Monday, November 30, 2009
The little girl paused, looked around searching for a rational answer, and came up with, "because I want to."
When you are ten, like the little girl, everyone tells you what to do and when to do it and how to do it. You feel powerless. You think, "when I grow up, I'll do what I want." You think that being a grown-up means being able to do what you want to do, when you want to do it. Of course, your parents laugh hysterically, and reply, "that's what you think." Then, you grow up yourself and find out that grown-ups actually have many responsibilities and obligations and people telling them what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.
Yet, every now and then, you have opportunities to do things that you yourself actually want to do, just because you want to do them. Like sit in the yellow seats. I think you should take those opportunities, just to remind yourself that you are, in fact, a grown-up. You should also NOT do things that you don't want to do, like not sit in the blue seats.
That is why I'm skipping Christmas this year. I'm not going to Texas; and I feel liberated.
Because I am me and because I know my parents, especially my dad, whom I take after in this regard, I had to have a million reasons before I could let myself skip Christmas.
First, every year, I have to gear up for the visit. I have to psyche myself up, stock up on happy pills, and prepare for the wave of guilt and depression upon my return. I don't fully recover for weeks, sometimes even months. If you add together the build up to the visit and the debriefing at the analysts after the visit, you find that a three day visit (fish and house guests rule), takes up about three months of my energy. That's just wrong.
Second, those three days seem so extra stressful. The atmosphere seems poisoned by the keyed up need, because of the holiday, to play the "happy, jovial family." All quirks are cranked up to eleven. My brothers and father go to great lengths to be as crude and anti-intellectual as possible to assert some ideal of salt-of-the-earth masculinity. They then implicate my nephews, both five, into their performance, getting the boys to show off their newly learned skills of flipping the bird or saying "fuck" and, worse, The Shocker. My mother reverts to a teenager, which beats the ten year old she used to become when her parents were both alive and physically able. She pretends to be shocked, talks over other people's conversations, and abuses her now widowed and disabled mother should she be present. I try to disappear into a book, as I did my entire youth.
Everyone awkwardly attempts to fit into old family roles that no longer fit because we have no idea how to behave toward one another as adults. We have no intimacy. We are simply acquaintances because we once grew up together, like old high school friends who have grown apart over the years and only have that one experience in common.
This has not been as obvious when I have visited at other times of the year. The same traits and sense of alienation are there, but they aren't so pronounced. I can manage them better.
Third, all of this holiday travel and angst occurs immediately after the semester ends. I mean immediately. This year, our deadline to turn in grades is something like the 28th of December. Our year-end portfolios are due shortly thereafter, in the first week of January. So, right there, the two weeks leading up to Christmas are a haze of frantic grading, fielding student disasters, and preparation of the portfolio. Anyone who has ever been in the academic world in any capacity knows this end of the semester crunch. Afterward, I just want to collapse with a bottle of wine and mystery novel for about a month straight, with maybe a little bit of home decorating thrown in for fun.
Fourth, there are the airfares. I have driven all the way there, sometimes in one shot to Baton Rouge; but I just don't feel up for a two to three day car trip twice in one week. Then, I considered flying. I insist on flying non-stop because the transfers are where things can go terribly wrong. One delay in the network of flights that lead to yours, and you end up taking three separate flights, sitting in the center seat, and flying half-way across the country and back when you were only supposed to take two, sitting by the window, and flying 1/4 of the way across the country. Non-stop flights are slightly more expensive, but even if I took the cheapest fare available with two connections, I would still be paying 2 1/2 times as much as I would if I travelled in February or March. So, I decided to visit then, when I will need a break from the grey winter here.
Fifth, we have my nephew Boudreau, and the fact that he is part of another family connected only to my own through his mother (they are about as dysfunctional as mine, but in a different way). That means that he has other relatives to visit at Christmas. If I go at another time, I get him all to myself! I almost never get to see my other nephew, the Spider. His father and I are the most alienated from one another, and he won't be there at Christmas anyway.
