Thursday, March 31, 2005

La De Done

A blog that was one of my favorites has gone and left no trace of its writer. LaDeDa, where "Betty's gay with Midol," was pithy, witty, sharp, thought-provoking and . . .gone.

Hope that's not all she wrote.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


What's up? Messages are posted but not showing up--posts are taking forever to be posted--

Is Blogger having a meltdown?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Can we be multi-modal?

Perhaps the schism between writing on paper and writing through a computer will fade as we move to truely multi-modal forms.

I've noticed that the division between the two, (which I think plays itself out at the Cs in panels that are either all technology or no technology) may be of our own making.

My students will happily combine oral and visual modes of composing. They will work with paper and pencil, word processor, and/or in HTML to "get to" various audiences. I've also seen students work across modes while they are drafting. Has anyone else noticed similar patterns?

The Last Word on the 4 C's; First Words About Next Year

I'm pretty busy preparing for next week's conference workshop on blogging and don't know that I will have the time to do any posting here for awhile, unless it's to ask for help with the online handout. I did want to say a few things about the conference before I get back to the rush of being at school next week.

Jocalo, Mike, and Clancy have all done thoughtful jobs of transcribing notes, and if you haven't been to their sites, you really should go and read them. They link to others, and I think you can get a pretty good idea of what happened.

So let me segue (although I'd rather Segway)
into some thoughts about next year.

Thought #1: Technology. We have to have better systems for getting computers to work during presentations, etc. Yes, I'm speaking from experience, and though my talk was just that, a talk, read from notes that were the nth draft of ideas I'd been working on, both John and Styles had presentations that relied on using technology to show what they were talking about. Although we were able to find some help, the person didn't come in until the middle of Styles's presentation, and would have interrupted things and taken up more time before getting them fixed.
As it was, John became the techie, and Styles had to lean over and point out which file to put on the screen. He shouldn't have had to, though. The technical part of John's presentation was scrapped, and we missed his realtime blogging demonstration. That both men are experienced teachers who know how to gracefully shift course when things aren't working speaks to their professionalism. And yes, things happen. But my point is that at this point in time, we shouldn't have to treat technology like a "special" topic and arrange ahead of time for a room that would accomodate our laptops, powerpoints, blogs, etc. We should just assume that technology will be part of the process unless told otherwise.

Maybe I should be preaching to hotels and convention centers about this.

Related to this is Mike's comment about technology at the 4C's:

And now, as Collin points out, it’s time to start thinking about next year. I’ll share Collin’s sentiment that the “trend […] towards increasingly arbitrary and unclear categories” on the CCCC Call for Proposals is problematic, and I’ll add a question: do the proposal form’s “area clusters” perhaps actually hinder our disciplinary conversations? I noticed that a lot of bloggers went to a lot of the technology-focused panels, which of course is to be expected (it’s become axiomatic that the thing bloggers most like to blog about is blogging) — but I didn’t see any panels that had only one or two tech presenters; the tech panels were all tech, all the time (somebody, please, correct me if I’m wrong), which I think makes for a sort of echo chamber effect. It can also lead to attitudes like the one I (perhaps mistakenly) perceived in Anne Jones’s troubling “dark ages” comment; attitudes that pedagogies associated with digital technologies are somehow beyond rather than a part of composition’s body of knowledge. I wonder what might happen when composition reaches the disciplinary point that the New York Times reached on March 24, when it eliminated the Circuits section because of the way technology concerns had begun “migrating into the mainstream.”

Thought #2:Some Suggestions.

So, next year, in Chicago, why don't we mix things up a bit? Why don't we poll members to see what kinds of clusters/topics/panels/performances we'd like to attend?

Why don't we make certain that technology isn't always its own category, but is blended in with other presentations?

Why don't we create a "Wild Card" category that mixes up three presenters and gives them a year to figure out how their ideas do or don't intersect and then come to the conference with a presentation that continues the conversatiion?

