for my run and I’m focused and ready to kick this semester in the ass!

I love feeling motivated.

Stream of Consciousness: Edited

I will edit the following sentences so they are at least coherent but I won’t change what they say. Here is a glimpse into my brain.

I’m reading Borges, or was reading Borges today and it was the first time I’d read anything by him and I’m not quite sure how I feel. I know I don’t understand a lot of it, but that’s why I’m in school right? I wonder if anyone else who is reading what we have to read for class is struggling. Probably.  I learned as a teacher that usually when one person is confused there are actually about four or five more who are also confused.  That makes me feel better.

I stopped reading Borges because I was sick of the weird first person voice that he has and started working on a non-fiction piece. Then I was not crazy about that so I left it to marinate in my notebook. I can’t decide if I’m a hand written person or a computer typing person. Some days my best writing is written by hand, but then there are days when I can’t stand writing with a pen and want to just type it. Those are the days when I have too many ideas (well” too” many sounds negative because it feels good to have so many ideas that your hands can’t keep up). When I have days like that I should write more and read less.

I find sometimes I read so much that I can’t write. It’s like I have that author’s voice in my head and I feel tainted. I think that’s why I started writing a blog post so I could get my voice back, but if my voice is so random, like this, then maybe I should get Borges’ voice back in my head.

I ate popcorn while I read and it was delicious. Popcorn is one of my favorite snacks. I really do need to get some more peanut butter though. I have been a peanut butter kick and I’m all out.

Oh that note, I’m off the grocery store to get some Jiff (reduced fat of course).

The Fear of Poetry

A year ago I was teaching high school seniors about poetry. I had recently graduated from college and let me tell you I was scared to death of poetry. I had never written it (except of course maybe in high school as a lame sauce assignment).I didn’t understand it despite how hard I tried. The fear had taken over and I had basically ignored the existance of poetry. That’s right, the English major ignored poetry.

Well, when it came time to teach my seniors I realized it was time to face my fear. I wasn’t about to destroyed by some sonnet. So I worked hard and my students worked hard and you know what? Together as a team I think we conquered poetry. My students too were afraid, as I had once been at their age but we busted ass together and I would say a good sixty-five percent of them got over their fear. They were writing beautiful essays about meaning and symbolism and form and it was great! I thought…

Now here I am a grad student studying creative writing and I thought my poetry fear was over. Oh no, instead it has come back and bitten me square in the behind. I’m currently taking a poetry workshop and today I have to submit my first poem. Let me tell how much I’m freaking out…a lot, tons, Oh MY GOD!!

I had a weird incident about a month ago where I had had the best run of my life and decided I would write a poem about it. What? I know for someone who is definitely a prose person I was surprised, but I wrote a poem. Is it any good? Heck if I know, but nevertheless there it is saved on my computer and I’ve done some revision and even wrote another poem the other day but I have this horrible fear (and I think this is the real fear) that I’m going to turn poems into my workshop and they will be so badly received. Or worse they will suck.

I’ve been studying literature and writing for a while now and you know I still can’t decided what makes a poem good. I taught the important people in poetry (Wordsworth, Dickinson, Keats, Browning, Plath etc…) but you know what? I couldn’t tell why those poems were good.

So today I go into my workshop with my copies for everyone and send my work out. I guess that’s what this whole grad school thing is about as well, facing that fear of “you suck and aren’t talented, maybe you should go work the projector at the movie theater.” So I guess come time for class my mantra will be, “here goes nothin’!”