Finally, we have that nasty spelunking procedure that will occur around that time. I really don't want to travel while facing that. Of course, I'm telling the parental unit that it's happening right before Christmas because the lie will parry any of the "solutions" to the other problems (other than the family personality issue -- I always keep that to myself because to do otherwise would be an exercise in futility and pointless pain). The fact that this is occurring in my nether regions means that all discussion on the issue will stop cold after its mention. If you have to deal with squeamish sexists, you might as well use their immaturity to your advantage.
There, I have amassed all of these excuses for not going to Texas at Christmas. The family is extra dysfunctional at the holidays, I am under too much stress at the end of the semester, the airfares are too expensive, I want more time with Boudreau, and I'm having a medical procedure done in a place on my body that no one wants to know exists.
Mostly, I just don't want to go. Since I'm a grown-up, I can make that call.
Friday, November 27, 2009
To say "Christmas kitsch" in describing Christmas decorations, in fact, seems redundant, and to go in pursuit of examples would be like shooting fish in a barrel. I know all of this from experience because, when I was a little girl, I was as bad as a little, blue-haired, old lady in my desire to decorate the house, inside and out, with as much sentimental, Woman's Day craptastic crafty, red and green, Santa Claus-ey, Victorian Christmas-y kitsch as I could lay my hands on. I was a regular Martha Stewart, with a six-year old's taste.
Yet, even then, I would have been horrified by this. You see, every now and then, a piece distinguishes itself for grotesquery, vulgarity, and commerciality. I submit to you, the human-sized, dancing Grinch: I saw that in the thrift store. I kid you not. The thing was as tall as I am. When I passed it, I thought, "Oh yes! We have a blog post!" As I pulled out my camera, two women stopped cold in their tracks and squealed, "The Grinch!" One walked up to it, noticed a button between the Grinch's feet, extended her toe to press it, and jumped back. It danced.
Yes. Danced. It swiveled from side to side, raising each arm in alternation, and turned its head. Some horror of a song emitted from the base, but I was too bowled over to catch any of the lyrics.
"This is fantastic!" I thought. "Thank you Christmas Kitsch Fairy!"
You know, I thought that the lines between Halloween and Christmas were being blurred when the Santa Claus decorations began going up next to the witches and goblins. Heck, sometimes they go up before the witches and goblins. This Grinch, however, isn't just a blurring, it's a melding.
Of course, now that I'm thinking about it, the original text and original t.v. adaptation were already a melding of the two holidays. The story centers on a a Christmas monster -- because isn't that really what the Grinch is, sort of a Smeagol for the holidays, only his "precious" is the holiday? -- and the original interpreter of the Frankenstein monster, Boris Karloff, narrates the t.v. adaptation. Then, of course, that hideous actor brought us that atrocity of a live-action Grinch film a decade ago. We won't get into the nightmare holidays at my own house, growing up -- at least, not now. So, I suppose a scary, ugly Grinch decoration was merely the next step.
I have to say, I have a fondness for the Grinch, with his desire for revenge and his redemption through an epiphany of love. And his little dog, too.
In fact, the most horrifying thing that I find about this Grinch thing in the thrift store is the cutesty-happy expression on his face. The Grinch, through the fabulous animation of Chuck Jones, presented a sour face throughout the film, occasionally breaking into a evil, devious grin, and finally exploding into a daffy, joyful smile at the end. This rendition expresses nothing accurate and an attempt to rob the Grinch of his Grinchiness and render him cute and cuddly for the masses:Alas, eventually I had to tear myself away from the life-sized Grinch and move on to CVS to refill my happy pill prescription. After all, 'tis the season for happy pills.
Then, in CVS, what should I find amid the Christmas and Peanuts anniversary stock? This:
"OMG!11!eleventy-one! Poniez!!!" I squealed, right there in the middle of the CVS. "A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree!!!!one!!!eleven!!!!" Yes, I used all of the exclamation points!!!!!
