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New Years Resolutions

Looking back over the past year with the future year in mind kinda like balancing in the middle of a see-saw. What have I learned that I should apply to the coming year? What have I forgotten as the year transpired that I need to remember?

Here are my resolutions. Hold me to ’em!

  1. Daily (They say “28 days makes a habit.” We’ll see!):
    1. Establish and maintain a regular workout routine
    2. More God time
    3. Daily Mary-Kay-style affirmations
  2. Long-term:
    1. Get better at phone communication!
    2. Graduate. Then, apply and be accepted to a PhD program
    3. Be more patient and friendly towards Rob (“We’re meanest to the ones we love the most” <- I don't want this to be true in my life)
    4. Be content with what I have (i.e. be financially responsible)
    5. Want for everyone what I want for myself

Worse than the Day after Thanksgiving?

Well, I did it. I braved the madness and bought some wrapping paper. I always hit the stores the day after Christmas to buy holiday items, like wrapping paper, ribbon, and boxes. I haven’t paid full price for Christmas wrapping paper in about 3 years! I caught myself shaking my head, mocking those people with carts full of wrapping paper, bows, lights, and snowman soap dispensers. “How silly!” I thought.

And then, as I knocked over a display of “Convenience Wrapping Package: 4 rolls of paper, 8 bows, and 8 gift tags” with the 3 rolls of “Extra Large” wrapping paper I was carrying, which made me unable to catch the first “Convenience Wrapping Package,” causing the others on the shelf to topple, domino style, I realized that I was just as bad. *sigh* At least I’m getting a great deal!

The Resolution

Hm, just realized I didn’t finish the story!

Last time on English 110 Plagiarism Saga: Student requested meeting on Tuesday.

I offered any time between 12 and 3. He said he’d be there. *sigh* So I asked when exactly he would be there. No response. In the mean time, the wonderful department head’s secretary was scrambling to find a time when he could mediate. Didn’t matter, because the student didn’t tell me when he could be there.

Finally, the secretary calls me and sets up an appointment for Wednesday morning at 10. She says she’ll call the student and tell him. Later, I get an email asking me to meet him during my office hours, which he knows I have “today at 5.” Well, that would be true. If the semester were still in session! *another sigh*

Skip to Wednesday morning. I arrive about 15 minutes early to the meeting with Dr. Blackmon which gives me enough time to show Dr. Blackmon the student’s paper and the one it was copied from. Student arrives on time, surprisingly.

When we get in Dr. Blackmon’s office, the student starts off by apologizing, then Dr. Blackmon puts the ball in my court, so I tell the student that he lied to me by telling me that he wrote that paper, and that it is every teacher’s job to give her students opportunities to learn, and that he cheated himself out of an opportunity (I know, I know! It’s that idealistic argument again, but it’s true!). The student keeps apologizing. Dr. Blackmon says that I said it pretty accurately, and asks if there are any more questions. Nope. I was stunned! The meeting lasted barely 3 minutes!

But, out in the ante-room (I’m not an old geezer! I just know that word… I’m an English major folks, forgive me. And No, I will not stop using that excuse! :) ), the student needed to say one more time that he was sorry, and that he was have some personal troubles. I explained to him the appeal process that can remove the XF (failure in the course due to academic dishonesty) after 12 calendar months.

He told me Merry Christmas as he was leaving, and I said it back and immediately felt silly. He’s Muslim–they don’t celebrate Christmas!

So that’s it. The saga ends. And none too soon, either, with just 4 days left until Christmas Eve! I totally spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with another TA, looking at a textbook for next semester (I’m teaching Writing II: Academic Writing for the first time–eek!), and chatting with friends and family. Didn’t address any Christmas cards, didn’t wrap any more presents… Meh, I still have a few days, right? Besides, the end of this plagiarism case marked the end of the semester officially!

Oh, did I mention that I got all As this semester?!?! Totally SWEET!!!


Update Last time on “Plagiarism”: Waited for student for 45 minutes. No show. Sent email. Left for Christmas shopping.

