Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Anybody else up for a nap??

Well today is Wednesday, and Whitney and I have our project mostly done. I guess it was a little bit bigger of an idea than we thought it was going to be. C'est la vie. Anyways I've noticed something about the English dept in general this week...a severe lack of sympathy (no offense Dr. McKinney); I joke...5 papers plus our portfolio due before finals. Compared to some of the people I've been talking to, I've got it easy (poor kids). Is this some sort of weeding-out process by the dept to get rid of people who don't want to be here, or is this some cruel scientific study to test how much (or little)sleep students actually need to function? I'm starting to believe the latter. I would be blogging about some insightful subject from a class today instead of this rant; however, due to project overload I have not been to many classes this week, and expect I'm not alone. What really puts the topping on the cake is having to study the effects of stress and sleeplessness in Health class this week (it's not a pretty subject). Anyways, I'm not blaming the professors; truth be told I am quite the procrastinator. However I really believe that a lot of my (and other students') procrastination is because when there is a breather where I could work ahead, I have no motivation because I'm so tired/burned out by that point. It's a vicious cycle. Ok, well rant official over... I hope everyone else is handling pre-finals well. My best advice- Walmart: individual ice cream cups/frozen pie slices and Starbucks; may they bring you all the joy and caffination they have brought me.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Paper 3

Finally, observations are finished and writing on paper 3 can begin... This was my thought when I left Friday with the full intentions of producing a well-developed, interactive, paper 3 website. Long story short, it hasn't quite happened yet. Whitney and I have the final product in our heads, and we have a draft mostly prepared for peer review. Unfortunately I have been slowly losing motivation the last few weeks of the semester (or really since we moved back in in August :) ) I need to step back and refocus, but instead I'd rather play outside. Hopefully Whitney and I can stay on task and are ideas will all come together the way we imagined it. I think group papers are the hardest to write because each member has her own unique style that sounds completely different from the other members. Yet, I like working with other people to feed off of their ideas and collaborate to make better ones. Perhaps Whitney and I should go to the Writing Center...anyone still need observations??

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Online Tutoring...Do we have to??

First and foremost I would like to congratulate Whitney on posting before me twice this week. Not that we race or anything...but if we did, she would totally win. Kudos.

Ok now down to business. As probably suggested by this blog title, I am not exactly the number one fan of online tutoring. In fact, my name probably belongs at the bottom of the list. I have to say first of all that I do admire the intentions of online tutoring mentioned in the articles. For example, I think it is great that students can now access writing centers at their convenience (even if that may increase the increasing lack of oxygen students receive by staying in their dorm rooms). I also like the idea that students can leave the online sessions with a print out of what was worked on that they can refer to later. However, that is pretty much where my positive attitude towards online tutoring ends. Here's why (and I will try to keep this short):

1. I don't like talking to computers. I know unfortunately I was born in the digital age, but technology hates me. This is a selfish reason to hate online tutoring, but I think that because I am uncomfortable the student may be uncomfortable, or at the very least I may not be as effective as I would face-to-face.
2. Body language, to me, is irreplaceable. I am constantly looking for signs that the student agrees/disagrees/doesn't understand what she is hearing, and if I can't see those signs I feel like I can't assess the situation as well.
3. I don't believe students are any more prepared for an online session, and sometimes they are even less so. I think in an online session, students can multi-task (IM/listen to music/eat/talk on the phone), and this definitely takes away from their focus.
4. A lot of the technology used for online tutoring has kinks in it, and a lot of time is wasted during the sessions while both tutors and students try to adapt. This may sound strange, but I've had several sessions where the student and I are typing at the same time and interrupting each other so our ideas don't line up. In addition, I've had just as many sessions where the technology quits working and the screen freezes, or one person is disconnected.

I have some other general concerns, but this blog is getting long. Also I'm not trying to say that because I don't like online tutoring I won't approach it with an open mind. I do online sessions at work, and I try to make them as helpful and friendly as any face-to-face. My main point is that I think the articles we read were a little Bedford-ish in that they present more of the positive intentions than what actually goes on.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Manic Monday

Today was one of the more hectic days in a series of what appear to be the most chuck-full days of the semester yet. But alas, the end is near. I'm glad that the semester is almost over; however, when I start to think about it, I realize that means that deadlines are fast approaching. For example, I observed my first session today at the Learning Center for our upcoming paper. I didn't officially observe tutoring, but instead I got a feel for the surroundings (the Core Desk is a foreign place to us Math Desk workers). Even though I finally got going on this project, I feel like it is going to catch me off guard next week when I actually have to write about it. But even that worry is put off by another project that is due even sooner. On the bright side of things, Whitney and I finished our discussion leader stuff, so I guess that's one small thing out of the way. I thought things went relatively well even though I presented our author as a boy. It was an honest mistake; I thought perhaps Muriel was the male version of Miriam. Anyways, that aside, I feel relieved that I finished at least one minor project for the week.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pre-Class pondering

I read the essays that are assigned for today, and I think the idea of censorship will be interesting to discuss. In general, I point out sexist or vulgar language when it appears that the student has used it unconsciously. Granted this is a judgement call, but I try to base it on whether the student uses it throughout her work as an entire idea or if it simply a few words/one line. For example, if a student came in with a paper about how women should not have jobs, (wrong as he may be) that's his opinion and main idea. Therefore, I don't think it's my place as a tutor to censor him. However, if a student slips a vulgar/sexist word into one sentence in an essay about how business works, then he may have done so without considering how his audience would react. In that case, I wouldn't force him to take it out, I would simply ask him who his audience is and have him consider the effects his language may cause.