The tree stands about a foot or two high, the size that you would imagine the actual tree would be if it weren't a cartoon. The Linus blanket adds a nice touch; but, really, to be accurate, the Linus blanket should be much larger. The Linus blanket should also be over to the side because, if you recall the source material, when Linus wrapped his blanket around the base of the sad little tree, it grew ten feet tall.
A Charlie Brown Christmas, I must admit, was not one of my favorite Christmas stories, despite having the coolest dance scenes in animation history, including the original Happy Snoopy Dance. The whole bit with Linus reciting the Biblical passage seemed to me a bit pedantic, even as a child obsessed with "the true meaning of Christmas."
Seriously, I insisted that we have a nativity scene (partly to play dollhouse with the figures) and, at school, I made Christmas ornaments reflecting the birth of Christ. I did this not so much because I was a Believer but because I demanded historical accuracy. At least, historical accuracy as I understood it at age 10.
Still, I sympathized with Charlie Brown and his attraction to the neglected little tree. I also liked the idea that enough love and caring will allow a neglected little tree to grow into something big and beautiful. Something about that made me very sad, and I did not want to be a sad little girl at Christmas. I was already a sad little girl for the rest of the year.
As an adult, I can see how trite and sentimental all of those Christmas decorations and stories are. This may also be the root of my affection for a certain type of kitsch, including Christmas kitsch. For a sad little girl looking for any escape from an angry and violent household, the trite and sentimental provided an imaginative avenue for solace.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I suppose you could say that one is a combination vegetarian-desertarian cake.
May everyone catch up on grading, not have to put up with any p.i.t.a. relatives or in-laws, and get some rest. That is to say, have a happy holiday!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Last spring, I was drafted into becoming a coordinator myself. Not of Infernal Internal Fellowships, but of gender studies. Normally, I try to avoid anything even remotely resembling administrative work. I know my limits and prefer to stay within their borders. Administrative work is very much outside of those borders. If my borders are at, say, Maine, then administrative work is way over on the Great Wall of China. Which is to say that I tried to squirm out of this position like a worm on a hook.
Nevertheless, I was coaxed into it by promises that the only responsibilities on our campus were teaching the introduction to gender studies class, sponsoring the gender studies club, and overseeing a production of The Vagina Monologues. Since the gender studies club never meets because most of the women who are interested also have busy schedules, since the outgoing coordinator loves to direct and would help on the production, since there is no budget whatsoever to manage, and no scheduling since this is more of a confederacy of courses than a department -- in other words, there would be very little to coordinate -- I figured, "what the hell?" For better or worse, I could be a more active feminist this way simply by introducing feminist ideas to young women (and the stray young men who wander haplessly into the class -- don't get me started on "Moe," or their reactions to The Vagina Monologues!)
This semester I have been sitting in on the intro course to see how the current professor structures it. She's also been giving me her advice about what works and doesn't in regard to the club and the production. Sitting in on the class has actually been enlightening. I didn't expect myself to react so strongly to some of the students' opinions, and I'll have to keep an eye on that when I teach the course to ensure that I stay in the teacher role rather than the activist-feminist role. I will have to remind myself that I'm not engaging them in an ideological battle. The ideological battle will be between themselves and the world. I will be arming them with concepts and ideas that they can examine and evaluate, accept or reject. At least, that's the plan. I may be sorely wrong.
But, I drift from my story here in a tangent to the deep background. The deep background is, first, that I am slated to be the gender studies coordinator and, second, that crap that I went through with that Infernal Internal Fellowship Coordinator last spring.
The summer passed as it did, and we all returned to work in September. Fortunately, the Coordinator works at another campus, so I never have to see her. Ever.
Then, she sent me an e-mail (did I tell you about this?). She forwarded me some article or another that I think was supposed to prove her point (whatever the hell it was), and then she offered her assistance when I take on the gender studies position because -- oh, yes -- she once held this position on our campus. Wishing to neither alienate nor engage her further, I sent a terse "thank you" reply.
