Log in

Previous 10

Mar. 11th, 2016

dino head

Not seeing the trees for the forest, for LJ Idol

A student turned in her states project. The states project is supposed to be a short movie detailing research about the state. This student did not do this. Instead, she did a movie showing mountains and sunsets while she recited a poem.

The following conversation took place.

Student: And I got a zero.
Me: Well, you didn't do the assignment.
St: But I did! I made a movie about my state.
Me: But... you didn't follow the directions...
Me: You recited a poem
St: Right...
Me: That's not what I wanted...
St: But the poem reminded me of Arizona.
Me: Did you write it?
St: No.
Me: Was it written by someone from Arizona?
St: No.
Me: And the photos... were they pictures of Arizona.
St: Some of them.
Me: ... How did you think this would be acceptable.
St: This poem reminded me of Arizona. So I decided to recite it.
Me: But that's not the assignment. You were supposed to do a movie based on the research you did.
St: Research?
Me: You know... the worksheets I gave out with all the questions.
St: (confused look) I never got worksheets.
Me: Yes, you did. I put them on Blackboard.
St: Oh, I never checked Blackboard for homework.
Me: Despite me saying EVERY CLASS PERIOD that the homework was on Blackboard?
St: (shrugging) It never occurred to me.
Me: (a little angrily): Listening to me never occurred to you?
St: ...
Me: Well, that explains why you never did homework...
St: So that shouldn't apply to me. I didn't do any research, so this is okay.
Me: Oh, no. The homework was there. I told the entire class where it was. That you didn't do it isn't my problem.
St: But I didn't do the research, so I had to do something.
Me: (visibly annoyed) Here is what the directions said:

You can talk about whatever you researched about your state. You can give an overview of the state, or focus on a region or a city. I've had projects that focus on the Native American tribes and their cultures or that focus on ghost towns and ghost tours or that focus on all the "official" state things.

How did you do that?
St: I did work. I deserve a grade.
Me: (dryly) You got a grade. A zero.
St:... But...
Me: Look, your final is on Tuesday. You have until then to fix this.

Unsurprisingly, this student did not fix the project, and bombed the final. The next semester, this student repeated the class, but with someone else.

Mar. 8th, 2016

dino head

Work updates!

In convenient list format:
Busy, busy, busyCollapse )
1) It turns out that I am teaching. A section of 101 (Intro to Speech Communication) opened up and I took it.

I have not taught this in years, so it will be fun, however, we're using a different textbook, so my old notes aren;t as useful as they could be,

However, I got the class on Sunday night, and I start today, so the first class or two won't be as thorough as I like to be.


It's a late night class (it starts at 8:05 pm.), so I have to adjust my schedule.

No States Project, though I am planning on two research projects, one on the Presidents and one on either famous American scandals or Supreme Court Cases. I'll let the students decide that... though the first question would be if they prefer a project or a midterm.

When given this choice, students never say "Midterm!"

2) I got this class because one of our full-time faculty unexpectedly resigned on Feb 28th. (Yes, a Saturday)

This particular professor had nothing but problems with our students, to the point that every term, they would make petitions and go to our coordinator and chair (and once, when she refused to let a student give a speech on LGBT rights, to Human Resources).

She also would lose her temper and scream at colleagues.

Anyway, she just got fed up and left.

This is not a loss.

3) Our office manager of 35 years retired on 3/4.

The two secretaries we have now are... um... unburdened by the pressures of usefullness. So, the office itself is a mess. Which, since classes started yesterday is a huge problem.

Our office manager's old boss (who I suppose was the real office manager, though I never saw her do anything) has had to step in, and she;s not happy because she doesn't know what's going on.

I mean, paperwork wasn't processed, so some classes are unstaffed. Which, that's just incompetence right there. You know when the first day of class is. You know that this has to be done by then. That's a hard and fast deadline.

4) Facebook professor is NOT grieving her firing, so she is either done in June or August.

She has had multiple job interviews, and she now views this place as toxic, so she wants out.

Can't really blame her.

5) One of my independent study students wants to switch one of her indep studies to the summer. However, the paperwork has already been filed. So, I'm not sure we can rescind this.