Why don't we tape or podcast or broadcast some or all of the presentations so that members can go to the 4 C's website and play them?

Why don't we?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Oral History Project

Stop whatever you're doing and go see Sharon's idea for an oral history project of retired two-year college educators in her state. I'm especially excited about it because one of the observations that jocalo has made about the 4 C's is that because of so many teachers retiring these days, there needs to be a way to collect their wisdom and experience;

That many two-year colleges face a challenge as a lot of senior faculty retire, taking decades of accumulated teaching wisdom with them. I suggested at the Preparing Future Faculty session that departments should develop mentoring plans that help retiring and retired faculty pass on ideas and insights to recently hired faculty.

While the two foci aren't identical, both encourage us to take advantage of the terrific resources we have in our senior faculty, who, having seen and heard it all, can help new faculty cut through the confusion that being new to a profession and institution brings.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

MAWSA Blog Asks Women Bloggers

Next Saturday, I'll be giving a workshop at the Mid-Atlantic Women's Studies Association Conference on how to create a blog. My collaborator, Samantha Veneruso, asks that I post the following two questions to women who blog:

1. Why do you read blogs?

2. Why do you write (on your own blog or as a comment on another)?

If you'd kindly go to the WORDbirthing blog and post your replies, we'd appreciate it. And we'll post you on our blogroll.

Thanks much,


Tuesday, March 22, 2005


For a workshop that I'll be conducting in a few weeks, I'd like to compile a list of blog terminology--with words like post,trackback, blog, moblog, ping, blogroll, and so forth. Are there any other words out there that need to be included?


Monday, March 21, 2005

Last Week

First of all, it wasn't a reaction to my new meds that had me sprawled on my hotel bed last Friday. Instead, it was a combination of overexerting my out-of-shape body up and down SF, the pollen count, and letdown from the presentation. It was stress. Today, the meds are fine, my sinuses are fine, and I'm not going to overdo it back home.
I think that later on this week I'll post more thoughtful reactions to the conference, but today, while my father sits in the living room worrying about his blood sugar levels out loud, I'll jot down one of my disorganized lists.

1. How many buildings does it take to make the Moscone Center? Many. Reading the directions from the 4 C's would have helped me avoid another convention taking place.

2. The All-Day BW Workshop. Impressive presentations from folks at U of Wyo and another from folks at SF State and a few of its local community colleges.

A. First impression: once again, I am clobbered with the reality that size, population and finances affect how many cc's exist in a state and what they are capable of doing.
B. One of the schools, can't remember which, created a one-year BW learning community which, if the student fails, sends the students back to the community college. That raises my hackles, but again, I suspect that regionalism and not academic snobbery has something to do with it.

C. The continuing cry: "How do we define the BW population," and it's response: "It depends on where you're teaching and whether you're at a university, college or community college." I first heard this cry back in 1992, when I was writing my master's thesis and teaching part time at MC (thanks, Barbara Stout). Here we are, thirteen years later, and we're still asking that question. Maybe we'll always be asking that question.

D. The obvious becomes more obvious. In all of the breakout discussions, we'd come back to the need to blend reading and writing in developmental studies and not have them be discrete courses. Some schools are doing that, others aren't. More later.

3. Meeting other bloggers in person. Well, it's kind of like meeting a pen pal--they're not strangers, but can we say that we've met?

I can say that I've met Clancy and Mike E. Each as brilliant in person as they are in print. I've met Styles and jocalo, and enjoyed their presentations as much as I hope they enjoyed mine (new calling: academic comedienne.). Scott introduced himself to me as did a few others. I regret not being able to get to the blogging "do" at jocalo's or the SIG meeting, but there will be time next year.