Maybe the terse reply was a bit bitchy. I'm pretty sure that she would interpret it that way since, based on my experience with her, she probably wanted effusive "thank yous" and long apologies about how sorry I am that I left the fellowship and so on and so forth. I can only dish out so much bullshit, and the day had been filled with meetings. In any case, that should have been the end of it.
The current gender studies coordinator also had to deal with the Fellowship Coordinator many years ago. She has very little to say that is nice about the Fellowship Coordinator. Recently, she had to go to a meeting involving the Fellowship Coordinator. The Fellowship Coordinator approached her and told her to beware of me, that "we had some trouble with her last spring." Of course, "it is all confidential," she told my colleague, "but call me if you want to know more." My colleague told her, "well, I've had a good experience with her."
Understand, as much as I've vented about this story in this space, I have confined my venting to this space and to friends who don't work at my college. I've only told my story to the dean, two chairs, and my gender studies colleague. I was also very careful not to implicate the FC directly in my stories, using a lot of "theys" and passive voice. Every one of them said, "it was her, wasn't it?" Either I wasn't being elliptical enough, there weren't too many candidates for "they," or everyone knew her methods.
The gender studies colleague sure did. "That sounds like something FC would do," my colleague said. "Was FC involved in this?"
My party line has been, "it was a bad fit" or "it just didn't work out." That seemed to be the best shine to put on the whole affair, and then leave it behind. No one has given two shits about it since the summer. Now, here she is, bringing it up again, which seems kind of stupid. I mean -- hell! -- if I were her, I'd sit back and laugh at me now taking on a coordinating position. "Let's see how she likes it being on this end," I would say. Then I would watch me flounder around, laughing to myself the whole time. But to actively try to poison people against me? Maybe she thinks that she's saving everyone from me. Maybe she thinks that she's saving her old job from me.
Or maybe she's just a control freak who thinks that she lost a round and wants to make sure that a dissenting voice knows her place. I'm rather hoping others see this as being as childish and vindictive as I do.
My gender studies colleague sure did. "That' just like FC," she said. "Trying to stir up drama and make everything into a big DEAL when she doesn't have to."
Like I said, this may be where the fellowship karma comes back to bite me in the butt; but I'm not too worried about it.
Monday, November 23, 2009
It represents one of the lesser-known sonnets: "Rubber Duckie, thou art the One/Thou makest bathtyme so much fun."
*I confess that I did not take this particular picture. The shop was a bit crowded and I felt self-concious.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I suggest to them to proofread, to at least run the darn thing through spell- and grammar-check. Those features, however, can't tell when a sentence should use "their" or "there," plural "s" or apostrophe "s," and the whole host of creeping bad grammar that has infected language at every turn. So, I suggest that they run their papers by a friend or pretty much anyone else, just to let a second set of eyes catch any oddities. The English teachers like to call this "peer review."
The problem, however, lies in the "peers" doing the reviewing. You see, I think that many of them actually do proofread their papers. The problem is that they don't know enough proper grammar in the first place to know if that "they're" should be a "their," even when they are forbid contractions. Having a peer review their paper? Well, that is tantamount to the blind leading the blind. Their peers do not have any better a grasp of language than they do, which is the reason that I'm a bit suspicious of peer-review in the first place, unless you have some really stellar students in the mix. Even then, they are not seen as examples to which they can aspire, but exceptions who have some special circumstance that makes them perform better.
I have one colleague who will only proofread a paragraph. Then he makes a note in the margins to the effect that they should get someone to proofread and help them correct their issues with the language.
Who are they going to go to? The writing center flat-out refuses to proofread. Their friends are in the same condition as they are. They can't necessarily count on their families to help, either, especially if they are of that 1.5 generation of immigrant children or immigrants, or if they are the first in their family to go to college. That's often the case.
Between teaching them to use a computer, the software, how to write an essay, how to search a database, where the library is and that they might consider using books, what evidence looks like, and the actual content of the course, I really don't have time to conduct grammar lessons. Really! So, I proofread.
Then, I have to go read some clear prose, so mine doesn't deteriorate. Bad grammar is much like a virus. It spreads through exposure.
