End of Term Considerations

I'm winding up my last day teaching two sections of ENG 123 for Term 16EW6, although next week starts a whole new term: 16EW1 all over again! No matter how long I teach the short terms for SNHU, I still feel like the length of the terms should be "semesters," 15 or 16 weeks. But I guess that's not unusual, considering I taught for 24 1/2 years with those course time frames.  I'm always wishing I could have done a few things differently at these times. 

For one thing, I wish I had stressed how annoying it is to have repeated grammatical or punctuation (surface-level) mistakes in a piece of writing, especially one considered a final version. Next term, I should warn students about things that irritate me. Here's a list:

  • Unclear or vague pronoun references--it, this, them, that, they, etc..
  • Missing commas after an introductory clause
  • Fragments
  • Too many "there is/are/was/were" phrases in a paper
  • Using regular paragraph indentation instead of hanging indents
  • Not even thinking about a title for a paper
  • Thinking that I don't actually read the papers thoroughly or know when a student is writing a bunch of BS
  • there's more, but I don't want to come off sounding like Oscar the Grouch.
  • Students who don't bother to read the etext or the directions (Guidelines) for an assignment
  • Obvious plagiarism

I'm not happy with the way the Course Modules dumb down the paper-writing experience. More "Design Feedback Tickets" to fill out--ugh! I spend enough time grading, doing outreach, checking the Grade Center, and talking or emailing with students. 

I'm glad I didn't see too much blatant plagiarism this time. It's the bad paraphrasing-kind of plagiarism or near-plagiarism that I mostly see, and that's not necessarily a student's fault since they are simply learning how to integrate sources. It's so hard to do that skillfully, but it's 10 times harder when a person doesn't read on a regular basis. 

I could easily predict who might get a decent grade in a class if I simply had a questionnaire at the beginning asking students if they read for pleasure at all. The ones you do will probably get a better grade. It's pretty amazing. 

.......

I'm going to diverge from this topic for a brief minute and send a shout-out to my brilliant husband whose book was published a couple of weeks ago: 

Here's the blurb for it on the publisher page:http://www.wklegaledu.com/focus-casebook-series/id-9781454868064/Business_Bankruptcy_Law_in_Focus

Congratulations, Dan! Quite impressive! (Those people at Wolters-Kluwer need to put a picture of you on their site, too, not just the other guy!!)

Dans book on bankruptcy


Last Day of a Term: Teaching Writing Online

Today's the last day of another SNHU term. I have a stackful of papers to grade in the next few days, but I always feel a little mixed when the end day arrives. I keep thinking about what I should have done differently, or thinking that I hadn't connected with this student or that well enough, but when it comes right down to it, I spend more time than most people doing this job. It's low pay, if you consider how much aStack-o-papersctual time I put into it and that's required of me to do my job well. But I like that I can do it from home. The down side of that is that I'm always working, it seems! Last weekend my husband was feeling neglected, I'm sure, because I had the laptop on my lap every time he turned around. Still, I think this term is one of the best terms here I've had yet. 

 


2015 Theme--Grammar and Style IdeaWarehouse

       Although I have not been posting entries in this blog on a regular basis in the last few years, more like randomly, I have decided that every year I'll declare a certain topic as a theme and have the posts follow that theme throughout the year. The idea came to me partly because I've been slow to get my WW Writing Services webpage back into operation or the Wendy Warren Austin professional/scholarly web page barely more than online either. Meanwhile, as I am hard at work re-learning the ropes of online teaching for the College of Online and Continuing Education (COCE) at Southern New Hampshire University, I will put this permanent virtual space (an oxymoron?) to work for both me and my students.  But then I remembered -- "IdeaWarehouse" will save me! 

    So, in the vein of Mignon Fogarty's Grammar Girl, Sarah Belliston's Grammarist, and dozens of other good blogs about writing, grammar, and style, I hereby declare this blog: XXX IdeaWarehouse--haven't figured out the official re-titling yet.

My first order of business is to start a Blogroll of these venerable writers' links and then to continue adding to it as I find more. Their domain covers both scholarly and popular writing, since I plan to do the same as well, and my background is in both areas. 

Consider this a work in progress . . .

 

   


10 Things Every Professor Needs for Their Back-to-School Kit

It's now two weeks into September, and college and university classes are in full swing already. Some may have yet to start, but the biggest back-to-school wave has already crested. It might not be until the end of the month until students and professors and institutions FEEL like they're in a routine, and most of the welcome parties have taken place, but within a few days, we'll hit the mid-September mark. If you're not ready for everything, you may get left behind or never feel caught up until next year's (or semester's or term's) opening days! So--what techie equipment do you need? One column I always enjoy reading is ProfHacker from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

