Monday, February 28, 2005

Why I Can't Go to San Francisco

. . .or anywhere else for Spring Break? I've got a union to reform.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Just a Thought

As excited as I am to be meeting fellow bloggers at the 4C's, I am even more interested/curious about the anonymous bloggers. Will they reveal themselves at the conference? Will they move about the rest of us, anonymous and unnoticed? Will I be dragged into a dark alcove where "PinkSquid of Academia" reveals her identity, threatening all sorts of mayhem if I ever tell?

Just wondering. . .

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Bee

We finally had the Spelling Bee this morning. Both classes were sparsely populated since it's Presidents' Day, and the buses are running on a Sunday schedule.

If you've never taught BW or another language, the old-fashioned Bee (from bene, meaning help out)may seem kind of juvenile. Here's why I do it: it gets the students together in teams, working towards a shared goal, and it makes reviewing spelling a bit more interesting. It engages them in a way that I wish all learning did. In the overall context of the course, it's a light, active, and fun thing to do to balance out the more serious assignments that they are working on.

They also had a reading quiz based on an handout on notetaking that I gave them on Friday. We'll be spending the next two weeks reading and writing about being in college. One of their assignments is to take notes in class every day and to take notes on any homework that they're assigned. The notetaking assignment has the weight of a paper, and while it is not the most exciting kind of writing in the world, it is an important kind of writing/skill for them to have. I must say that I haven't been seeing many people taking notes, so it will be interesting to see how the next two weeks go.

They will also be interviewing one of their other professors for a profile paragraph that they'll be writing next week. The reason for this assignment is to have practice taking notes, but more importantly, it is to get the students onto campus to learn about the ways of academe--such as the office hour and the visit to the professor's office. So far, it has been like pulling teeth, and I feel that once they get through the interview and first draft, they'll feel so much better about it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Blogger's Block

I've been working on my 4C's presentation and am turning and turning in a widening pit of frustration, which is my usual m.o. for such things. I seem to need to work through a series of questions before I can get started on what I need to do.
Questions: Why did I offer to do this?
What was I thinking?
Who would want to listen to what I have to say?
What could I possibly have to say that won't already have been said by my partners and blogging's own eminences grises, jocalo and Styles?

Well, that's why god created therapists.

The other block I bring to any writing activity is that once I've learned something to my satisfaction, I am incredibly impatient about explaining it to other people. Unless I'm teaching.


Here's what I've been thinking, in a non-linear fashion:

1. Blogs are associational--with whom have I associated and why?
A. Keep up with theor(ies)
B. Be mentored
C. Mentor
D. Network all over academe-up ,down and sideways.

2. What's in it for other mid -career teachers who are not on the cutting edge but still on the blade?
A. Use another form of writing
B. That is not classroom dependent
C. Learn to blog and you too can have a blog of your own
D. Because it's so darn easy--unlike the bazillion web pages I have begun and abandoned over the years.

3. What I've done this year with blogs (here's where I get impatient--would it be like showing vacation slides at a dinner party?)
A. Can I create a powerpoint that would show everyone's banners?
B. Oh, okay. How would I do that?
C. Would it make a good and not boring ppt?

4. Theory. Ain't got one. Haven't got anything to problematize. Feel like an academic fraud. Is there room for a pragmatic academic?

5. What's in all this for me? What do I get out of blogging that I wouldn't get from visiting colleagues on campus?
A. Many of my colleagues have different schedules than I do--I'm not going to sit around for a few hours waiting to talk, nor would they--they've got family care and teaching loads to deal with. So do I.
B. So, blogs are a place where I can post an idea and get feedback (like right now, let's say).
C. Why don't I just pick up the phone and call my colleagues?
D. Ummm. good question. I'm in a rut.
E. Different quality of blogging discussion--time to think about posts, people's responses etc. In a f2f, we are always so busy that we don't get beyond the here and now (usually)
F. Widens network--blogging helps me see what goes on at other cc's and 4yr and universities. I've already said that. And why do I assume that my MC peers don't read the blog?