4. "The New Collegiality." I'll say more later this week, as both jocalo and Styles deserve more than a single phrase compliment for their work. I think that jocalo and I managed to situate blogging at two ends of the career spectrum, though being middle-aged and new to teaching, I have lost that sense of unlimited time that I had in my twenties and thirties. Styles not only showed his agility and magic with words and ideas, but also offered some thoughtful and practical observations about his blog, like his decision to not write every day, but to limit his posts.

5. This here blog. I've been wondering if we shouldn't try Typepad, which I will happily subsidize through my 2Board Alley blog. One of the best features of blogging is that the reader can go back and read old posts and conversations, and can also eyeball who is currently commenting. Blogger limits these opportunities somewhat.
Also, we need to revise some of the resources on our page--we being me, as Cindy has done a terrific job of keeping up with the new blogs and contributors.

6. And then there's my voice. Not wanting to dominate, I'd love to get more voices posting here. I would love to have posts from folks teaching lit, freshman comp and anything else. The more voices, the richer the mix and the deeper the possibilities.

7. I was thinking last week that I ought to post about a learning community that I work with, the Biomedical Scholars, and about the Writing Center web page that I've been involved with creating for the last year. Why not?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Grab Bag

Came home last night--my suitcase took the long way and will be here by midnight, they tell me. The conference was great, and while I was out of it on Friday (thanks to a bug), I can say that I've gleaned quite a bit for the next year.

If last year was a time of thinking about what I do in the classroom, with or without technology, I think that the coming year is going to be one of guided introspection and experimentation as I start using blogs in the developmental classroom.

There's more to all of this, but as it nears midnight and my suitcase is nigh, I'm going to sign off now.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

San Francisco, Day Two

Today is a beautiful day--sunny and warm. I went to the SF City College to look at the Diego Rivera mural, and it was well worth the trip. I'm going to use the mural as a backdrop for Bless Me, Ultima the next time I teach it. Walked down to the Moscone Center just to see it--I remember being at the SFMOMA during my last visit here, about eight years ago--don't know how old the MC is. Walked past the Museum of Cartoon Art--gotta get there before I leave.

Last night I worked on my presentation/talk/notes for Thursday. As usual, the closer I get to the deadline, the more shape it has taken. Plenty of narrative, Clancy. Being out here early, away from the madding campus, has contributed, I'm sure. Nothing to do but think. I'm not giving a paper because I don't want to. I want to talk face to face with people. Real time, real people, real speech.

I'm trying to land on a metaphor that will pull my handout together and am coming up trite. No links, no journeys, no diaries. Maybe a genealogy of my blogging. That's the ticket. I think. Now to avoid all those vomity cute genealogy names that I hate, like "roots 'n branches."

Back to reading and responding to student emails-- told them that I was going to SF, not another planet, and that they could send me an email (in fact, they are supposed to be sending me two.)instead of turning in journals or doing busy work with a substitute.

If you're coming to SF, be sure to wear a flower in your hair, okay? And take a Sudafed, too.

We're Famous!

Well, sort of. At least in our circles.

Monday, March 14, 2005

San Francisco, the Cow Palace and the Pollen

The flight from Philly was calm, and I managed to grade two sets of papers before I dropped three sets of papers in the aisle somewhere over Michigan. Retrieved them with no damage done to the papers or my seatmates. Read the in-flight magazine in English and Spanish, read ALL of the Georgetown Alumni magazine and was annoyed for the second time this week by Georgetown (not including basketball) or Georgetown-related topics. Okay, the magazine had an article about GU alumni who have gone into teaching because of the fantastic education they received at GU. I may be misreading things --may and better be about alums from the college and not people with grad degrees. If not, I want them to have an article about those of us who went into Community College teaching. My other peeve is really with the Washington Post for publishing an article on blogging in academe and not featuring any of the MANY community colleges in the area--just the universities, of which my alma mater was one. Emails will be sent.