  1. OneNote or EverNote. If you take a few minutes to master this notetaking app, it’ll pay back dividends to you the entire semester. Check out these tips:The Digital Professor: "How to Use Evernote for Everything; and Lifehacker: "Faceoff--Onenote-vs-Evernote".
  2. Back-to-School Tote or Messenger Bag (for Professors). Save your shoulders from future rotator cuff surgery—take my word for it! Try something along these lines:
  3. Cell Phone chargers or power packs you can live with. Every single time I NEED my cell phone, it hasn’t been charged properly. If you say this to yourself all the time, too, Get into the habit NOW of charging your cell phone every night! But for those times when you slip, perhaps succumbing to the welcome blankets of blissful sleep after grading one too many papers, here are a few power pack options to stow in your desk and/or messenger bag:
  4. Cleaned-out and Re-Organized Bookmark or Favorites List on Your Browser—Enough Said?
  5. A lined “record” book that you keep in your desk drawer but take home with you at night and write in EVERY SINGLE DAY you work and ESPECIALLY when you interact with others in your office, dept., campus quad, or classroom.
    You need to keep track of the things that happen on a day-to-day basis. This will make you more aware of the wasted time you spent shooting the breeze with Professor Talksalot and capture the accuracy of who said what to whom that may or may not come in handy to know somewhere down the line when or if department factions start causing problems.
  6. A lunch keeper—even better, a mini-frig a microwave. You have to eat. And it is better to eat healthier things than vending machine pretzels and soda. These lunch keepers will save you loads of time walking back and forth to get something to eat between classes, save you money by allowing you to eat the leftovers that you end up throwing out anyway and not shelling it out for drive-through fast food or overpriced, trendy bistro food. But, for heaven’s sake, don’t bring your most smelly dishes! Even if you love, love, LOVE this pungent curry dish you discovered on your last trip abroad, others won’t appreciate having your nasty lunch vapors wafting through the halls for hours on end. If the main department office does not have a refrigerator or microwave, spring for whatever you need to outfit your office most conveniently. It’ll save you money and time in the long run.
  7. Lightweight headphones (not those little earplugs that you can’t see). JetBlue sells flexible but workable headphones for $3 apiece.

    You don’t need these for the obvious reason of listening to music privately; instead you will be using these (or at least have them handy in your drawer) for a rop—to slip on whenever you hear someone coming down the hall when you don’t feel like getting drawn into an endless gossip cycle or pointlessly rehash department politics. Wearing these will indicate that you’re listening to music, a lecture, podcast, whatever, but it sends the sign that you’re BUSY! This way Professor Talksalot will keep walking past your open door, and you can keep on grading or reading without having to shut your office door completely.

  8. A glass bowl or apothecary jar filled with Hershey’s Kisses or Dove Dark Chocolate squares, hard candy, peppermints, root beer barrels, or lollipops---One caveat (learned from embarrassing experience) DO NOT accidentally sit on the chocolate candy! The candy or chocolate is there to make others feel welcome, serving the opposite effect of the headphones.
  9. A writing plan chart with visual measures Just like you kept yourself motivated when you wrote your dissertation, you need—even more now than before!—a visual indicator of how much scholarly work you are doing. If you mark down how many pages you write or how much time you spend researching for work you’re currently doing, perhaps with a bar graph or a milestone chart. Keeping that visual reminder handy will continue to encourage you when your motivation is flagging, and remind you to stay on track.
  10. A subscription to your favorite humor column/comic strip(light humor, not sarcasm)—So you can keep your sense of humor every day.

 


Reinventing Oneself

    This is the beginning of a new era--at least for IdeaWarehouse! Here I am in Boston, one of the most concentrated capitals of higher education, and for a long time I have identified myself as an academic, though it took me a long time at the beginning to really feel like I was, and it's the first day of classes either today, yesterday, or a week from today. Yet this is the longest time (since I was 14) that I have ever been without a full-time job. So it's time to re-invent myself (btw, does that require a hyphen or no hyphen?--I wonder what Grammar Girl would say?). I need to OWN my job as a writer and writing consultant. 

    Long before I established WW Writing Services as my own writing consultant company, I was doing free-lance jobs in writing and editing. I edited Dr. Dan Shelley's book for K-12 educators on using computers, way back near the time the WWW was being invented (makes me feel like I am from the stone-age era). Then I helped another professor with a master's thesis, which in fact, needed a complete overhaul. Unfortunately, this person must have thought I was doing it just to be nice or because I wanted to be friends or something, but I never got paid! Somehow we got our wires crossed, and I'm sure I could have done something more to have gotten the money, but it was a touchy situation because we had both started working at this college at about the same time, and I had to continue working with this professor throughout the years, so I sucked it up and decided never to make that mistake again (have someone mistake my hard hours of work for "just being nice" and trying to "be friends," especially when there were never any more overtures of friendship being extended after that.)

    Then I had several other miscellaneous projects--for which I always got paid, but the totals never amounted to anything more than extra clothes money, which I always welcome. When I was living in Slippery Rock and commuting 70 miles to Edinboro, I ended up purchasing my own paper for handuts and syllabi, file folders, and any office supplies I used at home, since I did so much there, rather than at the office. So, since Staples delivers for free to businesses, I decided to become WW Writing Services. Ahh, how I miss my spacious office!  ....Okay, I won't go there! I DO have own room within our condo that IS my office still. It's all mine, even though it moonlights as a guest room when people visit. If I didn't have a ROOM OF MY OWN, I'd go crazy, I think. Here in my "Office"--the official home of WW Writing Services, I crank out my projects:

The 1st 3 projects are the most official WW Writing Services projects, while the others are personal writing projects or academic ones, focused on first-year composition and writing center pedagogy. I plan to keep plenty busy and expect to post on this blog at least once a week (usually between Sunday and Tuesday) from now on.