In response to the second article about consent, I was reminded of something Phil said the other day. I forget what it was that we were talking about in class when when Phil mentioned that he always tries to set the tone and expectations for the session at the very beginning. I think about setting the tone and making the student comfortable, but laying out expectations usually slips my mind. However, I agree that the beginning of the session can be incredibly important, and I think that a lot of the issues the second essay deals with can be addressed by doing just as Phil suggests.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Murphy and DiPardo

So I was thinking about Monday's class discussion concerning whether or not a tutor should go into a session expecting to learn something from it/make a change (whether the change be significant or minor). It reminded me of a debate (that turned into a near-full out argument) I had with a friend once about the expectations of teachers, especially English teachers. A newspaper article referenced a letter to the editor concerning past and recent movies displaying ideal, unique teaching practices. Some of the movies mentioned included Freedom Writers and The Dead Poet Society, and the article talked about how these movies set up unrealistic expectations of teachers to become "heros" in the classrooms. The movies are about English teachers that drastically change students' perspectives on writing and literature, and both the article and the letter to the editor agreed that this was unrealistic. My friend and I were talking about it, and he said that he also agrees. I was not too upset at this point; I agree that the situations in movies are ideal. However, what I disagree with is the idea that teachers should go into the classroom not expecting/hoping to have a significant impact on students. My friend said (and I'll never forget this), "teaching is just another occupation. You go in, do your job, and clock out." I'm not becoming a teacher, but this idea upset me anyways. I know that teachers can't be expected to change each and every student's life in a dramatic way, and I recognize that the stress of attempting to do so would be overwhelming. However, I am a huge believer in the idea that if you don't go into an occupation like teaching (or tutoring to get more on topic) with the mentality that you want to go the extra distance to impact lives, then you never will. I believe that like it or not, teachers should want to have some impact on students, whether it is small or large; teaching (to me anyways) is not "just another occupation." To bring this not so short story back to tutoring and what we talked about in class, I think that if every tutor was out to "counsel" each "patient" and expected to make significant breakthroughs in each session, then he/she would be sorely disappointed. However, I think tutors should at least realize the added responsibility of attempting to make those little breakthroughs/learn something minor from each session, or else that tutor will never really impact anyone at all.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I observed my English 230 class today during the first 10 minutes of lecture. We were discussing a play that we read, although there was not much discussion going on.

1) 3 people have computers
2) Almost no one is talking (class hasn’t started)
[class starts]
3) Many people are doing other work
4) Room warm, but everyone is wearing a coat/fleece
5) No one is sitting facing the desktop computers (lined around the room)
6) One student comes in late then leaves again
7) Lighting is very dim
8) The professor talks very loudly
9) Prof. also sits on desk w/ elbow on podium
10) Prof. talks with his hands
11) He points at the power point often, even when not talking about something on the slide
12) There’re 14 students
13) Students all raise hands to ask a question
14) 4 tables in the center of the room, very few people sit there
15) Many students look like the scene in Ferris Bueller (chewing gum, scribbling, staring blankly, leaning on hands)
16) Most students are staring at the front of the room but not at anything in particular
17) Prof. makes sarcastic jokes (about Eng majors expected to be “syntax police”)
18) No one walks down the center aisle
[I drew a map, but I don’t know how to post it on here]
19) Only 1 boy in class (2 are absent)
20) Prof. talks to the back wall

1) Why did they bring them when there's computers in this room? What are they typing? They all have Apples (teaching maj?)
2) It's early morning, but this is still awkward. Shouldn't we all know each other a little bit?
3) Typical of most students...I'm doing other work; I'm working on this. Since this is a required class for all of our majors, shouldn't we wan to pay attention?
4) It's hot people!! Northface fleece is really in fashion, but it's kinda plain.
5) It's almost like if we face the comp, then the prof. will notice we are doing other work. I'm pretty sure he can tell anyways.
6) Intriguing, wonder where he's going. Why did he come in the first place? Obligation?
7) Maybe this is because computers are easier to see in dim light...although we don't use the computers. I bet this is why everyone is sleepy and not talking.
8) Maybe he's trying to wake everyone up. It's not working though. I'm surprised he can talk this enthusiastically to a bunch of students who aren't paying attention.
9) As excited as his voice sounds, it's surprising that his posture suggests he's just as bored as we are.
10) I'm not really surprised by this because most people who talk loud seem to talk w/ their hands. However, how is he talking w/ his hands and leaning at the same time? Kind of impressive really.
11) Maybe he's just trying to catch our eyes with the motion?
12) It' not a large class, so you would think we would be a little more active. i wonder why I can't memorize 14 names, but I know everyone who lives on my floor (26 people)
13) This doesn't happen in many of my other classes, but it seems to be an unspoken rule in this one. This is especially weird because this prof. despises most traditional teaching methods and tells us so every class.
14) I'm sitting here, so I guess even though I'm in this class, I'm kind of an outsider. I wonder what it is about these tables that disturbs people. Maybe because they;re in the center?
15) Again this is surprising because it's a major class that we all chose so we should like it. Or we should at least pay attention.
16) I think they;re doing it because they know they should be looking forward but aren't intrigued enough to focus on one thing.
17) I think he wants our respect. His jokes are very sarcastic and funny. It's surprising that no one really reacts to them though, because they're the only part of the lecture that students seem to hear.
18) Again a fear of the center. If people walk down the center, they would draw attention to themselves which isn't wanted (unless a hand is raised).
19) Poor boy. I think it's intriguing that most of the guys who major in English have a very similar style to them. A lot of the ones I know (including this one) are laid back, intelligent, funny, witty, and seem to be very passionate about their major (but they don't pay attention in this class).
20) It's like he knows if he looks around the room he will see the Ferris Bueller scene.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Brooks vs. Shamoon & Burns