I'm hoping that good grammar spreads the same way.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
In reply to your request for friendship I say (choose all that
_Not in a million years
_Are pigs flying?
_We weren't even friends when we were dating!
Because you are (choose all that apply):
_A lying cheater
_A cheating cheater (one who cheats on the person whom he's cheating
_A racist/homophobe/fatphobe/misogynist who, after using
racial/homophobic/fat jokes/sexist slurs, insists that he isn't a
_A control freak
_A rat's ass
_Still married, expecting a child, and are only contacting me this way because you have found it to be a unique new way to cheat
Additional comments here:
Sure, it's hostile, juvenile, and decidedly UN-friendly; but this is the social networking site that came up with the "unfriend."
Friday, November 20, 2009
Over a year ago, I went to see a doctor about getting my Happy Pill prescriptions refilled and about this overwhelming fatigue that I couldn't seem to shake. He sent me to get lab tests. The urinalysis (and here is where we start to get the TMI) came back with blood. He dismissed it as being "that time of month," and sent me back.
Incidentally, he never asked when the last "time of month" had begun, as most doctors do. This was my first clue that maybe he wasn't the doctor for me. That, and the fact that he dismissed me when I assured him that it was not "that time of month."
I went back, gave the sample (at least that is pain-free), and it came back with the same results. Hematuria. Again, he dismissed it as "that time of month" and sent me back for a third time. Understand, both times, I was careful to schedule the lab visit so that there would be no question that it was "that time of month." Yet, here he was again, extending this process by yet another month or so simply because I get "that time of the months." In fact, he even told me that, were I a man, he would have sent me to a urologist after the first lab visit.
I found another doctor. A female doctor. As I age, I find that I prefer to see women. In fact, I'd rather see a woman who is maybe a decade older than myself because, first, a woman knows what it feels like to be in a woman's body and will be less likely to casually dismiss things as "that time of month." Second, a woman older than myself has been through the things that I am about to go through, like menopause, so it all won't be as mysterious to her.
This female doctor sent me to the lab, got all of the work done. Hematuria again. So, she sent me back just to be certain. When the results came back again, she sent me to a specialist.
She also sent me to get a mammogram because I'm over forty and have managed to avoid them. I'd prefer needles to mammograms. I honestly thought my tits would pop. Then, I wondered if that ever happened to women with implants. The lab tech assured me that she had never seen a breast with or without an implant pop, but she understood how I felt. She'd had her boobs in the vise more than once herself.
Anyway, after being referred to the specialist, I dawdled. For all of my health-care feminist talk and worry, I do hate to see doctors who will most likely use needles or who will like to poke around down in my insides. As that Vagina Monologue about the "Angry Vagina", "You got to convince my vagina, seduce my vagina, engage my vagina's trust."* I'd like a little sweet talk, first. Some candlelight. Dinner. You have to get it over its issues about violation and abuse.
Sadly, that's not the way it works. So, I cowgirled up, girded my loins, and made the appointment. If finding a female GP nearby is difficult, try finding a female specialist. Then, factor in the need to stay "in network" on your insurance. You know, having lived without insurance for long long stretches of my adult life, I can tell you that having insurance is grand; but, the one and only benefit of NOT having insurance is that you can go to pretty much anyone and don't have to deal with all of this network and paperwork business.
I went to the specialist. You know, gynecologists believe in the KY jelly. Urologists don't. Ouch. At least she said that all of my equipment is in excellent condition, except for two things. The first being the hematuria. The second being a set of symptoms that had developed in the previous month. Inconvenient symptoms. Symptoms that, on that very same day, had me excusing myself in the middle of teaching a class to run to the ladies' room. Quickly. After I had visited the very same ladies' room scarcely an hour earlier.
Thank goodness for antibiotics.
