Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We Had a Baby

Since October, lots has happened.  I got my dissertation done, and we had a baby.  I'm doing baby blogging at so feel free to go over and check out pictures!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Things that can be crossed off the list

Has anyone ever read Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad Are Friends? In it, there's a lovely story about Frog (Toad?) making a list of everything he needed to do, losing it, and being paralyzed all day by the silent tyranny of the list. At the end, Toad (Frog?) writes "Go to bed" on the ground, they cross it out, and conquer the list's imperatives.

This story has left me with a psychological desire to make lists only after I have accomplished things. Otherwise, I cede too much power to a piece of paper. So here is a list of things that I have done.

1) Finished (except for minor revisions that will only take an afternoon) two chapters of my six chapter dissertation. Am a little peeved that I have created a situation in which I am going to defend my dissertation when I can't drink. Still, there will probably be a party, so everyone block December 15th out.

2) Rationalized the intensely irrational sock system that was prevailing at our house. And when I say "intensely irrational sock system" I mean that the socks had somehow conspired to avoid pairing at all costs. Some of them, I am certain, had moved to Australia to avoid having out feet put in them. We dealt with the problem in different ways. It doesn't make Leo uncomfortable all day to wear mismatched socks, so he did that some. I kind of panic when my socks don't match (A good day for me is when my socks, my shirt and my underwear are matched). So I just wore flip-flops and was frightened of my sock drawer. I realize that this is the second time I have mentioned this feat, but it's a big thing for me.

3) Have done my Latin for the reading group today. This is good for the blood pressure, because now I won't have to sight translate in front of people who don't give me time to think, but start chipping in with useful advice just as I've sorted the sentence out in my head. Their yapping drives my carefully balanced translation out of my brain, and I just end up getting snappy with them.

4) Have mentally rearranged the furniture. (This is psychologically important, and since I'm not doing any of the actual moving of the furniture, it means that my work is done!)

5) Just now, I managed not to murder a student who walked into class 20 minutes late for an assignment that involved cumulative writing (each student moving along and writing a paragraph stemming from a previous student's paragraph). He doesn't understand why I have to come up with a different assignment for him. So not murdering him counts as a real accomplishment.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Where's My Sherpa?

I have decided that I will defend my dissertation on December 15. I make this decision because it seems relatively certain to me that I will have no credibility if I waddle into my interviews visibly about to burst a baby out into the middle of the room and say "Oh, yeah. I'll finish my dissertation this spring. No problem." So it has to be done. I've returned to the death march work schedule (with time taken out for naps, of course), but this afternoon, I decided to do something different.

I have conquered the laundry. Leo has socks (matched!) and underwear and t-shirts all neatly arranged in his clothing area. I have sorted all my clothes into "fits" and "maybe sometime this will fit again" piles, and am about to move my clothing bins downstairs, as part of the great "let's not carry the baby up the steep, narrow, treacherous stairs" gradual migration down to the first floor bedroom.

Now we just need to find someone who can help Leo move a really heavy couch out of that room, switch the beds, and . . . oh, I'm not going to think about it right now. I want to focus on the important things: the laundry mountain has been scaled. Take that, Sir Edmund Hilary!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Open Letter To My Students

Dear students,

I have a few notes I'd like to emphasize after reading your essays (well, most of your essays. After a while, I have to take a break and write a blog post. They're that dire.)

1) When the assignment asks you to write a causal analysis, it is meant to be a paper (wait for it) analyzing causes. Many of you wrote something you entitled a casual analysis, and your papers lived up to the name.

2) When the assignment guidelines remind you that it is important to have a thesis, it would be good if you managed to include such an entity in your paper.

3) Oooh - footnote to soon-to-be ex-students: I don't care that you've made an appointment with your advisor at three today and you need my signature on your drop form before then. I could care less. I'm not going to drag myself down to school while I'm trying to grade the other 39 papers just to be convenient to you.

4) When you're asked to do a rhetorical analysis, there's no need - no need at all - to take ridiculously strong positions. The Mission Statement of the University is unlikely to be a gross manipulation of our emotions. They aren't lying to innocent high school students to lure them it. It's way more likely to be a statement of what the University perceives as its mission.