First of all, let me just say that I really liked the comment Brooks made concerning students who come to the WC expecting an editing session: "They know you know how to fix their paper, and that is what they have come for... don't underestimate the abilities of these students; they will fatigue you into submission" (172). Sneaky little boogers. Aside from that comment, I felt the essay was incredibly similar to North's first essay, just with less anger.

I was a little disappointed with the other essay we read by Shamoon and Burns (although I have to say I like her name). Normally I like playing devil's advocate, so I was excited (as excited as one can be to do homework anyway) to read an essay taking the opposite stance of the norm. However, I didn't agree with much of what they said concerning directive tutoring. I do believe that directive tutoring is an affective method for some students. For example, many of the writing students they discussed in their essay are students who are already enthused about writing and plan on making it a part of their career and life for a very long time. Thus, learning by imitation motivates them to become better writers and allows them to see how to do so. However, I feel that the majority of students who use the writing center are not these same motivated writers. Many students are taking one of the last English classes that will ever be required of them, and they are not always as intrigued by writing techniques as I would hope. Therefore, correcting their paper for them may not motivate them to learn as much as it will give them satisfaction of a quick fix. In addition, many of the examples of directive tutoring that Shamoon and Burns talk about (master classes, studio, thesis advising, etc) are not peer tutored. They are sessions taught by professors and teachers, so where does that leave the WC's that hire undergraduate students? Would undergraduate students be qualified enough to change wording and edit papers? I'm not trying to destroy directive tutoring all together; I think it has its place. I feel there are students that do benefit from a tutor pointing out a mistake and showing the student how to fix it (I often do this the first few times I find that an ESL student has a repeated mistake). In general, however, I think the tutor needs to assess how the student will learn best and incorporate the necessary tutoring methods accordingly.

Monday, March 24, 2008


After reading the essays for Monday's class, I have mixed feelings. Both of the essays had their ups and downs for me, and I was left with a general feeling of ambiguity.

Concerning the first article, I thought most of the ideas North had were pretty dead on. The writing center is not designed to be a fix-it shop or a grammar hotline; however, aside from some uninformed students, I was not aware that many professors thought it was. I know that this essay was written at a different time (because my co-worker Nikki explained that to me), and perhaps that makes a difference. Either way, I found it hard to take the essay to heart because I don't view the writing center as an editing shop.

As for the second essay, I'm not sure entirely where I stand. On the one hand, I unfortunately find myself agreeing with North that many students are not going to be enthusiastic about becoming a better writer because their major does not require them to be one. For some students (more than I would like to admit), passing a required English class is just another task on their to do list, and they do not put much thought into what they learn by accomplishing that task. However, I don't think that writing centers should be limited to English students alone. I think part of the job as a tutor (and as a professor) is to show students how understanding writing can be used in their world. For example, although many students may only write one rhetorical analysis in their life, understanding the concepts at play behind the writing will help them view commercials, ads, news stories, articles, etc in a new, informed light. I know that after learning about rhetoric and seeing examples of it everywhere, I became more aware of just how many people use rhetoric to affect my perceptions of the products I buy and the stories I read. In addition to this, I feel that limiting the writing center to English majors would eliminate a great deal of clients. ESL students, for example, would not be able to visit the writing center unless their major was English, and many of them visit the center regularly. Also, I feel that many students who major in English are not really taught about the writing center or do not see visiting it as necessary (something professors should be addressing), and therefore trying to make the writing center for them may cause initial conflict proving that writing centers deserve money to remain in operation. Until English majors learn to use the writing center, numbers would probably go down. All and all, I think that making the writing center closed to the general areas of studies would be a bad idea. I do think North brings to light interesting points, however, as to whether tutors are doing their jobs as motivators.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Turning in Paper 2

When we turned in our papers today, we were asked to discuss our concerns, and I think I finally discovered my largest writing demon. I've always had a vague idea of what it was, but today I was able to put it into words somewhat. I'm going to attempt to elaborate on what I wrote in class...I stress the word attempt. This may sound a little conceded, so please read the following in the sincerest, most humble voice you can manage inside your head:

My friends know me for my sense of humor. I am usually the one making light of serious situations and organizing the "social outings" (AKA trips to the movies). I'm not necessarily laid back all of the time, but I know how to have fun. However, anyone who knows anything about my academic history knows that I am also a very dedicated student (perhaps a little overly so at times). I am a hard worker, and I probably come off as somewhat of an over achiever in many cases. In my writing, I feel like my academic side is the one that shines. Most of my writing (aside from my poetry) sounds very formal, proper, and academic, which is a creative way to say I am boring. I'm not saying that people who write academically are bad writers, but I feel like when I write for assignments, I come off as dry and maybe even snobby. If I were simply judged on the writing I turn in for class completely apart from knowing me in person, I think that I would be perceived as only the hard working, over achieving, student. I wish that the papers I wrote sounded more sincere and down to earth, and I wish that my real personality (both parts) could be seen and felt. I think because I am aware that it doesn't read that way, I am afraid of writing. I know there are people out there that have found the magical way of making even the most boring topic into a paper that grabs and holds my attention all the way through. I know I'm not one of those people, and I'll be the first to admit I hate knowing that other people are better than me. I know I can't be the best at everything (or anything lately), and I will always find someone who does what I love better. This is my demon.