So he emails me wanting to set up an appointment for 4. It is currently 2:37. And I am wading through the mall. Sorry.

I email him at 5 when I get back. Good, we’ll meet tomorrow and he’ll “explain everything.” *long, deep groan, very Napoleon Dynamite-esque* I don’t want to hear it. I want to hear “I’m sorry, Mrs. Mueller, what I did was terribly wrong, and I realize that.” Nope, I’m gonna get some lame-ass sob story.

Perhaps he should have cared a little more and attended more than *grabs calculator* 54% of the class. Perhaps he should have cared more and wrote the paper himself! PERHAPS HE SHOULD HAVE CARED A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THREE HOURS BEFORE AND COME TO THE MEETING!

*deep breath*


I waited for my plagiarizing student for about 45 minutes, and he never showed up. At least Dr. Biava and I had a nice chat. I actually prefer that it went down like this, because I hate face-to-face confrontation. I did get some insight from the only true Marxist I know: confrontation should not be daunting if you are in power (check!) and if you are right (double check!!). This wisdom made me feel better about what was supposed to happen, but I’m still glad the initial confrontation gets to happen through email.

Plagiarism just gives me the itchy twitchy heebie-jeebies. I am at the same time disappointed in my student, pitying that he [ was so lazy | lacked enough self-confidence ] to resort to cheating, disgusted at the dishonesty, and insulted to think that I come across as enough of fool that he thinks he can pull one over on me. I oscillate between feeling inept (what did I fail to teach him that he felt he had to resort to plagiarism) and feeling indignant.

Ahh, now it’s hitting me: the relief of another completed semester! Hopefully at midnight tonight I can see how well I did… I think it might be possible that I have a 4.0 this semester (hasn’t happened since my first semester of undergrad :( )!!! If so, partying shall ensue promptly thereafter! :D It basically depends on the following things:

  • Sociolinguistics: it’s pretty much guaranteed
  • Historical Linguistics: How terribly did I bomb the final? Did I do well enough on the term paper?
  • Web Design: Did I score high enough on the final project?

So it’s off to the races. I think I’m going to walk to the mall (it’s about 1/2 mile away) and see if I can knock out the last two gifts!

*heaves huge sigh of relief*

Finally over. And what a friggin semester. I had more plagiarism this semester than I’d ever care for in a lifetime, and I’m not quite done dealing with it. I have an appointment in six hours to deal with my last, and most serious, case. I sure hope it goes smoothly.

I feel like I really screwed things up this semester. The whole time, I felt like I was just ruining them, not teaching them what I need to be teaching them, being too soft on them (I was bribed with Cheez-its and Dr. Pepper–FINALLY!!!–to cancel class once), and not giving them their homework assignments back in a timely manner.

All this insecurity is why I like assigning a “What have you learned” essay as the final. While I read them, I realize, and re-learn every semester, that no matter how much the teacher thinks she messes up, the students always manage to learn something. They might not get the lesson that the teacher aimed for, but at least they pick up something. And I guess that as long as they put in the average amount of effort in my class, they have to learn something, just by virtue of writing so much.

So what did I learn from my students this semester? Compassion. The disarming power of acknowledgment. Confidence. We are, indeed, all different. That I do know something valuable that I can impart to even those students who have an excellent command of rhetoric (one student called me a “scholar of the English language”! I don’t think he was trying to kiss up either, because he had earned obnoxiously high scores like 96 and 100). These are all lessons that I need and look forward to continue learning from the very people who come to me for knowledge.

As a student-who-is-also-an-instructor, I have learned that cultural differences can be difficult to overcome in a student-teacher relationship. I have learned to spot instructor insecurities. I have also learned that it is very unnerving to have those insecurities exploited. Teaching helps you become a better student.

As a student, well, I could write for hours on what I learned, but I’m starting to get tired now. I haven’t blogged much this semester because I’ve been struggling to keep up with the grad school/teaching load, but I hope to blog more during Christmas break. Unfortunately, my life gets pretty boring when I’m not in school, so hopefully I’ll have something meaningful to write about.

Forgive them, Yassir…

Oh no. I’m embarrassed.

