Friday, December 21, 2007

Holiday thoughts...

"Why do people say 'Merry Christmas' when they really mean 'F*** you'?"

Monday, December 17, 2007

Student writing...

Grading. It is the part of my job that I hate the most. It takes forever to do, it’s no fun, and sometimes (especially if the papers are really crappy) it puts me in an almost angry mood. But there are secret joys that go along with grading, mostly at the student’s expense. Students-- sometimes through laziness, sometimes through trying to sound really smart, sometimes because they just aren’t thinking, and sometimes because they are just really ummmm... interesting people--write the funniest darn things in their papers.

I always tell my friends that we need to write a book someday using these examples—and perhaps using the crappy emails we get from students. (Remind me to tell you about the one in which a student describes in excruciating detail a rash he has that’s keeping him from class. Ummm, ewww? Just stay home until you feel better, okay, dude?)

Anyway, here are just a few great lines I’ve culled from my ENG 204 finals. I wonder if this post could get me into trouble...well, no names will be used to protect the guilty.

1) “…entombing him in his wince cellar”
I wish I had a wince cellar—a great place to do all my wincing and a great deal of my cringing. (Yes, the student is writing about Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.”

2) “Throughout the course of this semester, I have been bombarded with writers who have somehow contributed to literature in a crucial way.”
I just love the idea of a student being bombarded by American literature. Makes me sound like a bombardier, dropping American lit bombs on their innocent little brains, which is all kinds of awesome. It also makes me want a cool hat like this guy...

3) “Whitman loves everyone and everything, but he especially loves himself.”
This cracked me up, in part because it’s so very true (at least for a first-time Whitman reader), especially when you have students read “Song of Myself” with great lines like:

“Knowing the perfect fitness and equanimity of things, while they discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire myself.”

4) “Secondly to be preserved was the throw up…”
Aren’t you dying to know where this sentence is going?

5) “Although the meaning of this poem is argued quite frequently, it was a great poem to discuss so all the thoughts in this particular could be discussed.”

How to say nothing in 27 words…

6) “The rotting man, the strange murder, and the unusual necrophilia create a fascinating story that is intriguing for all readers.”

So there’s a usual kind of necrophilia? (Yes, the student is writing about Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.”)

Finally, a real gem from one of my ENG 101 students….

7) “I’m not entirely sure as to why, but I really enjoyed this class.”

Saturday, December 15, 2007


It's 12:28 on Saturday afternoon, and I've just finished inputting my final set of grades. Yay!

Now to get home and beat the winter storm that is arriving this afternoon.

You know what's sad? I am already feeling to pressure to get to work on next semester's syllabi. (In my defense, classes start again on January 10.) Ugh...and I have two conference papers I need to get done. So much for Christmas "break."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sometimes when you are grading finals... get distracted by severe cuteness...this time with a holiday theme.

Final exam week wisdom...

Check out this article about a study that found that students who pulled all-nighters earned lower grades than students who don't. This actually makes a lot of sense to me. When I see students coming in for an exam and I can tell they haven't slept, it isn't hard to see the drawbacks.

I've never actually had to pull an all-nighter, as procrastination scares the crap out of me. (There's a long story there about a fourth-grade research paper on the Apache that I put off and it almost got me severely burned. God himself intervened by sending a freak snow storm that canceled school the next day. That was enough: I learned my lesson.)

Friday, December 7, 2007

End of the semester...

Remember this post, written after the first day of classes back in August? Seems like a long time ago, I think. Well, today was the last day of classes. Finals are next week, which means a real grading blitz for me between now and then. Here's what I have in front of me:

  • 18 English 101 research papers (I was supposed to have these on Wednesday, but class got canceled on Wednesday)
  • 32 English 101 portfolios (18 from each section; I got the first half today, and will get the rest on Wednesday)
  • 68 English 204 final exams (2 sections worth; the first batch comes in on Tuesday, the rest on Thursday)
  • Final grades to calculate and input for all four classes

It looks like a lot, but I think I'll be able to handle it just fine.