Well I think that's all I have for now. Hope everyone is hanging in there for these last 6 weeks.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring Break Recap

Well break is officially over, but on the upside I think we only have 7 weeks left. I worked on my paper 2 for this class over ended up turning into a little website because I got tired of looking at Word. I think I may have made this assignment a little harder than it was intended to be, but I got through it (19 pages of text and web design later). I'm not sure how peer evaluation is going to go, but I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

In other English/break news, I discovered this weekend that my major (English, writing and rhetoric) does not qualify me to do what I thought it did (work at Sylvan Center/perhaps teach ESL??). As luck would have it, turns out I need a teaching license and therefore teaching degree...didn't see that coming. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about this as of right now (aside from kick myself). I was hoping that majoring in Writing and Rhetoric along with my experience tutoring at the Writing Center and Learning Center would be enough to get my foot in the door until I could get my Masters in teaching. Wrong. Anyways, lazy/awful as this may be, I'm not sure I even want my Masters anymore... I'm sort of getting burnt out on school. I feel like I'm putting in a lot of effort when I really don't have a clear idea of what I'm even working for, and I sometimes think I'm just wasting my time trying to figure it out. How is it that everyone already knows what they want to do with their life?

I swear I had a much less depressing break than it sounds (maybe not much less...I was in an Ohio blizzard for a while). I just wish this semester would be over and somehow magically things would figure themselves out.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I'm done...I mean finished

Well the big midterm is over, and while I'm not sure how I did, I will say that I think I've learned more grammar studying for this midterm than I learned in all four years of high school combined. I don't know if I regurgitated it correctly, but I actually think for once I internalized some of the rules rather than simply memorizing them for the test. Regardless (not to be confused with irregardless... which is apparently not a real word) of the grade I get, I am semi-proud of myself. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for my Physics test, but that's a whole new can of worms.

On a separate note, studying for this test and my linguistics test made me fight myself all over again about my faith in the necessity of a standard. On the one hand, I think that annoying as they are, grammar rules and syntax are somewhat needed so that no matter what dialect we may speak, we will all be able to understand laws, read news articles, and write academically. However, after studying AAVE (African American Vernacular English) and discussing the topic of "can't even speak english" in my classes, I'm torn on whose standards we should use or if we need one at all. Another thing that I can not help but question is the idea of language in the classroom. Should teachers start accepting dialects and unique grammar usage as part of students' culture and generation, or should they fight it in order to help the student gain credibility with the majority? Should schools hire teachers with heavy accents even if students complain that they are having trouble understanding and therefore feel they aren't learning as much? Questions like this get me every time because I believe that everyone should have an equal playing field, but sometimes I can't figure out how to make that possible. I enjoy the fact that we don't all speak the same language (and those that do don't all speak it the same way), and I hate the idea of conformity; however i keep wondering if in some ways it is necessary.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Midterms make me sad

I wasn't exactly sure what to blog about for this week, so I thought I would simply say my thoughts concerning English in general for the moment. First of all, I am a little worried about the midterm. Grammar and I do not get along very well when it comes to explaining the rules. I can generally use most of them; I simply don't know when or why I do what I do. I guess that sort of thing will be good to know as a tutor however, so I'll try to learn it as best I can. In other English news, I read a novella this weekend for my Eng 230 class called, "The Dead" (are novellas underlined or quotationed a word... this midterm will clearly not go well). Talk about a depressing story. It's about this poor guy who comes to realize that he never had a love with his wife the way he thought he did... not exactly the romance I hoped it would be. I think I have to go watch a chick flick now. I'll try to find a grammatically intelligent one and kill two birds with one stone :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bedford Guide ch. 7-8... kinda

While I was reading the chapters for tomorrow, I realized something about myself; I can't read lists. I seriously tried to get through ch 7 (the checklists) about 700 times, but it simply couldn't be done. Ok I mean I read it...but it's pretty much gone now. I did manage to find myself thinking at least a little about tutoring when I was staring blankly at the pages. My first thought was that the checklists seemed like something that would be helpful in a tutoring session where the student doesn't have the assignment/rubric (and probably forgets the teacher, class, and possibly his/her own first name). However, I noticed that the checklists sorta reflected generalized theories for different kinds of papers (I think that sounds a lot fancier than what I'm trying to say). For example, the Science papers seemed Current Traditional, the English papers went a little more in depth in terms of assessing meaning, and the Business items were pretty cut and dry (like business I guess). It just seemed stereotypical to me if that makes any sense at all.