Especially if there is a time limit, since our secretaires are the ones who do that.

Mar. 3rd, 2016

dino head

Verbal Vomit -- for LJ Idol

Class had ended, but I hadn't left yet. I was standing there listening to a student who was telling me about why she couldn't turn in the assignment that was due that day.

The assignment that she knew was due that day, because I had mentioned it in class, every day, for three weeks.

Yes, I was irritated.

So, she was there, talking, and talking, and talking, and talking.

I mean, I wasn't just in my classroom anymore. I had been transported to Too Much Information Land. At this point, I was on the corner of Dysfunction Blvd and Alcohol Ave., and we were zooming towards Unfortunate Life Choices Plaza.

It was difficult to keep focused. I wonder if this student was trying to filibuster me. You know, talk so much that I'd give her the extension just to SHUT HER UP.

Sadly for her, I was raised in an old school Catholic household, where we went to church on Sunday. This gave me the ability to resist my student's verbal assault.

Each and every Sunday, our parish priest* would give an absurdly long sermon. These sermons usually had no real point to them, or if they did, they were cleverly hidden under all the non-organization.

My grandmother said that her father would quiz her siblings and herself about their parish priest's sermons when she was a child, and she thought she should do that to my siblings and me.

Of course, she never did, mostly because that meant that she would have to pay attention herself, and that wasn't going to happen. Grandmother sat in the back of the church so she could get the local gossip, not so she could listen to the priest ramble about... whatever was on his mind that morning.

In church, I would go through the missalettes (small books that had the readings, prayers and music for the services) looking for screwy saint names.

In the classroom, I didn't have a missalette. Fortunately, I almost always have a song running through my head. So, I just listened to my internal soundtrack while my student guided me past Unfortunate Life Choices Plaza to Bad Break Ups Place.

I would just nod once every few seconds, until I got fed up. She wasn't coming to any end point, and I was done with my day, so I interrupted her:

Me: Here's the deal... I am going to start grading these projects tomorrow. If you get it to me by the end of business tomorrow, I will accept it, but you will lose a letter grade. Otherwise, it's a zero.
Student: But I need...
Me: You had three weeks. I am being generous here.
Student: But...
Me: You made other things a priority. Now, you need to make this class a priority. Take it or leave it.

For what it's worth, she never turned in the assignment. Of course, this particular student only did homework when the spirit moved her (read: almost never), so I shouldn't be surprised.
This particular priest was AWFUL as far as sermons went, but he was great to go to confession to. His normal penance was "Say three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys", unless you were really sinful, the it was "Say three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys and three Glory Bes".

Once, I went to confession after a trip to the redneck gay bar, where I got my freak on, more than once, so I told him about THAT. After a moment of VERY uncomfortable silence, he said, "Say three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys and three Glory Bes and say them WITH FEELING."

So, you know, not all bad.

Feb. 26th, 2016

dino head

Pourquoi moi? -- For LJ Idol

I have an alter-ego. See, I actually have a superpower. I am Low Pressure Lad.

When I travel, I bring bad weather with me.

As with all good superheroes, I have an origin story.

I am a third generation superbeing.

My grandmother was The Voice That Carried. No matter how quiet she tried to be, no matter how large the room, EVERYONE heard her.

This was not necessarily a good thing. For instance, one day, I was in church with her, when we passed by a recently repainted statue of St. Cecilia.

St. Cecilia was repainted in shades of purple. Even her face was a shade of fuschia. (I guess she was holding her breath.) My grandmother said, in a whisper that carried for miles, "What horse's ass did this? St Cecilia was a MUSICIAN, not a whore!"

My mother is Worse Case Scenario Woman. She can find the cloud in any silver lining.

And, as I've already said, I am Low Pressure Lad.

While I always was aware of my mother's and grandmother's powers, mine didn't really manifest themselves until I went off to graduate school.

Bad weather followed me around. Sometimes it would be a blizzard or an ice storm; sometimes just really uncomfortable humidity or dense fog.

It wasn't just family who recognized this. My friends all know, too. One Thanksgiving, rain started to fall right when I landed at the airport.