When these symptoms showed up, I was glad that I already had an appointment to visit this specialist. You see, I think the hematuria is related to these symptoms. Not the ones that I'm having now, but the same ones that I was having for nearly two years between 2005 and 2007. For most of that time I had little to no insurance. I was on my little professional detour through library school, dirt poor, and only had the insurance that allowed me to visit the very minimal school health center during the semester. Then, when I did get insurance, I was paid so very little that I could barely afford the co-pay, much less any other charges that might result from the discovery of any complications.
I did, once, explain my symptoms to the doctor in the health center -- who I swear was not old enough to be out of college, much medical school, she appeared to be so young, and who was used to dealing with bodies that were a good 15-20 years younger than myself. She told me not to worry, "sometimes urine just has sediment in it." Sediment? You know, I had been peeing for nigh on 4 decades at that time. This "sediment" thing was new. It disturbed me. What's more, research (Google), told me that my symptoms indicated an infection, not business as usual.
How did I conclude that those symptoms were perhaps the result of happy bacteria partying in my urinary tract? In 2007, I visited my parents. My nephew, 2 and in pre-school, was also visiting. We bonded over a shared bottle of water. Two days later, I had strep. I worried that I might have given it to him, and asked my sister-in-law. She said strep had been going around his pre-school. Far from me infecting my nephew, the little munchkin had infected ME!
I did have adequate insurance and an adequate paycheck at that time, so I went to the doctor and got some antibiotics. Not only did the strep clear up, but so did the other symptoms. "Hmmm," I thought, "could there have been more going on below than 'sediment'?" I have since read that untreated bladder infections can travel through the urinary tract and cause damage to the kidneys. Damage to the kidneys results in hematuria; and, of course, I haven't been helping matters by giving in to my own discomfort with examinations in the pelvic area.
This specialist has given me antibiotics for these symptoms, but she wants to do some exploration in regard to the hematuria. First, I have to go get a sonogram on my kidneys and bladder and everything else in and around that whole system. That's later today. I'm hoping that the sonogram is like those that they do for pregnant women, and doesn't involve poking, prodding, or anything invasive. Of course, I do have to drink about a gallon of water beforehand, and keep it in.
Ah, the irony: the sonogram requires holding it, but the infection insists on getting rid of it. Immediately.
The sonogram isn't all. She also wants to go spelunking in my bladder. My eyeballs popped out of my head just at the mention of what she wants to do. "Don't worry," she told me, "we will put you in a twilight state."
"Twilight state?" I wondered. "Like sparkly vampires?" Then, I thought, "oh, shit! This involves an IV." IVs freak me out. I don't want a needle staying in my arm. In fact, I have such anxiety about needles staying in my arm that I worry that it will overcome the effects of the anesthetic and I will feel all of the spelunking. Then, again, maybe the anxiety over the IV will distract me from the spelunking. Either way, this is not shaping up to be one of my better days.
The concept of "twilight" also freaked me out a little. I'm assuming this means that I won't be all the way into dreamland. I'm not sure if I like that idea. With the IVs and the spelunking, I'd rather be out cold. That, or I'd like to be conscious enough to watch whatever she's watching going on down in the cave. I'd just like to not feel anything from the waist down. Then, I wondered if she could just give me the laughing gas that the oral surgeon gave me when I got the wisdom teeth out.
That led to a logistical problem. I have to have someone drive me home. I'm kinda embarrassed to ask anyone to drive for me, not only because of the nature of the procedure, but also because who knows what I will say while I'm high on the way home. After all, I only share my deepest, dearests secrets on the blog. Real life? Oh, hell no!
Here's where the Gentleman Caller proves himself to be a stand-up guy. He's going to fly down to tote me to and from the doctor that day. Who does that? Certainly not any of my ex-idiots. To be fair, he is rather looking forward to seeing me on drugs. He said that he wants to get me to do simple math equations. I told him that he would get the same result right now, if math is involved. So, this will also be a huge trust test in our relationship, too. At least he's passed the "above and beyond the call of duty" test.
Is there a moral to this story, or even a purpose? Not really, except that, if there is something wrong in my kidneys, and it is the result of an infection that went untreated for 2 years, and if the lack of treatment was due to lack of insurance and affordable health care, well, there you have a mundane argument for a comprehensive (as in "covers everything you absolutely need") public option in health care.