Chapter 8 on the other hand was a little more readable (although sadly not much... sorry Jackie). I liked that the book attempted to address non ideal situations, but it did so in an ideal way... A for effort I guess. At any rate, there was one type of writer that I have gotten before (only a few times though) that BG didn't talk about at all. The Overly Confident Writer. I know we've been talking in class about helping students that have a fear of writing poorly understand that most of the time they are capable of writing well. Every now and then (aka last week), I've had a student who feels his/her paper was really well done and perfect, and I'm pretty sure he/she is expecting me to say the same thing. I know that I can't let him/her walk out with a paper that needs a lot of work, but how do you break the news (aside from being "polite, patient, and supportive" as BG pounded into our heads)? It's not like the papers are unreadable, but when a student comes in on top of the world, how do you bring him/her down without bringing them down?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Grammar Snobs - The End

Well I have to say that I think the book was overall very helpful. The ending lessons, I felt, were a little anti-climactic, but how climactic can you really get with grammar? I did enjoy the chapter about Satan's new language; to be totally honest I never really came to terms with the idea that flammable and inflammable were the same (that is until about 5 min ago when I read it). Other than that, I found that these last few chapters were mainly a reinforcement of the idea presented throughout the entire book: use your own good judgement.

Speaking of judgement, I thought an article I read for the Writing Center about ESL students brought up an interesting point about judgement. The article was about how to decide when to correct an ESL student's grammar/wording, and when the wording the student chooses presents his own unique voice. On the one hand, the student may be competing in a sense with native speakers (like if they are a grad student or applying for something), in which case a tutor may feel the need to "Nativise" the ESL student's writing to level the playing field. On the other hand, changing the wording takes away the student's unique voice, perspective, and use of the English language. So how do tutors deal with this dilemma? (This is a question I ask myself a lot, and I'm not sure I ever go anywhere with it). The article offered suggestions such as asking the student what his/her goal was (are they competing, or is the work a personal reflection piece); point out "mistakes" or "un-native wording," but make the student aware of the pro's and con's of using the correct forms; keep the student involved if you decide to reword so the student learns the reasoning behind why native speakers say the things the way we do (good luck finding reasoning for the English language), etc. I just thought this article offered a lot of good advice in a way that made me reevaluate some of my own techniques, and I halfway think we should read it in 435.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bedford Guide ch. 5-6

Small Disclaimer: My major and I are not getting along right now; prepare for a semi-uninsightful (that's a made up word, but the Grammar Snob says that's ok) blog. Sorry in advance.

The chapters due tomorrow are 5 and 6 (hopefully anyways because those are the ones I just read), and here's my 2 cents. Let's start with ch. 5:
Learning Styles- I thought this section was helpful to note because I find learning styles interesting for no good reason really. I think my interest started during my training at the Learning Center when we discussed methods for tutoring to different needs. I think writing is a little easier to manipulate than math because you can color code ideas, read aloud, move pages around, and several other techniques that are fun to play around with. Whitney did some pretty cool research on ADD as a learning style that was nifty to read to.
I have a small bone to pick with the section on anxiety. I agree with what the sections says about relating to the student (a benefit of being a tutor vs a teacher I think). However, I hate how the author lists a chart of stressors and then pretends that some magical planning technique makes these anxieties disappear. If that idea works for you, than kudos to you. Personally the time I spend making the depressing list of things I will never get to takes away the time I should be spending doing said things. Ok small rant over

Ch 6. was helpful in some aspects, but others made me want to cry. For example, I think the most helpful page of the book thus far is the one that lists all of the OWL's. Good stuff. However, I think the least helpful pages were those about online tutoring (that could be do to a strong prejudice I have against online tutoring though). I think the rest of the info (the stuff about determining website credibility) was somewhere in the middle. I think it is good to know (when you yourself are writing a paper), but I think it is more info for the classroom not so much the tutor to explain.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Grammar Snobs...the adventure continues

In terms of actual lessons, I think these chapters (24-31) have been some of the most helpful. I thoroughly enjoyed her examples in chapter 26 about "affect" vs "effect," (this is something that many have tried to teach me, and so far all have failed). The Grammar Snob put it into terms that I can understand (kudos to her there); unfortunately, I have the feeling the lesson will be gone in a few days (not her fault though; this lesson never stays w/ me long). I also appreciated her focus on Hollywood throughout these chapters because my useless Hollywood trivia needs improvement as well.

One thought popped into my head several times when reading these chapters (especially the ones on predicate nom., conditional statements, etc). That was that many of these rules are ones that I learned in German class instead of English. I knew them in English, but not in terms of actually stating the rules (I only knew them because English, believe it or not by my superior grammar [sarcasm by the way], is my native language). And that was officially the most complex ( ) expression I have ever made; good luck reading that one. Anyways, what I'm trying to say is that I think it's a shame that (from my experience) Americans speak English, but they usually know very little about why they form sentences the way they do. It isn't until we learn a new language that the rules of our own become somewhat clear. Just a thought I had.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Bedford Guide vs. Phil

I realized today that I have not blogged about the BG yet, so (yet & so together?? grammar snob...can I do that?) I thought that I would take this opportunity to do so. First of all, my brief opinion about the book in general: I think that it does have a lot of helpful points, and I see a definite parallel between this book and my tutor training packet for the WC. As far as the situations it presents, however, I agree that they are very "Stepford-ish" (aka ideal). The writers in this handbook tend to assume that most students come prepared and ready to learn, and I'm not saying the opposite, but I think a lot of students come at a point in the process where they need some motivation (some because they can't seem to get started and others because they are simply "over" their paper).

