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Jun. 30th, 2014

dino head

For LJ Idol: Freshman Composition

Ah... sweet memoriesCollapse )

Jun. 18th, 2014

For LJ Idol: End of semester conversations

At the end of every semester, I am besieged by students who are trying to get a grade the didn't deserve. As you can imagine, this is barrels of laughs.
Frustration and sarcasm ahoy!Collapse )

Jun. 9th, 2014

Traveling sucks sometimes -- for LJ Idol

The joys of travelCollapse )

May. 26th, 2014

stalking, snoopy

Fun with a neighbor: for LJ Idol

I was at one of the local bodegas yesterday, picking up milk, pop and one or two other things, when one of my neighbors stopped me for a chat.

Neighbor lady: You're eating too much pizza. I see the boxes in the trash.
Me (a little exasperated)*: It's not me. I haven't ordered pizza in a long while.**
NL: It's... not you?
Me: Nope.
NL: Huh. Not you.
Me: Lately, if I've felt like pizza, I just walk over to the pizza place and have a slice or two and then come home.
NL: ... You know you don't have to do that... you should get it delivered.

At this point, I paid for my groceries, laughed and walked away.

I mean... she was criticizing me for ordering delivery, then when I told her I wasn't, she pointed out that I probably should get delivery. *sigh* I guess she was bound and determined to stick her nose into my life one way or another and offer unasked-for advice.

*I was fully braced for one of those "I'm an almost complete stranger, but I see that you're fat and I'm going to tell you about it" conversations.

**This is actually true. I really haven't ordered much delivery lately. Normally, I just stop somewhere on my way home for a bite or cook something. Also, I live in a building that has 24 apartments. I'm not sure how she determined that I was the mad pizza-eater.

May. 17th, 2014

dino head

For LJ Idol-- when I became a meme.

A tale from grad schoolCollapse )

May. 7th, 2014

dino head

Another tale from the States Project -- for LJ Idol

I've told a tale of the massive research failure that occurs with my States Project before.

I get this all the time. Once, one student was convinced that Nebraska had no roads, for example.

However, one term, the research errors just kept piling up on top of one another to form a really odd alternate reality United States.

It all started with Ohio. The only large city in Ohio was Columbus. However, lots of people would visit Ohio to go hiking in its beautiful Ozark Mountains.

I chuckled to myself. I mean, if the Ozarks were now in Ohio... what about Arkansas?

I got my answer a little later, when I discovered that the Grand Canyon was now in Arkansas.

You'd think that this would upset Arizona, but Arizona was now "covered with forests and inland lakes ideal for family camping and hiking adventures."

I have no idea where Arizona got these from.

And even when students got their facts right, pronunciation could screw them up.

While all the above was happening, the student who had New Mexico decided to talk about the Apaches. Unfortunately, she did not know how to pronounce "Apache", and, for whatever reason, did not ask me. So, she did that thing that students do sometimes when they pronounce the word every way they can think of and hope that it's right once.

So, she said "Apeach", "Apaich", "Apitch", and, of course, my favorite, the French branch of the tribe, the Apashay... who I am sure looked FABULOUS on horseback.

And the student who had South Dakota kept mentioning the Sioux in her write-ups. Now, I read that they prefer to be called "Lakota" or "Dakota", and I kept including that in my comments to the student. As a result, it never occurred to me to see if she she could pronounce "Sioux".

So when this student said "The Sucks Indians wandered all over the Great Plains." I was horrified.

Meantime, the student who had Kansas talked about "The wheat fields of Kansas". Unfortunately, she weakened the /t/ in "wheat", so it sounded more like "weed fields of Kansas".

If she had only said it once or twice, I wouldn't have noticed. Alas, she said it a lot.

Then she said, "And the Bee-zhoan are native to Kansas."

I had no idea what she was talking about. All I could think was, "I've studied American history. I know the major Native American tribes. Who the Hell are the Bee-zhoan?"

"The Bee-zhoan live in a park in the Northwest corner of Kansas", she continued.

"Oh my God!" I thought to myself, "She means BISON!"

After the semester was over, I realized that all of this could be condensed into a narrative:

In the alternate universe United States that my students have created, before the coming of the White Man, the Sucks Indians roamed the Great Plains, which stretched from the Ozark Mountains of Ohio down to the Grand Canyon of Arkansas all the way out west through the weed fields of Kansas to the vast forests and inland lakes of Arizona. On those Great Plains, the Sucks Indians hunted the bee-zhoan and fought with the Apashays, when they came north through what is now New Mexico.

Now, I can't do this every semester. Normally, the various errors don't coalesce this easily. But this particular term was special.