*Here is a perfomance of it that I found via Google. In the Women's Studies class that I'm observing, the instructor is showing Eve Ensler's HBO DVD. The guys in the class, for all of their fascination with pussy, and all of their desire to get pussy, are completely freaked out by the posessors of those pussies talking frankly about their vaginas.
Vagina Monologues - "The Angry Vagina"
SuSan MySpace Video
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I despise this time of semester between mid-terms and finals. Mid-terms, papers, finals, and late everything, myself included. In fact, I'd like to develop a logarithm (and I don't even know what that is because I barely scraped through algebra five times between high school and college - and I was a good student -- but it seems like a math sort of thing that can take into account several variables and increasing values). This logarithm would assume that, at the start of the semester, you should assume that 1 out of every 10 students* will require an extension or make-up or some sort of special consideration on every assignment. That ratio goes up as the semester progresses, and increases with the use technology. In fact, it increases with each step involved in the use of technology.
For instance, if the assignment instructions are an attachment in WebCT, 1 out of every 10 students "can't" open the attachment. If they are to submit their assignment as an attachment in WebCT, 1 out of 10 students "can't" attach the document. If you have them turn in the assignment as a hard copy, 1 out of 10 students couldn't get to a printer. If you have online quizzes, 1 out of 10 students couldn't open the quiz, or forgot to save, or saved but the system had timed out, or saved but their computer crashed, and so on and so forth. We've all heard all sorts of reasons.
So, 1 out of 10 students needs a make-up, or an extension, or some special consideration for every assignment. The ratio goes up as the semester progresses, and the ratio goes up with each step of technology involved. The ratio also goes up if you require online students to take the exam at the school testing center.
Now, if you try to head any of this off at the pass, if you try to implement policies that say "save every ten minutes or the software will time you out, because failure to save is not an excuse," your ratio may go down, but more likely a new excuse will pop up in its place. If you try to implement a make-up policy or an extension policy, your numbers still don't go down because someone will always need an extension or a makeup or special consideration for that deadline, as well. There are enough variables running around in this logarithm to keep that number of 1 in 10 climbing at a steady pace.
This is not to say that these are not real and valid excuses. People die, break bones, get food poisoning, get sick, have children who get sick, have pregnancies that become dangerous, get arrested, have appointments with parole officers, get in car accidents and have to have their jaws wired shut, have such tight schedules as they try to get ahead in life that the slightest variation in that schedule will throw their whole lives off balance, and so on. I've seen the documentation (and I do hate the seeing the documentation because I feel as if I'm invading their privacy and violating HIPPA or some other sort of law). These things happen all semester, but they only become an issue if they interfere with a deadline. This is just life, and I have to roll with it just as much as they do.
That means that, by this time in the semester, not only am I keeping track of the regular assignments that flood in on time, but I'm also having to ride herd on X number of late, make-up, special consideration assignments, and troubleshoot technology problems (that, let's face it, are usually not as mysterious as they think), and responding to a deluge of e-mails with, "go back and read the syllabus. Remember? I am useless as Tech Help, call the Tech Help Desk."
I want the logarithm in order to predict what X will be. I like to think that, if I can predict X, then I might be able to set aside time to deal with X, and X won't be invading all of my other work during the week. I like to think that, if I can predict X, I can manage X more efficiently. That's probably NOT what would happen because it isn't really fair that a person who was sick with the H1N1 thingy, or had an emergency C-section, should have to wait until the end of the semester to get feedback.
The problem is not them. Half of the things that I bitch about as a teacher are not the students' fault - some are, like the student who dropped the American history survey because "it is more like an African American history class and I didn't sign up for that, I signed up to learn about the foundations of American idea" -- but that is another post. Most of that has more to do with a nation that "values" education, but, based on the amount of money that they put into education, clearly values education very low. Most of that has to do with the anti-intellectualism and business model worship that are used to attack and devalue actual education, or turn it into a game of trivial pursuit, or vocational training, or a political strawman.