So, if you have questions, advice, patience or a good bottle of wine that you'd like to share, please do.

Thanks much for reading this long post.


Where Have You Gone, Mister Jocalo?

Your readers turn their lonely eyes to you, boo hoo hoo.

What's up with the blogs at DeAnza?

Monday, February 14, 2005

Some Thoughts on Plagiarism

As a teacher, I lose a lot of sleep. Not because I'm up late grading papers or planning assignments necessarily, but because I'm worried. Am I doing a good job? Are they learning anything? Do I really know good writing when I see it? Am I too easy? Too hard?

But the one thing I don't lose sleep over is plagiarism. Now, I know many of you do. The studies are there that show us how many students plagiarize in their two or four years of college. The Internet papermills make it as easy as point-and-click. The writing handbooks contain increasingly longer sections on what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. Plagiarism detection software abounds. And at every gathering of writing instructors, the topic comes up: what do we do about plagiarism?

At my college, we used to have access to,* and some instructors used it religiously, having students hand in their papers on disc and telling them that all their work would automatically be "turned in." I was opposed to the practice from the start simply based on the classroom ethos I believed it created: an ethos of distrust. Call me naive, but I refused to assume that any of my students intended to cheat; it was a bridge I refused to cross until--no, when--I came to it.

But rarely do I come to it, despite what some would call my lax approach to the issue. I make very little of plagiarism in my classes. Other than a brief talk about why we do MLA documentation when I go over how to do it, I don't talk to my students much about the issue. And yet, in the eight years I've been a full-time faculty member, I can count on one hand the number of students I've caught plagiarizing. How do I explain this? I think it comes down to two basic elements of responsible teaching: good assignment creation and relationship building. In other words, give assignments that are creative, specific, and not easily fulfilled by generic, downloadable material and get to know your students and their voices. I never allow students to choose their own topics, I never assign "the research paper" on a topic they are "interested in,"** and I read enough of their writing closely enough so if there is a change in voice, I'll hear it. Most of my assignments call for responses to texts we are all reading in class, and I change my texts regularly. I address unintentional plagiarism when it happens, by reviewing the concepts of summarizing, paraphrasing and effectively quoting and documenting. This usually solves the problem.

Does a plagiarizer ever get away with it in my class? I'm sure it has happened. But I still don't lose sleep. Someday, somewhere, either he will get caught or she will become a executive at an Enron-like company, but it will not change the way I teach. I will not adopt practices in my classroom that assume all are guilty from the start, nor will I create an atmosphere where students are terrified to incorporate other sources into their work for fear of improperly giving credit. We live and work in a world increasingly based on collaboration and the use of the Internet, and some of these issues of whose work is whose are becoming moot anyway.

No, I don't lose sleep over plagiarism.

*For more on the sinister side of, read Nick Carbone's excellent piece here.

**I think the open topic research paper just begs to be plagiarized.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

There's a New Blog Out There

And it's mine. It's called 2 Board Alley, and it's where I'm going to be posting my creative/reflective writing. I'm still going to post here twice a week about school, teaching and theory, and I hope that others will post here as well. Hint, Hint.

Bee Here Wednesday

On Wednesday, my basic writing students are going to experience that piece of schoolhouse Americana, the spelling bee. We've just spend two weeks reviewing spelling and homonyms (among other things--we've done a great deal of writing, too), and I thought it would be fun to have a spelling bee to cap things off. I've assigned the students to send me a list of the words that they know they have trouble with--those will be the words that I use for the bee, so by Wednesday, they will have had time to review. I am going to throw in some "wild card" words, too.

Just to make it more exciting (hang on to your hats!), I'm going to divide the class into four groups and have them competing against each other. How to score points? I think I may give each group a point for each correct word and then add five points to the winning group. There are probably more complicated ways to keep score, but since this is the first go round, I want to keep it simple.
Will it work? We'll see.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Cat B_ogging

One of our cats broke the "L" key on my husband's laptop. Just the "L" key and nothing else. What could it mean?

