Wednesday, October 31, 2007
My mentor sent me an amazing YouTube video created by an introduction to cultural anthropology class at Kansas State University. It's about the failings of the current post-secondary education curriculum for Gen Y students, essentially. I thought it tied in beautifully with article on Gen Y attitudes about work I'd assigned the students Monday. My plan was to come in, have them watch the video (and also pass out some candy, because it's Halloween, after all), and have them respond to these questions: In what ways is school like a job? What are your motivations for being in school? I wanted them to see that they are self-interested, goal-oriented, financially aware young people, as the article I had them read suggested.
My technology mishap occurred when I couldn't get my mentor's lap top to access UT's wireless Internet. She and I both worried with the computer for a few minutes before I decided I'd have the students just respond to the questions and dive straight into the article. The video was a wonderful supplement, but I could work without it. Fortunately, in the 6 or 7 minutes I had them write, my mentor was able to access the wireless and the video went off without a hitch.
I quite shocked myself by being on my toes enough to have a plan b (though I hadn't initially prepared a plan b). I felt really comfortable altering my lesson plan, and I didn't freak out by the thought that (my god!) I might have to spend an extra five minutes blabbing away instead of having the students watch the video. I'm learning to be more flexible.
The greatest part of my teaching experience today was the students' responses to questions I had them write about. These guys, man, they are smart, they think critically, and they know what they want in life. It makes me wonder if I was so pulled together when I was 18...
In other news, I've been writing, writing, writing about all that stuff I don't want to write about for the past couple days (sorry for the angsty post, btw), so poetry class, beware. I'm reading Paradise Lost and realizing, yet again, how much I don't like Milton. I understand how influential his work is. I can agree that his text is culturally and historically important. I'll even go so far to say I understand (slightly) why people should read (parts of) it. Still, that doesn't make me enjoy it anymore.
I think I finally decided on a topic for my Renaissance Tragedy seminar paper. I want to look at the division and measurement of love in King Lear. I'm interested in Lear's preoccupation with hearing he possesses (but not really needing to possess) all of his daughters' affection, why Cordelia refuses to tell him what he wants to hear, and, essentially, why so much in the play (especially Act 1, Sc. 1) rests on the assumption that a person's capacity for love is finite, and that love only exists in one manifestation. Indeed, I want to explore the economic quantification of love in the play. My God, I'm becoming such a Shakespeare nerd.
I'm going to remain tight lipped about the Democratic debates last night and Obama's allegedly anti-gay rhetoric that's been burning up the blog world (Atrios, anyone?). Still processing all the info into an informed opinion.
I realized yesterday upon hearing some classmates talk about veganism that I haven't eaten meat in a good while, and I should just switch to eating strictly vegetarian. But, then, I don't like doing anything strictly. Plus, Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, is coming up, and what's turkey day without the turkey? So, I ate a chicken sandwich and moved on with my life.
Monday, October 29, 2007
I want to write an Arkansas poem, but I'm scared what it will show me. I discovered lots of things there--cheap beer, Ani DiFranco, liberal politics--and even more about myself. It wasn't until I moved here, to Knoxville, that I realized what a pro I am at repressing. At giving a little, then pulling back and wishing to God I hadn't.
Let's just leave it at this: I think of that place fondly, and I miss it sometimes, when I'm driving home from school and I see a changing leaf. Arkansas in autumn could be my favorite place. I carry the landscape deep inside somewhere, in the sinews between muscle and bone.
At the NWPCA Summer Institute back in June and July, I read an article by an English teacher who'd kept a journal of his classroom experiences over the years. He even included some excerpts from the journal as he discussed how reflecting on his days in the classroom made him a better teacher. I thought his idea was brilliant, and I vowed then and there to keep a journal of my teaching experiences once I began working as a way to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses in the classroom. Besides, who doesn't love a good teacher story? I suredo, and I hope you do, too. Here's the rundown of my first day:
I woke up extra early this morning so I wouldn't have to rush around my apartment pulling up my pants, searching for my keys, and eating a bagel simultaneously while racing the clock to make it to school on time (like I do every other morning). In the chaos, I invariably leave some essential book or assignment behind, realizing its absence from my heavy black bag only after I've already made it to campus. (Man, if you only knew how many times I've had to run back home for a textbook this semester...) The extra time was a good idea. It gave me a cushion to run back home if I needed to (I didn't), and also to pump myself up for the day by jamming out to electronic dance music in my underwear while I fixed my coffee.