Apr. 28th, 2014

dino head

A conversation with a friend, for lj idol

Scene: Coffee shop. We were discussing a play we had seen the week before.

Me: ... plus that play was totally pretentious. No one talks like that. It sounded like a horrible French script that was run through some exceptionally bad translation software.
Friend: I don't agree. I thought it was really interesting.
Me: Nope. Totally pretentious. The whole "everyone just stares blankly at the audience" ending... the stilted dialogue... the WAY too artsy set design... I mean, what was with making all the set pieces out of luggage?
Fr: They were a metaphor for change.
Me: If the entire stage is covered in metaphor, odds are you're doing something wrong. The only way this play could have been more pretentious is if a mime were involved somehow.
Fr: Please... you're a linguist. You're not a REAL theater person. I don't even think you know what "pretentious" means.
Me: Really? Trust me, I know from pretentious. Let me tell you how.
Me: 1) I have a bachelor's degree in French.
Me: 2) I have done significant graduate work in French.
Me: 3) I have written papers that begin with phrases like "Now, we must deconstruct..."
Me: 4) Those papers? They were written in French or Spanish.
Me: 5) I work in Academia.
Me: 6) I hang out with theater people.
Me: 7) In my spare time, I hang out at museums.
Me: I do not just know about pretension... I wallow in it.
Fr: ...
Me: If I call something pretentious... I promise you, it's pretentious.
Fr: Well...
Me: Oh, and I am enough of a theater person to know when something sucks. This play sucks.

I have had several variations on this conversation over the years. Most did concede that I know from pretentiousness.

Apr. 20th, 2014

dino head

Not my brother's keeper -- a story for LJ Idol

Stupid family drama from the early ninetiesCollapse )

Mar. 30th, 2014

no bear

Adventures in Absurdity: A tale from my Grad School Days for Lj Idol

Lord, this day was frustrating.Collapse )

Mar. 24th, 2014

wtf, eyes

A Story from the States Project, for LJ Idol

Students hit roadblocks all the time. Navigating those roadblocks can be frustrating for everyone involved, as in this story from a class I taught a few years ago.

Every semester, my class does The States Project: each student picks a state randomly from an envelope, then they do research on that state, producing a two to three minute video. We watch all the videos on the last day of class.

A few years ago, one of my students was researching Pennsylvania. She turned in her weekly research, which included this sentence:

“The Gettysburg Address was a farm where President Abraham Lincoln retired after leaving office.”

Okay, yes, I was appalled. However, I had seen this sort of thing before. This wasn’t the first time I’d done this project, so I’d seen similar levels of research failure before.

No. Seriously. The Grand Canyon has appeared in roughly a dozen states; entire mountain ranges have relocated; Illinois and North Carolina became islands; cities have just vanished and, once, Mt. Vesuvius ended up in Connecticut.

I corrected this set of research questions, taking points off for this question, and adding that The Gettysburg Address was actually a speech and that Lincoln hadn’t retired, rather, he had been assassinated.

Since my students usually accept when I correct these errors, I figured that was the end of it.

Unfortunately, this particular student was convinced that she was right. The next class, she came up to me demanding that I re-grade the assignment because she was absolutely right about Lincoln retiring to a farm in Gettysburg. She saw it online.

I shook my head sadly and refused, pointing out again that the Gettysburg Address was a speech, but this student steadfastly refused to believe that the word “Address” could be used like that. Even after I made her look “address” up.

Also, she had a hard time believing that anyone would shoot a president. She just couldn’t conceive of such a thing.

This student clung to her “research”. EVERY class she would pester me to give her those points back. She even produced a photo of a farmhouse where she claimed Lincoln retired. (I don’t even know where it came from.)

Her stubbornness was impressive in its way.

It took me a while, but I figured out where my student went wrong. President Eisenhower had a farm in Gettysburg that has since become a national monument. This student saw “president”, “farm” and “Gettysburg” and fearlessly leapt to her conclusion.

As Hobbes in Calvin and Hobbes once said, “Reading is easy when you don’t sweat comprehension.”

About a month later, we were going over rhythm and stress in English. One of the speeches that I use to teach this is The Gettysburg Address. In fact, all my students have to recite it.

So, as I was teaching the Gettysburg Address, I finally saw comprehension in her eyes. She was totally embarrassed. I didn’t even have to say anything to her.

She suddenly stopped asking for those points back. Oh, and, her states project video? She didn’t mention Gettysburg at all.
I teach speech classes at a college. This was an adult learner, whose native language was English.

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dino head

June 2014




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