Saturday, February 26, 2011

Must be doin' something right

In my Restoration Drama class, Aristotle's Unities/Poetics, Greek drama, and the term "catharsis" have all come into our discussions.

I confess -- sometimes I fear that I'm watering down information for my students, due to time or age appropriateness.  But I was practically glowing with pride when those issues came up in discussion because most of the questions the professor asked, my students could have answered.  Granted, whether they still remember them or not a year+ later is questionable.  When we studied Antigone, though, they could have!  It made me feel like I'd been doing something right.  In fact, when the term "catharsis" came up, there was more than a few in my class who didn't know the term or its relationship to Greek drama.  And once again, I thought to myself, My kiddos could have told you that!

Sitting there in class, I performed a little interior dance of joy.  I felt good about what I'd done.  Though I worked with time constraints, standardized tests, and over-and-around pep rallies, I managed to do something right; I hadn't watered it down as I'd feared.  I taught my kids something that they could have sat in a graduate class and answered questions about.  I'm so proud of them, and they don't even know it!

img source: kevindooley

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Say something real

My most significant frustration with my writing/pedagogy class at the moment is that all the articles we've read are mostly theory.  And those of us who have spent any time in a classroom know that theory and actuality are not synonymous.

I read these articles in which people postulate these ideas of composition, and I find myself marking the text with an all too familiar question:  "OK, so how?"  It frustrates me a bit that for all the class description threw around the term "pedagogy" we are doing little discussion of what that might look in the classroom.  The class is structured around freshman comp, as it is a mandatory class for TAs teaching freshman comp.  Even still, there aren't a lot of suggestions or strategies offered by the instructor or the readings.  If I were a TA with no prior teaching experience (as many of the TAs in my class are), I would appreciate someone handing me a recipe and saying, "Here, try this."

But my point was not to complain.  Rather, I am rejoicing in the fact that finally ONE guy said, "And if you want to see what I mean by this, check out my book [insert title]."  Now, while my gut reaction is to say, "Hello, self-promotion," my pen was finally able to stop mid-question and turn "OK, so how?"  into "OK, so check this book out at the library!"

I'm now flipping through A Short Course in Writing: practical rhetoric for composition courses, writing workshops, and tutor training by Kenneth Bruffee.  Don't you love that title?  PRACTICAL rhetoric!  Glorious.  I am looking at the original edition published in 1990, which does look a little outdated in parts.  Still, though, if it's worth it, I'm going to add it to my Amazon to-purchase list, and I'll share with you all if I think it's a worthwhile resource.

Either way, I'm just glad to finally read something real.

Monday, February 7, 2011

RIP, Brian Jacques

I will never forget the first time I read Mossflower by Jacques. I cannot even recall how I came across it, but I do remember the absolute magic that captivated me from the first page.  Absolutely riveting!  I followed that up with Redwall, Martin the Warrior, and some others.  I never read as many as I wanted to, as other books inevitably called my name, but I have always held a fond place in my heart for this master of contemporary fantasy.  The books appeal to all ages and are fantastic read-alouds (something I need to make note of for future classroom excursions!).  If you have not yet discovered one of Jacques endearing masterpieces, do yourself a favor and pick one up.  Don't be daunted by the size -- I assure you, it will read quickly.

On February 5, 2011 the world of readers lost a great man, Brian Jacques.  I plan to pick up Mossflower and re-read it again sometime this year in his honor (appropriately, I also have Castaways of the Flying Dutchman sitting in my audiobook queue).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Irony goes to the dogs

Let me just get one thing straight:  I don't go around in my every day life and tell people they're using the word "irony" when they really mean "coincidence," "poetic justice," or some other word/phrase designating an amusing phenomenon.  However, when I teach it, I want to make sure those kids really understand the actual use of the term.  I tell them that "irony" is much like grammar:   we say it incorrectly all the time, but people know what you mean.  And that's fine.  Because if you go around correcting people when they're trying to have a conversation, you won't have many friends left.  But if you need to put it in writing and want your text to have any authority, ya gotta know.  So, I'm always on the look-out for "Real" examples of irony.  The more the better.

That said, here's a bonafide example.  My cat is micro-chipped.  As a result of her micro-chip, we subscribe to the provider's service which includes sending emails to people in your designated area when you lose a pet.  Every pair of alert eyes helps, right?  I received one such email today.  True story:

Someone in my area recently lost her bloodhound and is asking for help locating it.


For the record, I do hope those people find their dog.  But still...I'm grateful they provided me with this little gem.