I dressed up for the occasion, which if you know me at all means I just wore khakis instead of jeans, a polo instead of a t-shirt. I'm not one for ties, jackets, etc. I did, however, wear my black dressier (but not quite dress) shoes, because they make me about half an inch taller. Even though I have a good rapport with my class, I still felt power shoes would boost my confidence, and, at 5'6'', I'll take any help I can get in the height department.
I got to class early and went over my notes for the Rose and Ehrenreich readings I assigned. I borrowed (because 'stole' is such a maligned word) your idea, Josh, of writing questions on the board, dividing the class into groups, and having each group respond to a different question. It went pretty well. I did have to walk from group to group and clear up some points of confusion, but that may be because they are freshmen and because I tend to ask complicated questions. We did, however, have a great discussion on low wage work.
I think what made the discussion work so well was the fact that our readings--which dealt with waitressing and working at Wal-Mart--were easily accessible for the students. Half of them currently are or in the past have been servers. Another few have experience working in retail. When I realized the wealth of first hand information sitting at the desks before me, I ran with it. Today I learned that Alex is a waiter at a Mexican restaurant, where a table of 6 left him a 15-cent tip Friday night, and Dallas works at Wal-Mart, where everyone hates her job but can't afford to quit. I also shared some of my tales of low-wage job woe, specifically about my stint working at Subway, where one learns there is no creative license allowed when making a sandwich: 3 tomatoes on a six inch, no more than 2 cheese triangles, etc. In my description of the job, I actually said "sandwich artist, my ass!" which, of course, made my crowd of 18-year-olds giggle gleefully. (Note to self: drop a curse word or two into class discussion and you'll have the students eating out of your hand).
The thing that is most exciting about my teaching experience is that I got kids who never talk in class to come out of their shells a bit and participate in discussion. I really don't know how I did it. Maybe by asking questions. Maybe by sharing my work experiences they knew they could be comfortable with me, that I'm one of them (though this notion worries me, because I don't want to be too much like them. I don't want to be their friend). But anyway, in a moment of serendipity, two students who never talk in class spoke up, and they made really interesting comments. I was quite impressed with them.
I learned a great lesson today: students don't respond the way you think they will. I was so sure that they would find Ehrenreich's piece too polarizing, especially since she talks about Wal-Mart employees' need of a labor union (dirty words down South), but they really connected with the reading. I think it was her tone, her harsh matter-of-factness. Teenagers love to be jarred. I'm actually quite excited they liked the excerpt so much, because next year I plan on teaching Nickel and Dimed in my 102 course, and I have hope that maybe my students will really take to it.
On the schedule for Wednesday: Gen Y work ethic and career outlook. Here's to hoping it goes as swimmingly as today's class!
Sunday, October 28, 2007
We're going to discuss low-wage work tomorrow. I had the students read an essay called "The Working Life of the Waitress" by Mike Rose and an excerpt from Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed (it's the chapter on working at Walmart). The Rose piece is really interesting. He builds a case of the complex cognitive and physical skills one must master in order to be a waitress and objectively, but convincingly, argues that much of the work deemed "unskilled labor" is actually highly skilled work. He uses a mix of personal interviews, scientific data, and current literature on the topic of work to make a really compelling case. I want my students to see how he utilizes different types of research and maintains an objective tone throughout his essay. These elements make the piece credible, and I want them pick up some of these writing tricks for their upcoming research papers.
The Ehrenreich, I must say, doesn't impress me from an argumentative standpoint. Her argument is inductive, she has an agenda, she doesn't pull back from her goal of exposing the seedy underbelly of American low-wage jobs. And I appreciate that. I love Nickel and Dimed.
I think the immersion-investigation Ehrenreich does is interesting, important, shocking, and horrifying. But I don't think she's fair enough in letting the facts speak for themselves or letting her audience come to terms with their own opinions and ideas. In a lot of ways, her argument brow beats you into agreeing with her-- Absolutely no one can be happy working at Walmart, all middle management is corrupt--and I don't think taking from your audience the power to choose what they believe works to establish credibility. Call me old fashioned.
Regardless of my criticism, I still love the book, and I agree with a lot of what it argues. I've worked many (many, many) low wage jobs, and I have seen first hand what it's like for someone with adult responsibilities struggling to make it on $7.00 and hour. And that's the point I want to drive home to my students: that there are so many people in the workforce, especially in service jobs, who we depend on daily, and they aren't making a living wage. There is a gross discrepancy between the value of ones job and how much one is valued at their job.