Phil on the other hand, taught me a lot today in class. I got to be the client (which was extremely amusing for me), and Phil was put on the spot as my tutor. First of all, I think he was pretty calm and collected being critiqued by the class and I admire that. Secondly and most importantly though, he dealt with situations that arise in sessions that Bedford conveniently leaves out. Phil read me as a person in order to make me comfortable. Bedford mentions that you should sit side by side and be friendly, but they don't mention that you should somewhat analyze the client to see how to best relate to them. For example, Phil caught on to the way I think (a task all it's own) and tried to gear his questions toward my learning style. I like math and watching tv, so he related his examples to those things to help me understand. He also encouraged me time and time again to take notes in order to remember what we talked about; some students need that encouragement, otherwise they will just sit back and tune out. Although we did not get through the entire paper, he kept rephrasing the process of revision (again semi-relating to math and formulas) that we were going through together so that I could later apply it on my own.

Sure there were some aspects that Phil could have improved on, but I learned from those as well. By adapting to not-so-Stepford situations, he gave me a real example that I can relate to as a tutor when inconvenient issues arise in sessions. Bedford is good, but I'd take Phil any day :)

Monday, February 11, 2008

First of all I stole the "wtf" from Travis's post (sorry Travis) for lack of creativity. Now that I got that off my chest, I thought I would reflect on an idea that came up in class last Wednesday. Multi-modality. Wednesday was not the first time I've heard this word; in fact I heard it at our WC meeting and in my English 213 class last semester. Basically the world of literature is changing in new, exciting (not to mention incredibly confusing), ways.

We read some multi-modal lit in my 213 class, and the general opinion was that it can be good depending on the context of the story/poem being portrayed. For example, we read a short story presented as a hypertext called, "Charmin' Cleary." The story is about a coach/teacher accused of molesting a teenage girl who in return sacks the teacher. The story is told however, in a very nonlinear fashion. The navigation of the story appears totally random, and there is no way of telling when you as a reader have reached the end. While this is frustrating in many cases, it works for this story because it makes the story mirror the gossip by which it is told.

My original point in bringing up multi-modality (and I promise I had one) was that it can be hard to present to an audience. People sometimes resist change and are not willing to trade in turning pages for clicking a hyperlink. In addition, as the grammar snob points out, our language with this new technology is changing as well. How do we as writers decide when (if ever) it is ok to use "text speak" in our papers? It will cause some audience members to be more engaged in our stories, however some will always reject it (I know I would probably crap twice and die if I saw a student write "lmao" in a research paper"). Either way, change is coming; the grammar snob says so. Embrace it or deny it, but it's happening with or without you.

Monday, February 4, 2008

GS: Ch. 9 Anarchy

The Rule:
Sometimes there are no definite rules in English. Different styles (MLA, APA, AP, etc.) use different sets of rules in many situations.

The Exceptions:
None. We all agree to disagree :)

-There is disagreement about using the word, "entitled." According to an AP handbook, "entitled means a right to do/have something; do not use it to mean 'titled'." However, in a Chicago manual you can find sentences like, "...publication of your contribution ENTITLED,..."
-Other variations occur when dealing with apostrophes. Some styles write, "Charlies's friend" while others use "Charlies' friend."

Again, we all agree to disagree. Different styles have different preferences, so as long as you follow the style you are writing for, you will be right.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Grammar Snobs...the fun continues

I just finished reading chapters 8-15, and I have some mixed feelings. On the one hand, I feel a lot better about my own lack of grammar knowledge after reading so many sections over the "anarchy" occurring in our language. Apparently my instinct to always wonder who was making these grammatical decisions and why they got to do so, was not in vane. I feel more confident knowing that even the grammar snobs among us are making things up as they go along. On the other hand, however, these particular chapters offered little in the way of improving my grammar/teaching me anything. Not that I minded, I wasn't really in the learning mood when I read them, I was just expecting more lessons like in the beginning of the book. C'est la vie I suppose.

On a side note, chapter 15 is pretty much my life in a nutshell. At least the part about feeling like a moron watching Jeopardy. I am convinced that show is on air for the sole purpose of ticking me off.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Peer Review

Yesterday's peer review session was very helpful. It is nice to be in a class where people actually tell you what they like and don't like about your paper instead of just saying, "good job." I got a lot of feedback that I will be able to put to good use once I bring myself to look at my paper again (after staying up all night to write it, I don't want to see it until at least Sunday). My only complaint is that we have to answer specific questions during peer review. I think it is nice to have a few general questions to guide readers into making helpful comments, but I would have liked it better if we had more time to focus on what needs help the most instead of answering questions. There were specific things that I wanted to talk about during peer review that I ran out of time for. However, in most situations I guess questions are what lead people away from saying "good job" and stopping there. Anyways I found the overall session very helpful. Now if only I could find someone to help me type my paper, then I'd be golden.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Grammar Snobs

I personally like this book a lot. I think it has a lot of useful information in it, and it is fun to read (and I do not use that phrase often). I could see how Jane Casagrande can be seen as a Grammar Snob herself, but at least she has a sense of humor about it. I also like the fact that she uses funny stories to teach the lessons. The only real problem I have with it is that the actual grammar part isn't really marked, so if I were to look something up it might take a while (though dog-earring the pages has pretty much fixed this issue).