Now, about SF. I hailed a cab driven by a cabdriver who must have trained in Boston and the Indy 500. We sped past the Cow Palace exit among others (and Jocalo, just what is a "Cow Palace" ?)and arrived 35 dollars later at the hotel, where Captain Nemo was nowhere to be found.

Spent the morning working on my presentation and then felt so headachy that I cancelled a visit with a friend who teaches at the City College (home of the Diego Rivera mural). Her husband mentioned that the pollen is very high right now, and I concur, so bring your allergy meds with you. Had breakfast with another lodger-instructor named April who will be presenting on Friday, and with a very kind woman who worked in Computer Science in Wisconsin and who taught me how to use a MAC laptop. Finally, met the elderly Captain N, gracious but more interested in napping, or so he said in a fine Siamese accent.

It was a beautiful day here, despite the pollen, and a perfect day for wandering around getting reacquainted with the city.


Sunday, March 13, 2005

What's the secret to doing it all?

Well, I'm frantically trying to prepare final exams and grade last papers before I take off for CCCC in San Francisco, and I'm wondering whether everybody else is scrambling, too.

I teach on a quarter system, but I generally have three different preparations going each quarter. The mix changes constantly because I'm at a small school, but I usually have 2 composition courses, most often at two different levels (English 101 and English 102, for example) and a humanities course, or a literature course. I never have the same preparations from quarter to quarter. Usually, I teach 5 to 7 different courses each school year, and then I have a couple of other courses that rotate in every other year.

I guess I'm nuts because I love the constant change. However, I always feel like I'm running at full speed through deep mud. I don't know how you all manage to keep up with everything and read multiple blogs and respond to multiple blogs and read journals, books........ What's the secret to doing it all?

Sunday Blog

There's much to write about and really no time to write if I am going to make my plane to SF. Jocalo has posted the NPR link on his site, so do go there and listen to his views on the new SAT. Clancy has been posting covers of girls' books from the 70's and 80's, and it brings up all kinds of great associations among her readers. Our new blog-siblings, Composition Mountain West and Composition Southeast both discuss the ramification of regionalization oon texts and teaching, particularly when the teacher is not from the same region as the student. Lots of good thoughts there. And John Goldfine writes about his plans for a new lit course: Dogs in Literature.

My BW students are waking up to words, flexing their brains and thinking about what goes on when we write.
The portfolio-keeping is going along less confusedly than last semester, largely because I am requiring that my students keep everything in a 1" ring binder with multiple divisions that we call "the portfolio." While they haven't been taking things out to revise on their own, they are in the habit of putting things in the right place and knowing where to find things, making them more independent of me. The time that we would have spent doing midterm portfolios is being eaten up by my trip, so I plan on doing individual conferences during the week after we return from break.
And grammar? Having tried the in-your-face style of grammar instruction last semester, I've gone in the other direction, and frankly, I like it. We have been looking at words in terms of stylistic and rhetorical choices first, and are now beginning to look at grammar as a way of figuring out what those words do to each other in the sentence. (When I say grammar, I don't mean a comprehensive review, but more of an overview with an emphasis on punctuation.)

I've two sets of papers to grade, but I think I can safely say that my students are calming down about writing and getting into the college swing of things.

Have a good week--I'm going to try to blog from the conference--we'll see how it goes.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Falling Behind in my Work

The weather in DC has been menopausal lately. On Monday, it was 60 + degrees outside, sunny, and beautiful. On Tuesday, it snowed. On Wednesday, I couldn't get my garage door open, and that's where this post begins.
It was 7:10, and I had to be at work at 8. The frozen door would not budge, so I went back inside and boiled water in some tea kettles to defrost the door. I went outside the front door to do the pouring, and when I came back inside, I saw that the other door, leading to the garage, was open. And I couldn't find one of my cats. So at 7:25, I tore around calling for him. Found the guy calmly eating his kibble. Turned to leave and fell down the steps into the living room. After screaming and yelling in pain for a few minutes, I hobbled to the car and got to class late--10 minutes late, but they were still waiting for me.
we were going to do some elaborating on skeleton sentences to reinforce the descriptive writing in their next paper, so I just wrote down a skeletal narrative about my morning and asked them to be creative and elaborate.(While I limped around the room trying to be helpful.)