End moralizing teacher talk.
P.S.--Hey Amanda, remember the time we saw Barb speak in Pocatello and she said "if you're against gay marriage, then I urge you, do not marry a gay person"? Those were the days :-)
Friday, October 26, 2007
I feel this trip will mark some sort of milestone in my life. It will mean I'm becoming cultured, I'm going places. Two years ago I went to San Francisco. Now I'm going to New York City. Growing up poor in a small Southern town, I always entertained ideas of seeing California and New York about as wholeheartedly as I pursued notions of being an astronaut or runway model. These places seemed just so foreign for me, so out of reach. Had I been asked five years ago if I ever thought I'd go either place, I'd have said no, that I never figured I'd make it to a city bigger than Memphis. And I was content with that, too. I didn't know any better. My family doesn't travel, short of a trip down Highway 61 to the casinos in Tunica, or a little further south down to Vicksburg to see the Civil War battle sites. I come from practical people, who spend their money on car insurance and new glasses, not whirlwind tours of Broadway.
When I went to college in Arkansas, my momma and daddy didn't know what to think. Neither of them had ever been there, so for them I might as well have been packing my bags for China. Three hours from home is much like going halfway across the world for people who have never lived anywhere except the same small town. Since then I've spent a summer living in New Brunswick, and now I live in Knoxville. Seems like I've become more adventurous. Here I am, forever a Mississippi expat, girding my loins and gathering my bearings to see the Big Apple.
It's an exciting time, folks.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I'm still working on those 6-10 lines per day I wrote about earlier this semester. They seem to be paying off in poems. Recently, though, I've been writing a lot about my mother, and my efforts to construct a poem from these lines are taking me nowhere. (I'm considering seeking professional help for my poem and my psyche). I decided to mix it up for tonight (and share with you, reader) my lines. Taking my inspiration from a classmate's wonderful poem entitled "More On What I Don't Know," I thought I'd try my hand at writing some things I do know (which, as graduate school/adult life teaches me daily, isn't very much). Here's my short list:
- Knowledge will get you so far. Knowing how to treat people will get farther.
- When baking cookies, grease the pan even when the recipe says not to (I'm anxious to hear your response to this one, Jenn!)
- Love a sappy song well aware that you can't make someone love you with a song.
- Eating breakfast makes me hungrier by lunch.
- Once upon a time, my parents were people, too (making all the mistakes that personhood requires)
What are two or three things you know for sure?
Monday, October 22, 2007
Some of the stuff reported in the article surprised me. While I'm well aware of the tech savvy workforce Gen Y has created (and I feel as if I betray my generation by not knowing HTML), Gen Y's trends toward opportunistic job seeking, working with friends, and volunteering is very thought provoking. I can see how members of my generation are primarily self-interested (and thus less loyal to companies which we assume will screw is over in the end), but the volunteerism is interesting. Perhaps Gen Yers are padding their resumes with volunteer experience as a self-interested way of getting ahead in the work world.
Also, note the trend among recent college graduates who move back in with their parents while they search for jobs. This provides a cushion between rent-and-utilities-paying adult life and mom-does-my-laundry student life in which twentysomethings can take time to find higher paying jobs without taking the financial risk of moving out on their own. Personally, I'd sooner live in a cardboard box than move back in with my parents, but I can see how the comfort and stability of living at home until something better comes along is appealing to some my age. Being an adult is scary sometimes.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Here are the rules:
The purpose of this meme is to inspire some reflection about how we shop and what we purchase. The idea isn't that consumption itself is somehow bad, but that we all could probably stand to put a little bit more thought into what we buy. And, of course, it's supposed to be fun. So here goes!1. What are you proud of?
Pick a recent shopping trip -- for clothes, shoes, groceries, doesn't matter. The only guideline is that it will be easier to play if you purchased at least a few things. Now tell us, about your purchases:
I went grocery shopping with my friend Jenny yesterday. We went to the vegetable stand right across the street from my apartment complex. I knew I had to use up some carrots and chicken broth in my fridge, so I decided to make soup. I bought lots of veggies, but I guess my proudest purchase is butternut squash. I bought one a couple weeks ago and had no idea what to do with it. I searched recipes online and found a great one for roasted butternut squash soup. It was delicious, but I wanted to put my own spin (and make a lighter version). So, that's what I did.
2. What are you embarrassed by?
Nothing really, though I am wondering why I bought such a large bundle of fresh parsley. Looks like I'm going to be parsley-ing it up this week!