All in all, it's been a good semester. When all is said and done, I think I'll have given out more Ds and Fs then ever before, but that's an entirely different blog post. These Shepherd students are a good bunch overall and I've enjoyed teaching them.

Today I had my camera with me (it stays in my bag most of the time these days) and we snapped a picture of my ENG 101-10 class, the first class I taught here at Shepherd.

They were an eclectic group--made me laugh, made me want to scream, made me smile--and most of them have signed up to take ENG 102 with me next semester. Lord help us!

Winter sunset...

Some pictures I took outside my apartment yesterday evening....

Thursday, December 6, 2007

At the risk of sounding like a crazy cat lady...

...I'll post this clip, which I first saw on Andrew Sullivan's site. It is so cute, your head might explode from the cuteness. And if you have cats around when you play it, I can guarantee they'll come running. Last night Bing, who was asleep on the table, came dashing over as soon as the first cat started talking.

Bird watching...

One of my favorite things about where I live is the pretty tree out behind my patio. I've hung my bird feeder from there and, as a result, it's a pretty busy spot for our local avian friends. Bing and Wes love to watch the birds, and I catch myself spending more and more time doing the same. Yesterday, at the height of the snow, it was actually quite extraordinary: I've never seen so many cardinals in one spot. At one point, I counted at least six males in the tree (fewer females, though--I'm not sure where they were). I know it's not that rare to love and appreciate the beauty of a cardinal, but I really do. The brightness of their red feathers against the white snow was just lovely.

I tried to take some pictures, but as soon as I opened the door out back, the birds noticed and from that point on, they were more scattered and spent less time sitting around the feeder. I did my best, though, and thought I'd share some shots with you.

This guy has the feeder all to himself!

A female eating on one side, a male on the other. I like how it looks like she's looking at me.

Can you spot the bird way up in the branches?

As I mentioned, once I opened the door, the birds really kept their distance. It didn't help that I had called attention to the two felines who were also eagerly watching their every move--especially since there was no longer a closed door between them. But I did take some more pictures, specifically of the birds that were far away, but still stood out against the white snow. I've left these (more or less) un-cropped, as I think part of the fun is seeing that flash of red standing out in a field of white.

Hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

First snow...

Here's the view from my back patio this morning.

We are having our first significant snowfall of the season today. Last night, the weather man said, "I'll be shocked if we get more than an inch." Well, to me it already looks like we've got a couple of inches out there. My drive from Martinsburg to Shepherdstown, which normally takes about 15 minutes, took twice that this morning. The main road looked like it hadn't been touched by a plow or anything. As I was driving, I was getting knots in my stomach thinking about having to drive home through that at 8:40, when my night class gets out.

At Shepherd, they are reluctant to close the school and cancel classes. Instead, they more or less leave it up to the professor. I found myself in a conundrum--it's the last regular meeting of this night class (finals start next week). The students haven't done their course evaluations yet and were supposed to do them tonight. Complicating matters even more, their research papers are due today. But many of the students in this class are commuter and I wouldn't feel right making them drive these roads at night. (And yeah, I didn't want to be driving at night either.)

In the end, I talked to the woman over in Institutional Research (the office that handles evaluations) and she said I wasn't the only person having this predicament. She gave me permission to have my students do evaluations during their final exam period. Normally, she explained, they don't allow that, since they think it's extra stress for students who should be focused on their exams. However, since there really isn't any other time, and since I'm not giving an actual exam (they're just handing in their writing portfolios), she said it would be fine.

As I was writing this, I just received word that just about everyone is canceling classes from this point forward, so I think I'll cancel my 2:10 as well and get the heck out of here.

Remember when we were little and snow was fun, not stressful?

Monday, December 3, 2007


Remember the post from a couple of weeks ago about how you could watch Wikipedia change? Well, I've been meaning to link to this site which is kind of similar. It shows you the photos people around the world are uploading to Flickr. In just a few moments of observing, you can see: pictures from a Barack Obama campaign event in Illinois, beautiful pictures of birds posted from Germany, an old church in Brazil, a soccer game in Liverpool, and of course, families and friends hanging out all over the world. (That last one is kind of cheesy, I know). It's kind of awesome and heartening to see all these touches of humanity.