It was great! Two students turned it into a Steven King kind of story, another wrote a hilarious paragraph and a third had me out clubbing the night before with the class . My cat was named Killer, Fuzzy, Old Yeller, and Felix, and my car, a filthy old Camry became a Mercedes, a Buick LeSabre, and a sports car. The details were sharp, and the class went beyond simply loading sentences with adjectives--they were using crisp, vivid nouns and verbs, phrases, synonyms and so on. The stories held together, whether my character was being pursued by a killer cat, scraping burned English muffins into the cat's bowl, dropping kettles of boiled water on myself or going upstairs to nap at 7:30 (but never forgetting that I had a classroom full of fantastic students, especially _______--insert writer's name here.).

I wish that I had copies of their freewrites so that I could post some of the sharp, distinct details here. I wish you could see how one student, a returning student who used write apologies after every assignment just sat down and wrote two full pages of a good story. We had fun listening to everyone read out loud, and I made certain to point out two positive, writerly things that each student had done, whether it be in details, word choice or structure. You can bet that I referred back to how these very same techniques could be used in their papers. No buts about it.

As I stand here drafting this post with one hand and swallowing more Advil, I can definitely state that I suffer for my art. Teaching is not for the faint of heart.

From Australia

It's truly fascinating reading CCE - Rosa, your fluency and regular postings awe me, but it was your post on being interviewed which prompted me to write. I felt an immediate sense of belonging then! I'm not sure why I became a teacher in the first place - and I think it had far more to do with being the main wage-earner in the family - but, once in, that was it. I think I've been lucky: I've taught in four different countries, and I'm currently teaching in a dual-sector university in Melbourne. That means we have students who are studying Technical and Further Education courses, and students who are enrolled in Higher Education (degree - and higher degree) courses. It's a fascinating cross-section - and I get to teach them all in our self-access and Open Access (yes, there's a difference!) facilities. I also teach classes: for the past two years, I've been teaching mainly English for Academic Purposes - academic and language skills for ESL students who come from a tremendous variety of countries.

My interest in (obsession with?) blogs started about three years ago: I was doing a course in Teaching and Learning Online - and scanning the net for ideas for a major project. Once hooked, I guess that was it. Blogs hadn't taken off then in the way that they have now, perhaps. Certainly I had to put up with an awful lot of teasing from the other staff here - but I survived! I immediately started using blogs with my classes - and I've done so ever since. I use them mainly as 'group blogs' - much friendlier than discussion boards. Last year, I actually started reflecting on what the various groups had accomplished, and writing up my research for the first time. I find that my ESL students gain so much: the classroom dialogue doesn't stop when the class ends - it continues over weekends, holidays - and long after a course has finished. I am fascinated by the oral influence on the student' writing styles - and by the way in which that improves their fluency in their second - or third or fourth - language.

I'm wondering whether anyone else has experience in this area. Blogging seems to be more common in the States than it is here. Obviously our education systems are very different - do you think the US sysem is more encouraging? I'm also dying to ask someone about intellectual copyright and ethics issues: I'm really strugggling to get advice on the ethics of using student blogs for research! I'm not sure why it is quite such a problem - but it seems to be!

I really enjoy CCE - and I'm enjoying your other links, too. I loved the definition of plagiarism in Sharon's blog - a great analogy indeed!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Another New Blog

Composition Mountain Westbegan this week, so let's raise our coffee mugs and toast the latest community college blog. Scott Rogers, the blog's founder, writes about the potential blogs have for "regionalizing" information for instructors. I hope that he posts here or at CMW about regionalizing and what it implies. I am very interested in finding out.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Blogging Difference

As Rosa has been preparing for her 4C's presentation, there's been some talk here about what makes blogging different from other Internet communication forms we've had available to us as academics: listservs, bulletin boards, chatrooms, etc. An e-mail I received today from a two-year English teacher who--inspired by Community College English--has started a blog with some colleagues, I think, says it all:
I was inspired by your Community College English blog to try to start a similar one for people who are members of TYCA-SE...or at least start with those people.