3. What do you think you couldn't live without?
Well, I guess I couldn't live without anything I bought since it was food, and I've got to eat. But really, besides the parsley, I think I was a smart produce shopper this week. I used almost all of my ingredients in the soup. Usually when I by produce, it spoils before I use it all up, like the tomatoes and cucumbers wilting away in my crisper drawer even as I type.
4. What did you most enjoy purchasing?
I guess the parsley, just because it made me feel so gourmet.
5. What were you most tempted by? (This last one may or may not be an actual purchase!)
I almost bought a jar of locally produced honey and some pastries from a local bakery that were conveniently displayed beside each other. But then I remembered that I'm on a very fixed income, I have honey, and I had all the ingredients to make a sweet treat (I'm a sucker for sweets). So I skipped those items and came and made brownies.
Now tag 5 others!
Dear, I don't think I have anymore regular readers of my blog that Jenn hasn't already tagged! Um, Laura, you haven't updated in a while. Maybe tagging you will give you an incentive!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
Here are some distinctions my classmates offered:
- -Prose poems are tighter and less elliptical
- -Their emphasis is less on the details of the poem and more on the leaps between ideas we don't see on the page
- -They avoid the emphasis of certain images line breaks create
- -They serve as vehicles for unwritten tenors
- -They provide a form in which the poet can juxtapose different ideas that work to elucidate on a bigger idea
For a prose poem to work, it must:
- -Be driven by metaphor
- -Have rhythmical language
- -Speak to a larger concern
- -Have movement from individual to universal meaning
Now, I don't pretend to boil poetry writing down to a check list of rules one must abide by. Art is not that formulaic. For me, though, these guidelines help make sense of the distinction between poetic language and descriptive language. Also, they give me a way of writing effective prose poetry (something I'm dying to try).
Here's an example of a prose poem by Gary Young we discussed tonight that I just loved:
The sense of loss in this poem, and the unknowing of things the poet once knew is quite stunning. I appreciate the lost sweater as a metaphor for a God who may not be so benevolent as we have been taught. I think, as my teacher recommended, Young's poem works well with Robert Frost's "Design":
| I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,|
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth --
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth --
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.
Maybe one day I'll teach these poems together as an example of the different forms poets use to get at similar ideas.
I think I'm going to play around with writing a prose poem for next week's poetry workshop. Let's see how that goes.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Here's a short clip.
The interesting thing about the whole scandal is that Craig pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct back in August. And he admitted to keeping his arrest secret from his family for six weeks. (His wife, Suzanne, sits to his right and affirms her support of his innocence in the interview from their living room in Boise). However, now, two months after the guilty plea and amid cries for his resignation from Republicans in the Senate and in Idaho, Craig says he's innocent, he is a victim of entrapment, and, most definitely, he is not gay.
Now, I was not in the airport bathroom when the sex solicitation allegedly occurred, nor do I know exactly what the arresting officer deems as a sexual proposition when he affirmed the senator "signaled by hand and foot gestures that he wanted to have sex with him."
What I do know, though, is this:
The bathroom was a noted gay haunt (Craig frequented the St. Paul airport on a weekly basis, according to the interview)
The Senator plead guilty to disorderly conduct (a lesser charge than arrested for)
He did not want his wife and kids to know about his slip up
Given these simple facts, it seems pretty clear to me that the man, regardless of his sexual orientation, is not innocent in this crime. Craig claims in his interview his a fighter and he never walks away from a challenge. Well, Mr. Craig, it certainly seems you initially didn't try too hard to fight this battle. A guilty plea to a lesser, though related charge. An almost two-month cover up. Looks like somebody knows he was in the wrong and tried like hell to keep the scandal from going public.
But Craig failed, and now he must maintain his innocence, another politician adding to the ranks of politicos who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. (At least Bill Clinton went through unwarranted impeachment for his sexual slip up).
What bothers me most about the entire Craig ordeal is what it communicates about homosexuality. Now, I'm liberal. I'm open-minded. I can believe that a man who has an isolated sexual encounter with another man is not gay. God knows I've had my fair share of encounters with these types of men. However, Craig was caught soliciting sex in a public restroom with a reputation as a hot bed for gay sexual encounters. He says in his interview he flies through the St. Paul airport almost weekly, and his track record shows him to be a strong opponent to gay rights. Well, it seems to me, then, that he'd know what went on in the airport bathroom, and if he's so averse to homosexuality, he'd have avoided the john altogether, or at least been on the prosecuting end of the sex sting. Therefore, I have a feeling the guy had solicited gay sex in the bathroom many times before, June 11 being merely the first time he was caught. I can't prove my theory, but I'm willing to bet many Americans can see my point.