After reading this some of this book and talking about grammar in class today, I realized that I actually don't hate grammar as much as I thought I did. I don't think that I will ever memorize all of the rules (or even half of the rules), and I don't think that if I teach my main focus is going to be how grammatically correct a paper is. However, I do think that knowing a little grammar comes in handy every now and then. For example, I think that it was easier for me to learn German because I knew English grammar. I knew what the direct object was versus the indirect object, so I knew when to change the article accordingly. I also find it helpful to discuss ESL. Actually, as I am writing this, I am beginning to rethink my "useful grammar" statement. Other than learning a foreign language and helping ESL students, I can't really remember the last time I used a grammar lesson. I think it's kind of odd that the only things I really focused on English grammar for are those instances involving a language other than English. Huh. Well now I don't know what I think. Either way, I still like the book so far, and I guess I will have to figure out whether I like grammar in general at a later point.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Recap on Rhetoric

To be totally honest, sometimes I feel like I should not be an English major. For starters I don't enjoy reading. I am starting to like it more than I used to, but it still isn't my cup of tea. Also, I can't spell to save my life. Until last year I actually thought the popular phrase "for granted" was spelled (and said for that matter) "for granit." In addition, I don't have an incredibly insightful vocabulary, and I usually forget impressive words after I hear them. But to top it all off, despite the fact that I am majoring in composition and rhetoric (and I like it, I really do), yesterday in class was the first time I have ever come across the Rhetorical Triangle. I know, right?! But here's what I think, take it or leave it: I think that English needs people like me (conceded I know). I think that while every discipline has people with natural talent, people who are good at what they do because God liked them better, I also think that every discipline needs people like me that are intrigued and fascinated with the things they didn't know. People who not only want to become better, but they can't wait to share that knowledge with other people. They can't wait to start helping other people see literature and English in a new light and express themselves in ways they had never came across before. Because I don't have the vocabulary or the reading background, I think I can approach topics with somewhat of an innocence, the freedom from preconceptions. I am not merely a compolation of somebody else's ideas and theories, but I am learning those theories for the first time and manipulating them to fit my world.

Ok well now that I got that off my chest, let me quickly say what I thought about this Rhetorical Triangle. I think that audience is very important to any writer/communicator. The professor I interviewed said that we couldn't have "good writing" if the audience wasn't moved to read it; our "good writing" would fall on deaf ears. With that said, as I consider the rhetoric of the essay our class is about to write, I want to maintain a close relationship with my audience. I want to appear a reliable source as I detail the opinions of my professor, but I also want my audience to know that I too am still analyzing my results. We tutors are in a sense in this together (to be as cliche as possible), deciding what works, what does not, and why in order to help our future students in the most effective way possible. I want to lead my audience toward an opinion, but I will try to remain open-minded as I construct my thoughts.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

MP Chapters 8-10

I just finished reading section 2 in Pipher's book (more than a few hours in advance...a huge accomplishment on my part), and I am working on digesting everything she said. She certainly throws out a lot of advice in these chapters, most of which I think is common sense, but there were a few points she made that I have never really taken into consideration.

Point 1: Keep old journals and writing
I was always one of those little girls that liked to pick out cool-looking journals, write in them twice, and loose them somewhere under my bed or in a closet. On top of that, on the rare occasion that I did manage to write something meaningful in them, I would usually get the thought out of my system then crumple it up and throw it away. I found this more satisfying than reading about a hard experience later. However, it recently occurred to me that someday I am going to have children, and God forbid I have a girl who thinks like I do sometimes. She is going to want to know what I was like as a young adult, what kind of relationship problems or philosophical moments I had, and I won't have anything to tell her because my memories will be newly recycled paper by that point. When I read in Pipher's book that she often reads her own journals as a way to see how she thought about certain issues in the past and sometimes uses them during the writing process, I became even more convinced that I should go buy one more pretty journal and try again. In addition, Pipher talks about keeping old papers/poetry that can help you reflect back on situations you may have experienced. I always keep my old papers, but rarely ever do I actually read them. Perhaps in the near future I will set aside time to do that.

Point 2: Point of View
Pipher offers a lot of advise about this topic that I find helpful. I won't go into detail because if you are reading this then you have probably read the section and know what was in it. However I will say that I never really pay attention to my use of pronouns in terms of saying "we" vs. "you," and after reading her section on pronouns, I think I probably should.

Point 3: Constraints
This wasn't one of Pipher's main points, but it is the one that I liked the best in this section. She says, "We all work within constraints that define us, hinder us, and teach us what we need to know" (162). I just thought this was a comforting way to think of problems that occur during life. Basically that there is something that you personally need to learn,and the problems in your life are designed to teach you that lesson. I'm not sure I agree all the time, but it's a nice thought nonetheless.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Martin Luther King Jr.

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. day. That means a day off of school, a day without mail, a day when the bank is closed, and my deposit shows up late. These are the things I am usually thinking about while I'm enjoying the 3-day weekend. I'm afraid this is what most national holidays amount to in the end. For extra credit I read "The Letter from Birmingham Jail," and I kinda feel bad about planning to sleep in tomorrow morning. I have never read the letter before (I made it a point not to read much of anything for the majority of my life... I'm working on it though), and I'm sorry that I waited until today.

Martin Luther King Jr. obviously did a lot of great things in his lifetime, but what I like about him most is his sense of how to bring about change. In the letter, he mentioned an idea that Pipher has been talking about in her book on writing. The idea was that you can't sit around waiting for some magical solution to present itself. As King suggested, "[one] cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham...Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea" (par. 5). In other words, if you want to make a change in the world, you have to enact a call for action. Whether you do so in writing by sharing someone's story, or in person by presenting the issues through a demonstration, you have to make solutions happen or you are nothing but part of the problem. I know this idea sounds cliche', but I have never found it as true as I did today.