How ironic is this??!! They don’t even believe in Christ and they’re getting their own Christmas stamp, but don’t dream of posting the ten commandments on federal property?

USPS New Stamp

This one is impossible to believe. Scroll down for the text.
If there is only one thing you forward today…..let it be this!

Dear Fellow Patriotic Americans,

REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of PanAm Flight 103,
REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993,
REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the Marine Barracks in Lebanon,
REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the military Barracks in Saudi Arabia,
REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the American Embassies in Africa,
REMEMBER the MUSLIM bombing of the USS COLE,
REMEMBER the MUSLIM attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11/01.
REMEMBER all the AMERICAN lives that were lost in those vicious MUSLIM attacks.

Now the United States Postal Service REMEMBERS and HONORS the EID MUSLIM holiday season with a commemorative first class holiday postage stamp.

I strongly urge you to REMEMBER to adamantly and vocally BOYCOTT this stamp when purchasing your holiday stamps at the post office. To use this stamp would be a slap in the face to all those AMERICANS who died at the hands of those whom this stamp honors. I also strongly urge you to pass this along to every Patriotic AMERICAN you know, whether by email or otherwise.

First and foremost, they, the Muslims, are people too. People with religious beliefs. It was not every faithful (or unfaithful, for that matter!) Muslim that committed those acts of terrorism. Those Muslims were extremists. Let us at least be clear on this point.

Second, it’s part of a “HOLIDAY” series. Not a “Christmas” series. These Muslims I spoke of, in addition to being faithful people with religious beliefs, well, some of them are Americans too. *gasp* I know, unthinkable, huh? What is so wrong with the USPS issuing a stamp that represents two to six million Americans? I am not yet convinced there is anything wrong with that.

Third, I believe is is possible to REMEMBER the [extremist] MUSLIM attacks and purchase this stamp. But why would I? This stamp has no meaning to me. I am going to buy the stamp that I like, and my buddy Yassir will by the stamp that he likes. How does that dishonor the sacrifices made by so many brave Americans? It’s a stamp. Yes, actually I can appreciate the symbolism (I did get my BA in English Literature). But that does not mean I buy into it. So the American government issues a stamp celebrating a Muslim holiday. Let ’em celebrate. They let me celebrate. Yes, I am in the majority. But this is a principle our country was founded on: “Majority rule, Minority rights.” Remember that from waaay back in high school government class? It’s not “Majority rule, minority must act like it does not exist.”

Finally, can we cut it with the “You don’t support the war, you aren’t patriotic” and “You don’t hate Muslims, you aren’t patriotic” bullshit? My protests, should I choose to make them, actually make me as patriotic as you. I think you are forgetting that 200 years ago, many brave, “patriotic” (almost) Americans fought and died so that I might have the RIGHT to protest. Telling people that it is unpatriotic to disagree with the government or the political party in power is actually unpatriotic in itself.

I feel a little awkward posting something like this here, because I don’t usually like to declare my beliefs on touchy subjects to the world. If you disagree with me (please do–it’s your right), please do so respectfully. :)

Text quoted and some stats and ideas from http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/eidstamp.asp

Allegory of the Outfit

Walking up to Pummill (the English Dept. building), I realized that, if you were looking at my feet, and the lime-ish green flip-flops I’m wearing, you might think I’m… younger than I am, closer to my students’ ages. Then, you might glance up.

To my black cardigan. Then, you might think I’m a 50-something prof.

*sigh* Stuck in the middle: the flips are comfy, and the cardigan… well, it hides things. Oh, yeah, and it keeps me warm. :P


Okay, now I know why I posted that. I think some where deep down, I felt its symbolic significance, but I had to let it stew in my brain. I try not to post things that you, the reader, might find boringly dull, and after hitting “Post Blog” this morning, I thought I had done just that. Now, six hours and four classes later, I think I know why I took the time to share with you my insecurities about today’s outfit.