One of my friends called me that night, saying that she knew I was in town because the area had been experiencing a drought, and she figured this was the only was they'd get any precipitation.

So, perhaps going to grad school triggered my amazing super powers.

Looking back on it, though, it's possible that my powers were active when I was younger. My family didn't have much money, so we never traveled.

I suppose we'll never know.

Feb. 19th, 2016

dino head

For LJ Idol: Pinocchio's First Date

Back before I was born, my Aunt Mary was set up on a blind date.

Aunt Mary's friend gave the guy directions to my grandmother's house and (per Aunt Mary) told him that my family was "just like every other family."

Now, at this time, my father had just left the Air Force, and the family was relocating. So, while dad was in the process of changing jobs, my dad, my mom (who was about seven months pregnant with yours truly) and my three siblings (then aged four, three and two) were also staying at my grandmother's house.

Oh, and my great-grandfather was living there, too.

On the day of the blind date, Aunt Mary told my grandmother to come up to her room and let her know if the blind date was tall or short. IF he was tall, Aunt Mary would wear the pink dress; otherwise she would wear the yellow.

Well, as the blind date came up the walk, my then-four-year-old brother jumped out from behind the hedges, screamed a "war cry", and stabbed the man in the butt with a toy spear.

Meantime, my great-grandfather had spent the afternoon at the local bar with his friends. and was returning home, drunk as a skunk.

As the date walked onto the front porch, my great-granddad puked in the bushes.

It was summertime, but the porch was entirely devoid of furniture. The blind date probably didn't have time to notice because my grandmother greeted him at the door, holding my then-two year old sister.

Grandma was wearing a house dress, not unlike this hideous green and yellow floral print:

They walked into the living room... and it was a sight to behold. Instead of drapes, grandma had bedsheets covering the windows, no carpeting, and the porch furniture was in the living room.

Earlier that year, grandma had decided to redecorate the living room: so, the new drapes were on order, as was the new carpeting, and the furniture was being reupholstered.

At least the date happened after they painted.

Anyway, as grandma slipped out, my heavily pregnant mother was chasing my naked three year old sibling. They were in the process of toilet training.

Grandma, meanwhile, walked to the bottom of the stairs and yelled up, "He's short! Wear the yellow!"

Apparently, Aunt Mary tried all through the date to explain that we weren't really like this. The date just laughed it off.

That date must have gone well, because a little over two years later, they got married, and stayed that way until he died thirty five years later.

I learned an important life lesson from this story: unlike dysfunctional families who will pretend to be better adjusted than they actually are, my family let's it all hang out from the start.

This is why I've never brought anyone home. I've never loved anyone I've dated so much that I wanted them to meet the family, and I've never loved anyone I've dated so little that I wanted to use my family to scare them off. (Honestly, I'm capable of scaring people off without anyone's help.)

Feb. 5th, 2016

dino head

A Dictionary for Dreamers-- For LJ Idol

I teach speaking skills, and I always include lists of vocabulary words.*

After all, a larger vocabulary is a good thing. Also, I use this to teach word stress, and the sounds of English.

When I have time, I do this as a class assignment, like this:

1) Transcribe the words from English into International Phonetic Alphabet (to show pronunciation) and mark which syllables are stressed.

2) Put that transcription on the board**.

3) Look up the meaning of the word.

4) Use the word in a sentence. (A sentence they come up with. I can usually tell when they just use the example sentences from the dictionary.)

As you can imagine, students sometimes resist this.

A few years ago, we were doing this assignment, and this particular student had the word "correlation". After a few minutes, I noticed that, while her classmates were busy doing the assignment -- a few were already at the board, in fact-- but she was just staring blankly into the middle distance.

