Home / 2007 / February

In General

It is a beautiful 60 degrees outside. I know because I just left my cave of a study carrel in the library and went to the student union for some food and a break. I’ve been working on my degree paper since about 11:30. I’m proud of myself, too, because I’ve actually added some length. I’m still far below the page length I need, but hey, let’s stay positive, huh?

The guy I rode the elevator with asked me how my day has been so far, and I hesitated before telling him that it was going well. He noticed the hesitation, and I told him that I was actually accomplishing something, so that was good, but I still have so much to go, to that was bad. As he was getting off on the floor below mine, he told me, “There’s one rule in writing,” and my writing instructor ears perked up, “in general lies the enemy.”

My first interpretation was that writer’s need to be specific, a rule I am constantly reminding my students of. Then, I realized that maybe he meant, “‘In general’ is the enemy.” Alas, my newly revised introduction begins, “In a very general sense, agreement is simple….”

Quick Post

Um, after watching television today, it is obvious that Americans worship the movie stars and those who help produce movies.

An interesting thought borrowed from Darci: when it’s so cold out that you can see your breath, could you also see your fart?

My English 210 students are greatly disappointing me. I thought that students in Writing II would write better than this. *sigh* Great.

I met someone on the Internet. It isn’t as scandalous as it sounds; she’s a linguistics PhD student at the University of Utah and we have a lot in common. It’s nice to find someone close to my age who really loves grammar as much as I do. It’s fun.


So when I went to pick up my birth control from the campus pharmacy today, one of my former (male) students was the pharmacy tech who gave it to me. Nice.


Is there such thing as daily-cycle depression? It seems like I start off the day good, hit a medium-low point mid-day (and I mean mid-day as in “half-way between waking and sleeping,” not noon. Although sometimes–because of the semester–it does happen that way), which spurs me on and makes me want to accomplish all sorts of things. Then I hit a snag (distractions, unforeseen situations which cannot be put off, etc), lose track, never get back on track, then end the day feeling depressed because I didn’t accomplish what I needed to and I’m going home to an empty apartment (when Rob closes or if I’m going home before he gets home). My day brightens up whenever he gets home, so that’s always nice. But for now, I’m sitting here trying to put a finger on what’s making me feel down. Besides having approximately 15 pages on the subject-verb agreement of collective nouns due in 8 days.

I like doing laundry. I even like the sorting before and folding and putting away after. I think it plays to my strong tendencies to prefer order over chaos. But I always get stuck with that last load. I fold/put away the first two loads while the others are in the washer and dryer, but as soon as there isn’t any more washing and drying going on, I seem to lose steam and end up with one basket of laundry (usually the lights) that ends up sitting in the laundry basket as a softest cushion for Mr. Naveed to nap on. And it sits there until the next laundry day. And we’re always picking through it: “Where’s my _____ shirt?” “Ah! Must be in the laundry basket!”

I have a weird pain in my leg (it’s the inside lower third of my right leg, if you must know). I asked my aerobix (Ha! I just invented a new spelling!) instructor about it this morning, and she told me it’s shin splints. Doesn’t feel like what I was told shin splints were. And it hurts all the time. I’ve been using an abnormally large number of sentences without subjects in this post, and I usually avoid them like you avoided the kid in 7th grade who never wore deodorant. So she told me to RICE Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. I just wanted her to tap on it with her magic wand and make it go away. It hurts all the time, whether I’m sitting, standing, walking, going up or down stairs, or whatever else I’m doing.

Harry Potter week is going to be so great. I am trying not to think about it, because I’ll just get myself all worked up and drive everyone crazy. But I have one thing to say. Fifth Movie: July 13. Seventh–and last–book: July 21. Within eight days of each other! AHHHHH!

Rob is a much better cook than I. I always opted for Enrichment or Band over Home Ec in high school, and I never really paid enough attention when cooking was going on at home or family events. I can go desserts and breakfast foods pretty well, but that’s all I feel totally comfortable with. Rob has taught me that you have test your pasta before you serve it. Never knew that.