No, half of the things that I bitch about are simply out of frustration. Frustration at the nature of this part of the semester. Frustration at my own failure to live up to my own standards of perfection that involve keeping this part of the semester from happening. Frustration at the increasing amounts of time I need for sleep and the decreasing amounts of time I have for blowing off steam by working out or blogging.
Frustration that my breaks are getting shorter and shorter (seriously, 2 weeks for winter) and therefore my time for serious research and writing are getting smaller and smaller. Frustration that no one else has taken the training to teach online, so I have to take all of the online classes including the three in the summer (again!).
Frustration that I am so fatalistic and unable to consider solutions that all I do is complain. Frustration that I am so fatalistic that any solution offered just seems like even more work that will present yet another set of variables and another way to be overwhelmed with a sense of futility that I can't see these solutions as solutions.
Frustration because I know I have a rockin' good job with good colleagues and interesting students, a job that pays really well and is much better than any other job that I have had and is located in a very desirable location, and yet still I bitch and moan and am so overwhelmed at this particular period of the semester that I don't fully appreciate it.
I'm hoping that this blog post allowed me to barf out these frustrations so that they will stop interfering with everything else that I want and need to do. The only way to find out is to dive on into this next set of papers.
Wish me luck! I wish everyone else who is in the same situation less frustration and luck to themselve.
*I have 120 students at this point in this semester in 5 different sections covering 2 different courses. So that is 12 students with every assignment, which includes: 15 weekly quizzes, 1 mid-term, 1 final, 1 paper, and two online classes (50 students) with five other writing assignments. Two online classes full of technology, and 3 regular classes that still require some WebCT work. In other words, "Aaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!" and "more wine, please!" Although, I imagine that I would bitch the same amount if I only had 20 students, or 10. I'm a gold medalist bitcher.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Sesame Street first came on when I was 2. My mother still tells me -- and by "still," I mean that she just wrote this in an e-mail to me -- of my 2-year old self sitting in front of the t.v. at my little pre-school desk with the magnetic top, placing my magnetic letters in a row and singing along as they called them out on the show. This was how I learned to read long before the schools would think to teach me.
Cookie Monster, of course, was my favorite. How can you deny the exuberant single-minded passion of that fuzzy blue monster? We should all have such purpose and joy!
My first car was a bright yellow Buick Skylark. "Lemon yellow," my dad said. "No," I replied, "Big Bird yellow." I got a little Big Bird figure and stuck him to the dashboard like a Jesus or St. Christopher statue. I liked to think of his gentle curiosity guiding my car on my wanderings about the city; and, of course, I adored his insistence on his friend, Snuffaluffagus, in the face of everyone else's jeers.
Keep on, Sesame Street! Teach more children about passion and trusting themselves and reading.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Suffice to say that a major project that took up three years of my early career, my life, and my sanity, has finally -- FINALLY -- come to fruition!
I whole-heatedly believed in the work. I think it was and still is an incredibly important project. I loved the work and I cried because I was put in a position in which I had to leave to save myself. The work changed and shaped me. I became a much better researcher because of the project, which led directly to my current research. I derived a sense of pride and esteem from my work. I despaired of ever seeing it reach the light of day. Now, it is here!
I am eternally grateful to the people who came after me who could help this volume through its final stages; and, of course to the people who came before me and had to abandon ship just as I did. I can't believe that the press (a really important one located on the coast of New England) put up with all of us for so long. Lots of people gave enormous amounts of time and effort and head-banging frustration to make this volume live. Now, it is here! In my hands, with my name on the title page (and by "name" I mean that, when you look up the book on Amazon or in the library catalog, I will be "et al")!
It is here! Here! Here! I want to hug everyone I see out of joy!
But, I can't say exactly what it is.* It just is, and that's what matters!
Those three years were not completely lost! The academic public now has access to that work!
*Intrepid readers may be able to do a little investigating and figure it out