"He was reaching for the rest of the keyboard," my husband explained, "and the 'l' was all he could get."

I believe him, but I can't help but wonder why the cat would need to be reaching for a laptop. Or a keyboard.

And I laughed when Mike's cat brought him a Post- it note.

Something's afoot.

Monday, February 07, 2005

You're Never Too Young. . .

A six year-old told me that if I wanted to know more about lionfish, all I needed to do was to "google it." That's what she did. In the "liberry."

Sunday, February 06, 2005

An Offer for Poets Attending the 4C's

I planned on going to the poetry workshop on Saturday, but I have to fly home and take care of my father, so if anyone wants to use my ticket, let me know.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Friday Scat Blogging

oh, doobie doo lalalaa, doodlieoo, dababbababababa dippydappydippywippy oootoobleowieo oh. wow.

Friday. The End of a Busy Week

What a week! Classes went well, meetings went well, and just about everything fell into place. I'm at home today, fighting off a SAD-related migraine, so this scant post will be a list of what has been on my mind this week.

1. Ward Churchill. An academic whom I'd never heard of until this week. As I wrote in an email to the TechRhet mail list, regardless of what he has written or said, the larger issue is academic freedom. His and ours. For other thoughts about WC, visit The Happy Academicand hear why even HA is worried.

2. Some new blogs. I was delighted to hear from timna and hope that she posts here in the future. All it takes is an email to clc, and you, too, can be posting here. While enjoying timna's blog, Timna: Contemplating Teaching, Writing and Driving Middle Schoolers, I found John Goldfine, another CC English prof, this time from Maine, and I enjoyed my time spent reading a Small Town Community College Writing Teacher Blog.

My colleague, VS, has put me on to Jeanne at Body and Soul, and a recent posting, "Turn Down Your Volume," smoothly braids topics like buying a gift for a little girl, the noise at Best Buys, talk radio, speaking up, finding your voice and a positive take on the voices of America. Did I say it was a satisfying read? It was. Jeanne writes clearly and profoundly about politics, war and "The Body Politic, the Human Soul, and Billie Holiday." VS and I will be giving the workshop on blogging at this April's conference of the Mid-Atlantic Women's Studies Association, and have been compiling a list of feminist bloggers. I'm still looking for feminists bloggers from other areas of academe (other than Lit/Comp/Rhet/Tech)and from other areas of life. Please pass along links to me if you know of anyone.

3. Jeff. This past weekend I made more headway through his text, and as usual, am wondering how to modify it to the very basic of Basic Writing levels. Over at EarthWideMoth, Jeff and Derek Mueller (and others) engage in a very useful discussion of technology and text production--in other words, should a blog ( or anything else) be used in the service of creating forms and patterns that we already know, or should we look to this new technology and see what forms and patterns come from it? "Retromediation and Novelty," has given me something to chew on as I begin to use blogging with my students.

4. Jocalo. Today Jocalo posts about a movement afoot in Colorado to remove Bless Me, Ultima from the schools because of, you guessed it, language. Having taught this novel last semester, I am saddened (okay, pissed, too)that anyone would want to remove that book from any student's grasp. Like other great books, you read not only about a young boy's passing from innocence into experience, but you learn about cultures, in this case, the pre- and post- colonial Mexican and the SW American, and about assimilation and resistance, religion, war and nature. Oh, and there are some of those, ummm, you know, "words" in it as well.

5. Mike. Mike is writing about class (economic) and class (academic)over at vitia. I've enjoyed following his thoughts along with those of others in discussing how economic class (background?) plays out in academics, and by that I mean us, not the field. Can you truly be said to be "working class" by the time you've gotten through two or three degrees and have a well paying job? And Rob points out that the terms we use to classify people with may not be relevant in these economic times.

6. San Francisco. I've found my hotel room. Have you? I won't be breaking the picket line, but will instead be staying at a B and B closer to the Moscone Center, Grace Cathedral (one of my favorite places in the world)and one of my oldest and dearest friends. And, it's cheaper than the Hilton.