So, what does his fervent denial (and dare I say back-pedaling?) communicate about homosexuality? Well, my that is this: that a gay lifestyle (for lack of a better term) involves sneaking around and denying who you are. It's all about risky sex, and it's a private identity that should be shielded from the public. It short, homosexuality is something real and ugly, something that must be kept in bathroom stalls and out of American politics.
Looks like Craig's sex scandal does exactly what his legislation tried to do: further villianize homosexuality. Sure, it may cost him his career, or the Republican party some brownie points while the story's still in the headlines, but I think scandals like this only reinforce conservative ideas about the shamefulness of homosexuality. Let's hope airports don't beef up security against queer travelers as a result. Just what the country doesn't need is a "code pink" added to its broad rainbow of color-coded terrorist threats.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I'm not really connected to that house like I used to be. Sure, I grew up there. And it's always been a symbol of stability standing in the background of my transient life over the past four years. But, I haven't lived there in so long, and I've lived in so many different places since living there, that it doesn't feel so much like "home" anymore. Home for me is people. Home is my trashy-wonderful family, my colorful friends. At least that's my working definition this week.
So I am looking forward to this trip back to those people who have made me who I am. It will be nice to relax after a stressful but exciting half semester of grad school. I plan on eating lots, sleeping more, visiting, shopping, and of course slipping into my thick and comforting Southern drawl. Diphthongs, here I come!
But, honestly, I'm glad I come back here on Sunday, back to the life I'm creating, and I'm learning to enjoy.
To the athletic man in runner's pants I met at the Laundromat—
I apologize for making your whites stiff because I was absent minded and did not bring dryer sheets.
(You impressed me when I asked to borrow one of yours and, realizing it was the last of the box,
You stabbed its middle with your house key, slinked in your index finger and ripped it in two offering me half.)
I apologize for the destruction I caused and for making you suffer a week of rough undershirts on your back
and for gawking as you folded your stiff briefs in public without shame and for my stiffened nipples, aroused by your non-chalance.by Tim Sisk
Monday, October 8, 2007
I had a tough weekend. On top of being extremely busy, I was wretchedly ill on Saturday. I couldn't get out of bed until 4 p.m. Needless to say, nothing got done that day. I also fear I've upset my good friend Mike. I live in constant fear that I've upset someone. I need to get some self-worth and realize it's okay if people are mad at me, because they will eventually get over it. Let me know if any of you are selling and self-worth, preferably cheap.
I'm driving home overnight Wednesday. My car has been giving me trouble* so I hope it doesn't break down. I'm excited to see my family and my friends and eat at lots of restaurants. Every time my brother or I come home, my parents treat it like a celebration and take us out to eat many, many times. Yay food.
Here's to hoping everyone has a good Monday.
*My car cranks just fine but when I put it in gear (automatic transmission), it sometimes goes dead. This happens most often when I shift from Park to Reverse on a cold start. It also sputters and sometimes dies when I'm stopped at traffic lights. These sputterings only occur after a cold start. Any mechanics have a diagnosis?
Thursday, October 4, 2007
After class, I talked to my best friend from high school, Robin, on the phone for an hour. She called to tell me she's thinking of switching grad programs, and we wound up catching up for a while. I don't talk to her nearly as much as I used to, so it's nice to hear from her. Then I went to a screening of Before Stonewall in the campus library, a documentary about gay history before sexual liberation and the Stonewall Rebellion. It was fascinating stuff, particularly since it's a research interest of mine. In a few weeks, the second part of the documentary, After Stonewall, will be shown. Now, that's when sexual liberation and AIDS comes into play, historical moments I'm interested in and knowledgeable about. It should be an interesting film.
I came home afterwards to catch the ends of Kid Nation and America's Next Top Model (I hate Tyra Banks, by the way, and Kid Nation is a scary concept but so damned addictive). Then I got sucked into watching the new drama Gossip Girl, based off of those teeny bopper pulpy paperbacks. Which, of course, now I want to read after watching the show.
I usually don't watch t.v., but a night of mindless reality shows and teenage dramas was a nice break. I went to bed an hour earlier than I usually do, and woke up this morning raring to go at it another day. I'm meeting with the grad director at 11 to discuss my courses for next semester. So many interesting courses are being offered, it's going to be hard to pick just 3!