Food time…

They Say/I Say

In a critical response essay to the preface and introduction to Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein’s They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, one of my students wrote the following in her introduction:

They say that using a template formate can help to form powerful written opinions. They say I can start to, “Challenge standard ways of thinking.” They say that their format will enable me to become a more original and creative writer. I say, “I want to read more!” The preface and introduction to They Say/I Say is a format of writing that I have never read about before, and although I question the times in which I can use it, I can already see the huge impact this template can have on my future writing career.

Wonderful! I look forward to reading this student’s papers! (And maybe I’m so excited because the essays I’ve read thus far lack the spunk and attitude that this student exhibits.)

What a Week!

Monday was good. Monday morning, Rob had to go into work at 6 for a meeting, but he came home at 8 and had to go back in for a 1 to close shift. He had run by Wal-Mart and bought some bacon, sausage, and croissants… and pinkish-purple irises in a pink basket–very cute. I told him that it was rather ironic, because I had been looking at online florists and had found the perfect bouquet of deep purple irises and pink tulips (see the image along the right). He said, “Is that all you want for Valentine’s Day?” I told him they’d be absolutely perfect, but that they were too expensive (he kept telling me “only $15 for Valentine’s Day”).

The lesson I taught was really boring and I don’t think my students liked it very much. Oh well; I warned them ahead of time that they would only learn if they paid attention. I was starting to feel a little under the weather, but nothing worth mentioning even. I gave a Powerpoint presentation with Phil and Hongying in my 4:00 class, and it went really well:

We taught an imaginary class of Chinese university students at the intermediate English. We used the situation of dating: what college student isn’t interested in dating? We made comparisons to Chinese dating culture (thanks to Hongying, who is a late 30s-something Chinese woman, really smart), taught the class vocabulary (getting hit on, flirting, double date vs. two-time etc.) and some pick-up lines (“Do you come here often?” and “Can I buy you a drink?”) and some ways to turn down pick-up lines, both polite (“Oh, are you hitting on me?” and “I already have a boyfriend.”) and rude (Reply angrily in Chinese and walk off and “You’re drunk; leave me alone.”). We taught them some conversations that are acceptable for a first date (“Where have you traveled?” and “What are some of your hobbies?”) and some that aren’t (“How much do you make?” and “Sex? *wink wink*”). It was a good lesson because everyone could relate and it is fun.

Next for the day was Mark Twain class. I love the subject matter, but my prof is frustrating. Several times during lecture, he will say something like this: “So this is an excellent example of how Twain, you know.” And then he goes on to his next sentence. I just want to scream, “No! I don’t know! That’s why I signed up for the class. If I knew, I wouldn’t be wasting 3 credit hours here every week!” *sigh* And the discussions aren’t always intellectually stimulating.

Tuesday, I woke up feeling icky. I slept a lot, and when I was awake, I worked on my degree paper–I’m proud of that. Guess who showed up at my door? The delivery man with a box from 1-800 Flowers! Inside was the exact bouquet I told Rob I wanted! So I ended up with two beautiful bouquets of tulips and some irises (one of my favorite flowers)!

I got with Jazzy Jo to make sure she could sub for me on Wednesday if necessary, and that’s what ended up happening. When I got up Wednesday morning, I felt even worse than Tuesday: my throat was on fire, my nose was running like water, and I was coughing and sneezing like crazy. So JJ went to my classes, had them turn in their papers, gave them the next assignment sheet, and let ’em go, all within seven minutes. :)

So it sucked because I was really sick on Valentine’s Day, but the trade-off was that I actually got to see my husband. Mondays and Wednesdays are 9 – 9 days for me, and since he had to work at 6 the next morning, I wouldn’t have been able to see him at all. Instead, we got to spend the day together! I got up at 8 to see how I felt, emailed JJ, the slept until 1. I got Rob an MP3 module for the DS for Valentine’s Day, but it didn’t work like we expected it to (piece o’ crap, if you ask me), so we returned it and bought a wireless router, then decided to go to a new restaurant, Red Robin (their tagline is “America’s Gourmet Burgers and Spirits”). It was really good! Rob had a bacon cheeseburger and I had a yummy barbecue chicken wrap and French onion soup. The soup was okay, but the wrap was delicious. We liked it so much, we went back on Thursday for take out. :) We spent the rest of the night watching movies, then I slept in really late again Thursday morning.