I think the paradox in my outfit mimics my academic persona. I am a student. At the same time, I am a teacher. When I am in front of a class, no matter how hard I try, I still try to understand the student’s perspective in the matter as a student, not as a teacher trying to understand the student. I, as a young Graduate Teaching Assistant, feel like I am in the unique position to do that, whereas some of my older GTA peers or professors are not.

Is this a weakness? I often ask the student who has come to me with a problem, “What do you think is fair way to solve this?” Most of my American students will usually agree with the course of action that I have set forth. Most of my international students will say something about how I am the teacher and they have no right to dictate their punishment/treatment. This led me to the thought that perhaps my students expect me to behave more like a teacher and make the decision without considering their point of view on the matter, to make the decision based on my principles as a teacher.

My guiding principle is fairness to all students. I learned last semester with a student who had special needs, that fairness sometimes means that not everyone will receive the same treatment. Fairness to a student with diagnosed ADHD means extra time. It took me a while to truly understand that, but now I believe that our situations can, sometimes, dictate what is fair. It is hard as a teacher to know what is fair to that person standing in front of me, and I can only say at the end of the day that I did my best.

Wow… look at that interpretation of the “text” of my outfit… maybe I should have stuck to the literature track after all? :P

My (Topical) Thoughts for the Day

Pet Peeves: People who talk A LOT annoy me. Does it matter to her? Probably not. You know, you make a comment, just a one-sentence comment about something, and she just jumps in with something on a related vein, but not completely similar, just to talk. Then, when she can tell you are bored/busy/trying to get back to work/totally and utterly disinterested, she finally stops thinking of tangential stories to tell about herself. Wow I sound mean.

New Invention: I wish they made veggie cups, you know, like fruit cups, only with veggies. I just stocked up my desk drawer with a bunch of granola fiber bars, fruit cups, and SlimFast meal replacement shakes so that I can survive my 11 – 5 days without eating a real meal, and I’m craving some green beans. Is that weird? I would love one of those little cups like you can get at KFC right now. But I’m not driving to KFC, they don’t deliver, and I don’t know anyone who would just bring me one, so I’m out of luck. I guess I’m just going to have to have peach cherry medley.

Sweet Student: One of my students from last semester, who is from Darjeeling, India, stopped by my office today and brought me some Darjeeling tea! From Darjeeling, sent directly from Darjeeling by her mother. Isn’t that sweet. I don’t drink tea very often, but I’ll definitely drink it, and I still love the little gift. She’s a real nice girl who didn’t start the semester in my class, but transferred out of a native-speaker section into my non-native speaker section about half-way through the semester. Aren’t I the lucky one?

Married Life: I’m not going to see my husband until late Friday night: this sucks! I have a night class tonight, and due to his 5 AM mornings, he’ll be in bed by the time I get home. Tomorrow night, I am leaving town as soon as I get done with class, and Friday, he works a split shift, from 5-11 AM and 5-12 PM, so I won’t see him until he gets off that night! I almost forgot to pick up my birth control today, and because I thought the campus health center closed at 4:30, I hustled over there as soon as I remembered, only to find out they are open until 6. Thank goodness! Not getting preggers this month!

Baby Steps: So far this semester, I am doing a superb job of NOT procrastinating. I am keeping up with all my homework, except for one class (I’ll explain why in a minute), and I have been getting better at grading in a more timely fashion. I only have class from Monday night until Thursday at 5, so I have basically scheduled all day Monday and Friday as homework/grading days. So far, that is working for me. It’s about time I found something, but I’m not sure how practical it is to rely on having two full free days a week to avoid procrastination; it’s not something I can guarantee for the rest of my life. About that one class, it is a linguistics class and the teacher is Chinese. I haven’t quite figured things out yet, but as far as I can tell, everything we’ve discussed thus far is stuff we covered in “Linguistics 101.” That’s why I’m not doing the reading. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the prof, because I’m sure she knows her stuff, but she doesn’t seem like the best teacher so far….

In Conclusion: I have about 80 minutes until my night class starts, so I’m making a deal with myself to encourage hard work (Why I’m posting it here, I’m not sure, but oh well…): If I get my homework done, I can go to the corner gas station and reward myself with Dr. Pepper. Love that stuff.