5) Citing what I say in class is weird. I mean, overcitation is better than undercitation, but you can have too much of a good thing.

a) Spelling my name wrong when you cite me is unlikely to impress.

6) When you're asked to look at an article, and then consider some possible causes for the problems the article identifies, that is not a coded way of saying "summarize the article."

7) When the assignment says that the paper needs a title, that means that the paper needs a title.

8) When the assignment stipulates 12-point Times New Roman, that means that I want the paper in 12-point Times New Roman.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seriously - they can't READ?

I have 40 students. Yesterday, I handed out 40 syllabuses. (Well, actually 41. Someone came to my class, realized halfway through she was in the wrong section, found her real class, and then came back to see if she could be in my class instead, because I'm "cooler." Which is, of course, true.) Today I have received 13 emails asking me what the assignment is for tomorrow.

On Sunday, I sent them an email with the syllabus attached, as well as the readings for Wednesday and Friday. Labeled. With dates.

Yet still, 13 bright little sparks want to know if they're supposed to read anything for tomorrow.

It's going to be a long semester.

In better news, I stopped throwing up and so dragged my dissertation out of its box. It's a lot better than I remember, and I'm looking forward to revisiting the first chapter to pump some footnotes in. Then it will be ready to begin making the rounds to my committee members, and I can have my defense before I have this baby. So that's the good news for today.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Plagiarizers deserve nasty deaths

So yesterday I caught a plagiarizer, though there was just the slenderest bit of deniability, if the person was willing to admit to being stupid and inattentive and unaware of things that I am tolerably certain that I knew in third grade when I realized that I couldn't copy information on the Pilgrims directly out of the encyclopedia for my Thanksgiving report.

I told her on her paper to see me to discuss her grade. I also told her that the point of the assignment was not exercising her skills in cutting and pasting, but to take in information, assimilate it, and reproduce it in her own words. After talking to the department chair and the writing program director, I agreed to let her rewrite the paper on the assumption that she was incapable of taking things in the first time I said them.

This morning, without having consulted with me, she sent me a revised version of her paper. She had lightly altered the bits that I had pointed out as copied, and made infinitesimal changes to the bit that I hadn't bothered to find online, but had suggested was copied. These changes involved excising words or phrases, often at the expense of sense.

So having been told to rewrite it in her own words, she did the equivalent of changing the odd adjective, and sometimes leaving out a phrase that she didn't understand.

I'm going to rip great handfuls of my hair out. I will let her rewrite it if I have to, but I really want to destroy her grade for this. I wish I could convey to students the rage that boils through me when I find that they're cheating. It's an insult to my intelligence. It's a waste of my time. It makes me so angry I want to tear giant chunks out of them and boil them for supper.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

It was an argument by analogy. Analogy!

I'm here again with tales of students. This one isn't so much frustrating as funny. Very funny. So funny that it makes me giggle just thinking of it. Because I am a bad person.

Anyway, the assignment for the final paper in this class is to react to Arthur Levine's and Jeanette S. Cureton's "Collegiate Life: An Obituary." In this essay, they argue that the four-year residential college is dying, due to a number of pressures caused by a shifting population of students and changing goals for college education. In the final section of their essay, they provide a number of possible courses for colleges to take to retain a sense of community. One possible essay I suggested was discussing those solutions and considering their efficacy.

Early in the essay, however, they also included this paragraph:

Think about what you want from your bank. We know what we want: an ATM on every corner. And when we get to the ATM, we want there to be no line. We also would like a parking spot right in front of the ATM, and to have our checks deposited the moment they arrive at the bank, or perhaps the day before! And we want no mistakes in processing-unless they are in our favor. We also know what we do not want from our banks. We do not want them to provide us with softball leagues, religious counseling, or health services. We can arrange all of these things for ourselves and don't wish to pay extra fees for the bank to offer them.

The essay then went on to suggest that students want a similar relationship with the university that we want with our bank. My student read that to mean that students want the same things. I got an essay discussing whether an ATM on every corner would be effective in building community and retaining students from matriculation to graduation (though she didn't use those words). Apparently, frequent ATMs would be a draw for this student, though she thinks that every corner might be excessive.

Am I wicked for laughing? It was just a rough draft . . .