Friday was a pretty good day overall. I received some books I had ordered:

  • Agreement (Greville G. Corbett)
  • Language and the Internet (David Crystal)
  • Language and Mind (Chomsky)
  • The Cambridge Companion to Chomsky (Ed. James McGilvray)

The first two are for both of my degree papers and the last two are because I’m a nerd. :) I’ve already started skimming Language and the Internet, and I think it will be an excellent source for my paper on how the Internet will effect the rate at which our language changes.

Thanks, StumbleUpon.com

Unfortunately, I just got addicted to StumbleUpon. Here are a few of the things I’ve *ahem* stumbled upon lately:

  1. OMG! This is blowing my mind!
  2. Double Wires: Looks so simple…
  3. If I was into forwarding bunches of useless (although sometimes funny) lists of things, I’d probably have forwarded The 86 Rules of Boozing.
  4. Web Design: Why didn’t I have this cheat sheet last semester? Or this dirty little secret?! Heck I’d have even been happy with just this list of WebDev links!
  5. I am going to have so much fun the next time I do laundry!
  6. Start checkin my sneakers, Yo, cuz I’m ‘unna be rockin dis joint.
  7. Not sure what to get me for Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Lent or St. Patrick’s Day? This‘d do, fo shizzle.

Okay, I’d better stop now, since I’m whippin out the izzles in this blogizzle.

In case any of the above links don’t work, here are the URLS:

  1. http://www.coverpop.com/whitney/index.php?var=v6
  2. http://onemorelevel.com/games3/double-wires.swf
  3. http://www.moderndrunkardmagazine.com/issues/01-02/01_02_booze_rules.htm
  4. http://htmlplayground.com/
  5. http://www.howtofoldashirt.net/
  6. http://www.sneakerfreaker.com/article.php?id=856
  7. http://www.demockratees.com/englishonly.html

They Say/I Say Responses

I am having my students do an independent study over a book called They Say/I Say (TSIS), which presents templates as a way for student writers to begin conceiving of writing as a conversation they are entering and gives them the “moves that matter in academic writing” that they may or may not be aware of. I am grading their first round of essays.

One student says

Contradicting what we talked about in class, English is like math. There are more ways to get the right answer. For example; 2 + 2 = 4, but 1 + 3 = 4 too. Two problems with completely different numbers, but both the same answer. The same is true in writing. There is a lot of different ways to word what a writer wants to say. There should not be restrictions on how a writer words his or her points. This is like saying that only 2 + 2 = 4 and any other way of coming to that answer by addition is wrong.

I said

In writing, the “answer” might be the same, i.e. “4,” but each writer gets to choose the “numbers” and the mathematical operation used to arrive at this “answer,” and TSIS is simply suggesting part of the equation, not all of it.

Let’s say the assignment is to write a paper supporting the Iraq war (i.e. “4”). Every student will have a different equation for the same answer:

  • 1 + 2 = 4
  • 7 x 4 = 4
  • 3 / 7 = 4

Parts of the equation (i.e. “1”) might look similar, but not two students could ever write exactly the same arguments, whether they use templates or not.

The fact that none of the mathematical questions actually equals 4 tries to get at the point that there are infinitely more methods of arriving at an answer in English than there are in math.

Perhaps I’m comparing advanced writing to simple math, but I think you will still find the same true for derivations and other icky things I never learned. Even for complex math problems, there are a limited number of ways to solve a given problem, although a brilliant mind might stumble upon a clever way or two during her life.