It's just getting started, and I'm still trying to scratch up members and interest, but I have patience and determination, so I think I can make it work.

Take a look:

That really made my day. Let's give Composition Southeast a warm welcome to the blogosphere. They've already got some great entries posted, and maybe we can get some cross-dialogue going.


Some places to go, some people to read:

Jocalo on Social Security.

CLC's union blog.

post on social security.

Jeff's last three posts.

A photo of my Goins relatives.

A Working Cat in SF. Thanks to Rana at Frogs and Ravens.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Being Interviewed

Last week, a former student interviewed me for a paper she was writing for her Intro to Education class. I was flattered and then flummoxed. At my age, I have had a good many years of teaching behind me--something I knew but didn't really appreciate until the interview. Two of her questions stood out the most: why did I become a teacher, and was there ever a time when I'd regretted the choices that I'd made?

I think that I was meant to teach. Coming from the "teach anything but middle school" Goins family, I admired teachers and always felt comfortable teaching. The only choice that I regret was in not getting my degrees sooner so that I could be working on a doctorate now (or finishing one).

By the time I was thirty, I realized that I'd be happiest teaching at a community college, and by the time I was forty, I was there. And I'm happy. My professional life has balance, which gives me time to crane my neck and look outward at higher education across the country and to develop a far wider perspective than I've had regarding politics, publication, funding and so forth.

What about the rest of you, readers? Why did you become teachers?


Okayyyyyyyy. I'm writing this two minutes after the class has left the room. I think that they've gotten the idea about the interview/profile, and, more importantly, have settled into writing. Just writing. Outlining, drafting, clustering, paragraphing--whatever helps them move beyond their interview notes and into the beginnings of a rough draft.
The last three weeks have been hard--in part because of the weather throwing off our schedules (yes, here in the DC area we panic at the sight of a snowflake. We know that all of you who live anywhere else north of here think we're nuts.), in part because their study habits are not strong, and in part because they have been so anxious that they've frozen every step of the way.

The other part is that three weeks ago marked the point in the semester when they realized that I was going to hold them to getting their assignments done and that they couldn't behave like children in class. This happens every semester in every section of BW that I've taught. It is the most challenging, exhausting and enervating part of teaching BW students and requires the most patience from me. Having to send people out of the room or move them to another seat is very elementary schoolish--and while I hate doing it, I hate even more when some students get in the way of other students' learning. Or my teaching.

But, may I say that today they settled down and either worked on their draft or did the peer review assignment, and did a good job of it? I was so impressed with their lead paragraphs that I stopped class and read several of them out loud, praising the good I was hearing. Both sections of students are starting to "defrost" and relax about just writing and taking chances on different kinds of writing beyond the five -paragraph theme. They're calming down enough to read an assignment sheet through before asking questions about it.
They're taking notes and asking questions when they don't understand things, and they are relying on each other for constructive help--meeting between classes to review things and so forth.

I think we're starting to turn the corner.

Friday update: I wrote the above on Wednesday. Today, Friday, both classes kept chugging along and students approached me for conferences--an important step because they are taking charge of the situation by asking me and then by having specific questions in mind when we sit down together. After classes, a student came up to me, holding several newpaper articles, in which he'd highlighted sentences whose grammar or punctuation confused him. He must have had about ten of them. We went over each one, and while I don't want to get into a discussion of grammar in the writing classroom, I was impressed that he was thinking about what he was reading and noticing how words were arranged into sentences. What a wonderful way to end the week!