Me: (Student's name), what are you doing?
Student: Huh?
Me: You have an assignment. Get to it.
Student: Oh, I don't need to know this word.
Me: (perturbed) Really?
Student: I already know everything I need to know.
Me: Then why are you here?
Student: What?
Me: If you already know everything you need to know, you shouldn't need any more education, so you shouldn't be here at all.
Student: (blank stare)
Me: The fact that you are sitting in a class means that you admit you need to learn things.
Student (a little defiant): I'll never need to know this word! If I needed to know this word, Jesus would have already made me know it.
Me (annoyed and a little angry): STOP! Just, stop right there.
Student: What?
Me: Do not use Jesus as your excuse.
Student: Well, Jesus...
Me: No, no, no... When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he was not thinking, "You know, I'm doing this so (student's name) can avoid doing work in class."
Student: Hey! That's... I'm offended.
Me: And I'm offended that you would use your religion to justify your laziness. So I guess we're even.
Student: ...
Me: Now, get to work.

She did, however grudgingly, go to the board.

*I take the words from SAT prep vocabulary lists.

**This is one of the things I'm known for. Everyone who takes my class knows in advance that they will be going to the board a lot.

Jan. 28th, 2016

dino head

Music for the mood -- for LJ Idol

It was a hot, humid August day in 1989, and I needed a lift. It had been a brutal week.

First, a roommate had bounced a check on me, which forced me to go to my family to get the money to cover it. My mom agreed to help, provided I went to the magistrate to get the money back.

In fact, I had just been at the magistrate's office, where we discovered that my ex-roommate had ignored the summons.

However, much, much worse had happened. The night before, my friends and I found out that two of our friends, Nicki and Terri, had been involved in a car crash in Oklahoma. Terri was badly injured, but likely to survive. Nicki had died in the crash.

You have to understand a few things about my friends. If you take all those geeky outcasts from high school and put them in one group? That was us. Only add wildly dysfunctional families to the mix.

As a result, we were bright, but most of us didn't have our acts together. Nicki was one of the few who did. That this happened at all was terrible. That it happened to someone who had a bright future ahead of her was worse.

Nicki's body was coming home to Pennsylvania for the funeral, which was going to take place a few days later.

Before the trip to the magistrate's office, I had gone out to lunch with friends, to discuss the trip to the funeral: who was going and how we were all going to get there.

I was a mess. I was managing to keep it together because a) I was so furious at my ex-roommate and b) a lot of my friends needed emotional support at the time, so I didn't feel like I could fall apart. It was like everyone needed to lean on me, which meant that I had no one to lean on.

This was the mood I was in as I walked up to my apartment building.

I saw a box at the door, and my mood lightened up, if only a little. It was my shipment of CD's from Columbia House! I had ordered these CD's several weeks back, but they finally arrived!

"This music will cheer me up!" I thought to myself as I rushed into the apartment.

I opened the box.

The first CD? Tracy Chapman's self titled album.

I remember thinking, "Well, I'll skip this one for now, but, surely, something cheerful will be in here."

The next CD? Don McLean's American Pie and Other Hits.

I just sighed and pulled out the next one.

Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall

Finally, Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits

The most cheerful CD in the lot was Simon and Garfunkel.

It just struck me as so damned funny. I was trying to escape feeling sad and overwhelmed through music that was, at best, melancholy.

I started laughing. Then, I started crying. I put in the Simon and Garfunkel, and lay there, on the floor, singing along with them, sobbing my eyes out, yet still laughing a little at the absurdity of it all.


This was for LJ Idol, the topic is "Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."

Jan. 22nd, 2016

dino head

I can't even -- why I had to quit a seminar For LJ Idol

I don"t do seminars at work much anymore. This is part of the reason why.Collapse )

Jan. 15th, 2016

dino head

For LJ Idol: A tale from my undergraduate days

When I was an undergraduate, I was originally a Chemistry major.

During my last semester as a Chemistry major, I took Organic Chemistry II and its lab.

One day, about a third of the way into the term, I walked into the laboratory, where I was promptly handed all sorts of safety gear. We always wore goggles, but this time, we were also wearing aprons, breathing masks, gloves and even caps to keep our hair back.

Then our lab T.A. told us that the one of the compounds we would be working with was a powerful carcinogen, so we had to take all these precautions for the first part of the experiment. (OChem labs were always multi-week affairs.)

So, my labmates and I were all extremely careful that first session. We handled lots of things with tongs. We didn't really even talk to one another.

The second session? Well, by then, the carcinogen had reacted with the other chemicals we were playing with and was no longer toxic.