I do not believe that writing is like math, and that is why the templates offered by the book do not stifle creativity, why they do not encourage think-less writing, why they do force students to see both sides and various angles.

Another student argues that “The templates would be useless without my knowledge that fills in the blanks.” Exactly.


Comparing Exercising and Writing

While I was running inside today (it’s rainy and cold out!), I overheard several students talking about how they were walking for a Phys Ed class. I wonder… is exercising for class like reading for class? It’s enjoyable if you choose to on your own, but as soon as someone makes you do it, it just isn’t as exciting anymore?

I think there are a lot of parallels between exercising and my teaching: just like lifting weights or trying to add mileage to your run, the more you do it, the better you get. Writing ability is, in many ways, like a muscle. You have to do it regularly in order to build it up. You need to have good form while you practice in order to ensure that you are working the right muscles and not injuring yourself. (You need to focus on one aspect of your writing that you know needs improvement so that you can write better eventually.)

I think the rewards are harder to see in writing. When you are running or lifting weights, your improved strength is obvious when you can lift 40 more pounds than this time last month or when you can run the entire 3 miles without walking breaks. It is harder to see that you have improved your style and make your prose better, that you are creating stronger arguments, or that you are becoming a better researcher.

Comprehensive Examinations

Each MA student must write 20 questions, 10 for each area selected. My two areas are TESOL and linguistics. Luckily, the TESOL MA students have a list already written for us, and we just have to select 10 TESOL questions and 10 linguistics questions. Those lists are due to the graduate director by the end of the first week of the semester, and the graduate committee will select three questions from each list for each student to prepare for.

On the day of the comprehensive exams, March 10, the graduate director will select one of the three questions from the TESOL list, and I will write a 2-hour essay in response to that question, take a 30 minute break, and then write another 2-hour essay in response to the question selected from the linguistics list. If I pass both essays, then I am one step closer to earning my MA.

I was given the six questions I must prepare for today! I have been preparing all day for our study group meeting tomorrow. We decided that, since we know our questions now, to prepare an outline and a list of sources and present that to the group. The group members will help find holes in the outline and offer suggestions for other sources to consult. I keep looking at my questions, and I just can’t remember why I picked two of the three questions on the TESOL list! I don’t know why I would want to answer them, or why I would think that I was prepared to. I do feel comfortable with all of the linguistics questions selected for me.

I guess I could have anticipated these feelings. Well, somewhat, I guess. I didn’t think I would feel this insecure about the TESOL questions. I guess I just got stuck with two that I don’t really like. *sigh* At least we have the questions a full month before the exams. I know some people who had only the minimum allowed: two weeks.

Here are my questions:
3. Explore the subsystems (phonetics, phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, discourse, and pragmatics) of the English language that an ESOL teacher needs to have knowledge of, making clear why knowledge of each is important to an ESOL teacher. (This is the one I feel comfortable with.)

31. Identify your philosophy of teaching as it relates to the ESOL classroom. Referring to specific people and theories, support the relevance of your philosophy. (Yikes! I’m not sure I even know what my philosophy of teaching is as it relates to a normal classroom! I guess developing one in preparation for this question is good, right?)

42. Discuss various issues with and modern approaches to teaching grammar in the ESOL classroom. (I like the idea behind this question, but I don’t feel prepared at all to write an essay on it!)


4. Discuss the bilingual history of the U.S. (No problem here: I just took Sociolinguistics, and an entire three weeks was spent discussing this very topic.)

7. Second language acquisition research has usually followed first language research both in its research questions and in its methodology. Discuss several such areas of second language research. (I should have a lot of notes on this topic, but I haven’t been able to find them: I took this class my first semester of grad school….)

9. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the field of linguistics has been dominated by approaches that study language as an autonomous science. First, discuss what is meant by naming linguistics an autonomous science. Second, discuss some opposition to this approach. (No problem here, either. I have all the books from this class, and even though I’m not sure where the notes are, I feel confident that I can find most of the needed information in the textbook. Plus, the fact that I have a study group should help: maybe some one else has the notes?)