Martin Luther King Jr. not only dedicated his life to making changes in our country, but he also left behind a legacy that shows each and every person the most effective way to make a change. He was not afraid to speak his mind, sharing stories and ideas that inspired our nation to see things differently. He then took responsibility for the responses, both positive and negative, to those ideas. So tomorrow when I wake up an hour later than I should and enjoy the extra day without class, I will try to remember the man and the ideals that are being honored. I sincerely hope you do the same.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Oh Mary

While reading Mary Pipher's book about writing, I have been trying to consciously underline and comment on the sections that I find most useful/inspiring (I'm usually a pretty awful at this, but I'm working on it). I have to say that in general, I think she makes some insightful and true comments about writing; however, I am not entirely attached to this book. Overall, I sometimes find her distant or somewhat fake (or at least not as genuine as I expected), but I think when she looses herself in a thought and becomes grounded she can make some very good points.
One such point is made right in the introduction. I like how she says that in much earlier times, "The problems that arose often were not solvable. But they were nearby" (9). She goes on to talk about how there are people out there who want to make world problems as important and real as local issues, but they are unsure how. Her answer is to write. Write and create empathy. She says to share people's stories in order to bring out the human aspect of problems, thus bringing them into perspective. I agree with this idea completely, and it is one of my favorite aspects of writing.
Another one of my favorite points (and probably the last I will discuss because this is getting long) is the part of the book where she talks about how hard it is to start writing. I often find myself dreading writing, which I just assumed was some unnatural quark I alone possessed (one that makes me rethink my major at times). However, after reading Pipher's section about diving-in and her own fears when writing, I felt better. My favorite quote this far in the whole book is from Thomas Mann saying, "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than for others." (76).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thinking about Monday

I thought the class discussion on Monday (looking at assignments and determining what theory they fit) was pretty interesting. The rhetoric major in me likes to analyze a lot of different things, but I can honestly say I never thought to pick apart an assignment sheet before. Though after doing so,  it occurred to me that I don't think teachers themselves always know which theory they like/use the most. For example, I've had high school teachers and professors that assign a paper similar to an expressivist/ social constructionist essay, only to grade the essay according to current tradition rules. It seems to me that students and teachers alike can confuse what the most important aspects of what "good" writing are. I always thought good writing was writing that made an impact (whether it was personal or on another person), but since the strength of that impact depends on the standards the writing is held to, how do you choose the standards that will effectively impact the most people?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Wonderful World of Whaling from a Social Constructionist

If I were to respond from a Social Constructionism point of view to the student that "wrote" the essay on whaling , I would say something like the following: 

Joe Shmoe,
I received your essay today, and there are a few issues that I wanted to address. I think that you have taken an interesting approach to this assignment, and I would like to help you improve the rhetorical value of your essay. 
First of all, it seems to me that this essay makes an attempt to give readers two perspectives on whaling:
1. It can be easily overdone and thus harmful.
2. When a tradition in a culture, whaling can become necessary. 
Although I can find these ideas in your essay, separating these viewpoints into different paragraphs will help your audience to locate them much more efficiently. 
Speaking of audience, knowing who your readers are will also improve your essay. For example, your essay begins, "Did you know..." but who is you? This paper presents multiple perspectives on whaling, but it is unclear exactly who you are targeting. Is this essay meant for someone against whaling, or is it pointed at someone that has no opinion yet? If it is directed towards one side more than the other, what is the purpose of this essay? In other words, by the end of your essay, if I ask myself, "Why should I care" or "Why is this important," then I should be able to look back at your essay and discover the answer. 
I hope you will pass these comments on to your partner as she uses your essay to prepare a second draft of the collaborative paper. Good luck!!
-Ms. Teacher

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Myself as a Writer

Although I enjoy writing very much, I have never actually deemed myself a writer; therefore thinking about myself as such is a change of pace. I suppose when it comes down to it, I write not only to express myself, but also to arrange my thoughts and ideas about different moments, events, subjects, etc. Mostly I do this through poetry. I don't usually sit down with an idea or experience in my mind, rather they come to me sporadically (often in the middle of class or at night when it is most inconvenient). The end result is usually a stream of consciousness piece that I slowly craft into a poem, later structuring and making sense of the words on the page. Although I have the strongest passion for poetry, I do enjoy analytical essays of almost any kind. I used to be strongly opposed to picking works apart and rearranging their elements to bring forth some magical hidden meaning, for I believed real authors did not have as many secret intentions as educators believed. However, one of my english professors changed my mind. She related writing to clothing by saying that like it or not, the clothes we choose to wear say something about who we are as people; writing is the same way. Although an author does not always intend to use a symbol or illustrate a deeper meaning, it does not mean that a reader cannot find one; interpretation is in the eyes of the interpreter. It is for this reason that I began to cherish analysis because it opens up new possibilities for works. I suppose my ambition for my writing is that each reader can relate to my work and draw from it the meaning he/she wishes it to hold. I try to make this a strength of my writing, making strong arguments or suggestions while allowing room for a reader to take his/her own point of view. In addition, I try to bring original interpretations of my topics to light, something that will make the reader ask questions. This strength, however, can often lead to my main weakness which is getting too involved in a particular topic. Often times I find myself diving into more research than necessary or writing papers well over the page limitations of the assignment. I like to think this weakness is caused by an admirable passion, but in reality it is most likely a case of wordiness. Nevertheless as I learn to evaluate myself as a writer, I find that much of my ability can be credited to a kind of selfishness as I indulge myself in my own love of expression and exploration.