However, the new compounds were all in solution, and we needed to extract one of them from the others. We used a separatory funnel to do this. You pour your liquid in the funnel, gently rock it back and forth, and then the liquids separate into layers, sort of like oil and vinegar in salad dressing.

No one told me how quickly pressure built up in the funnel. See, after rocking back and forth a few times, you had to open it up a little to release pressure.

Either I overfilled it or I rocked it too hard, because, suddenly, the stop cock bounced off my chest and the contents of the funnel spilled all over my shirt.

Staring down at the mess, I realized that I had two choices:

a) Tell my TA and restart the experiment.
b) Take my shirt off, wring out the liquid into a beaker and keep going.

I was not about to start all over again, so I chose option B.

After I wrung out my shirt, I I briefly rinsed it out and splashed some water onto my chest. then, satisfied that I had taken care of the problem, I went back to work.

Did I know that this wasn't a good idea? Yes. But, honestly, I was about 20 years old at the time, and good decisions were just not in my wheelhouse.

Well, about half an hour later, Iwas working and suddenly I saw tiny puffs of smoke and smelled something burning.

I ignored it, because we were working with open flames. I just assumed the guy I shared a bench with had dropped something on his Bunsen burner.

A few minutes later, my chest and stomach started to itch something fierce, and the smoke was getting more intense. Further, I noticed it wasn't coming from his area, it was coming from mine.

Then, I had what I call a Looney Tunes moment: you know the cartoons where Bugs Bunny is sitting in stew pot and asking his antagonist what's cooking? And Bugs is all "Mmm... rabbit stew. That's tasty. WAIT... I'M A RABBIT!"

Well, that was sort of my reaction. See, I looked down and saw that my shirt was smouldering. The smoke was getting more intense, so I ran to the men's room, ripped my shirt off, and put it under running water in a sink.

Meantime, I could see splotches where the chemicals had irritated my skin, and it was not pretty. Well, I took that hideous pink soap college bathrooms have and smeared it all over my chest and stomach.

While I was doing this, a custodian walked in. He took one look at me, shook his head, and said, "I just don't want to know," and left.

After washing my chest and thoroughly rinsing out my shirt, I went back to the lab.

I looked strange, like my torso had been caught in a monsoon, but the rest of me was dry.

As you can imagine, my experiment failed spectacularly.

However, I did get an A on the lab, because I explained exactly, step-by-step, what went wrong. It was so funny that my TA shared it with his colleagues.

The burns healed relatively quickly. That shirt, however, fell apart when I did laundry a few days later.

I dropped out of college after that semester. When I went back, three years later, I decided to double major in French and Spanish. I wasn't going to accidentally set myself on fire in those majors.
this has been for LJ Idol, the topic, Organic.

Jan. 8th, 2016

dino head

Terrorism in 2015-2016: Are we getting numb? For LJ Idol

9/11/2001 was a Tuesday. I remember it well. I was in graduate school in Illinois. The night before, I had gone out with friends: we watched football and played trivia.

I didn't get in until late, so I slept in. When I got up, I turned on my TV just as the first tower at the World Trade Center fell.

I couldn't believe what I was watching. Then, I saw the crawl,which said that planes had also crashed into the Pentagon and "south of Pittsburgh".

Almost all of my family and many of my friends live in the suburbs south of Pittsburgh, so I panicked.

So, I called every number i knew in Pittsburgh until I got a friend who told me that the plane went down in a field in Somerset County, far from anyone.

I was relieved, though I was still in shock.

9/11 shocked most Americans, me included.

This past November, on the day of the Paris attacks, I was out of touch, at a conference.

I didn't find out about them until i got back home.

I was still horrified, but I jave to admot that I wasn't as badly shocked as I has been after earlier attacks.

My reaction has changed from "How can this happen?" To "Oh, no, where now?"

It's not numbness: it's more of a sad resignation that these attacks happen.

I don't think we're becoming numb.I hope that we aren't becoming numb. If that were to happen, I think we would lose a portion of our humanity.

I hope that we, as a people, are not numb to this violence. That would be dangerous. I think we would lose a latge part of our humanity if that were to happen.

Previous 10

dino head

March 2016




RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com