    


Reactions to Myth #1--Escape from the Ivory Tower

The Life of the Mind:

"We’re very sorry, but academia will likely always include the teaching, committee meetings, shared governance, fights about office space, funding problems, and advising that get between us and the Great Thoughts. . . .The flip of this is also misery-inducing: That everything beyond the boundaries of the Ivory Tower is an intellectual wasteland full of busy work and ethically suspect agendas. In this story no one reads, public intellectualism is dead, and everyone is simply putting in their time until retirement. "--from

Good points all! Don't I know that my daily grind consisted of committee meeting after committee meeting, concern about whether courses would "make" or someone wouldn't get the short summer course they needed to fund their family vacation to Disneyworld or something. I actually didn't mind the committee meetings all that much when they were chaired by people who got in, kept the politics and feelings out of the discussion, and got us out in time for our next class or office hours. One thing that always got me, though, was how petty some of the in-fighting was, and how insecure some of the "excellent scholars" were.  Got to see misogyny up close and personal more than a few times, but also saw how easily rumors were started and spread, many completely false, but some more true than the institution could ever admit. 

The students are what kept me feeling so young, though. I enjoyed my interaction with them so much. Despite the fact that I got older and older, while they all stayed approximately the same age, I liked how they taught me so much about what was cool to say now, what was not, even if I never picked it up. When my own son and stepchildren were college age, it was interesting to see their world from other students' eyes. 

But back to the "Life of the Mind:" I would like to think that I conveyed the possibility to them that EVERYWHERE in the work world, not just in college, the life of the mind is valued. One of my favorite theme-centered writing courses that I taught was the one on "public intellectuals." The most interesting phenomenon that I encountered was that, for about two thirds of the students, that phrase didn't completely register in the sense that I wanted it to. Instead, they would replace in their mind the idea of "someone to look up to," "today's heroes," or "inspiring adult role models." The idea of public intellectualism was lost on them. And yet, I learned a lot myself about some  pretty amazing people. I still have the research material for the knowledge and insights I gained and the web pages they made on each person and want to translate it all into a paper still someday.

ARTICLE #1 in progress: Public Intellectualism and First-Year Writing Courses.


Office Time

I wonder when I'll actually get to meet my "phantom office mate," Lorianne DiSaboto? I'm glad that these days, one can check out a person's blog and get a sense of at least one or more sides to a person's personality, but it's also a little weird that it's something we do virtually, and through the mediated space of our computers. I know I sat next to her at the retreat or maybe it was the orientation for new teachers before school started. I was trying to remember people's names, and I had remembered Lorianne's email and name, and so I was trying to remember all the newer ones. Sorry, Lorianne! I probably didn't do more than say hello that day.

Anyway, tomorrow I will finally get my ID card, also. A better time to do it would have been when everybody else did it: before classes. As usual, I had a zillion things to do/places to be, because of trying to cram everything in before Dan and I went to Tim and Suzanne's wedding at the Cape. We had to leave RIGHT after the orientation to get down there in time, so I was running around like crazy. Plus, when it was hot, it was much harder for me to do things. I'd get really tired real fast, and would have to pace myself. I attributed this to my MS, although now I am getting conflicting diagnoses of what these types of episodes might be. Soon, I will get a second opinion, but meanwhile, I'll also concentrate on taking better care of myself overall. I don't know why that is sometimes so hard to do, but it is.

Walking around Framingham State campus certainly gives me a workout, especially since there are so few places to park. It's a beautiful campus, even if it is quite hilly. My office window is huge, letting in a lot of pleasant light, and looks out onto the main building areas, even though it is in the basement of one of the buildings.

 

 

 


Of semesters, American Idol, and resume makeovers

I have taught for so long and have gone to school for so long that I feel time as measured by semesters, rather than months. Dan's quarter system makes me a little confused. I have to ask him all the time when is it over or when does it start, etc., because I don't have that instinctive feel for the educational time measures in quarters. Should be easier but it's not. It's all what we've become used to. I had a special treat today--getting my CV critiqued by someone very young. It was a humbling experience to me and made me realize how much we CAN'T see in our own writing or work. When I received it, I had to agree, and now am pondering what to do next.

Well, what to do NEXT, as in the next few hours? Well, I'm going to watch American Idol! I think they should ax Phillip Phillips this week. He's just doing the same thing every time. I get really sick of seeing him squinch up his neck and face and lift up his leg a certain way and I don't think he's as good of a musician as the rest. Hollie did much better this week. I sure hope she stays, although last week I would said--Boo! Let her go!

Okay, now, I better get off of here and do some exercising. Tomorrow I go to Healthworks.