Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Oh what do you do in the summertime...

Oh what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?

This Primary song from my childhood sets the stage for my summer. The lazy days and loose schedule are so appealing. The cool breeze across the deck as I lounge with a book that I don't have to read... The leisurely stroll from home to library to sno-cone shack... Wearing jeans over to the office to fiddle with stacks of old student papers and to browse through books I last touched in grad school... The delights of afternoons unencumbered by meetings... The freedom to splash in the pool with kids and give them chores when they say the "B" word.

All these are the delights of summer.

And yet...

Last summer I took the relaxing a little too seriously, I think. I binge watched shows I'd been missing through the school year. I stayed in bed until embarrassingly late hours. I didn't shower some days, and I pretended to shower other days (wash your hair, put on more deodorant). The projects I'd promised myself would get done didn't. The books I said I'd read sat idle on the nightstand or the desk. The exercise I set out to do was roundly, soundly, firmly ignored.

And so, another summer comes and I resolve "this" and "that." I set goals and make plans. Though I'm not foolish enough to post them here, I have made a list of things I will do and ways I will spend my precious summer. It's posted in two places... in my brain (that is to say, in my phone, as a Wunderlist) and as a printout on the mirror in the bathroom I built two (or was it three?) years ago. Also there is a list of the things I (try to) do daily to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

I have a few things I have to do later in the summer, but for a few days here, I'm going to choose to make my world a little better, one day at a time.

What do you do in the summertime?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Watch this if you care about parenting...

A thoughtful video about fatherhood. I really enjoyed it and I hope I can learn a bit from it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Notice the good"

I often feel more than a little tortured by my inconsistent and often overly wound-up attempts at parenting. It has been far, far too easy for me to see the negative that my children do and comment on that (and often not very nicely). I suppose that when I see my kids making (or apparently making) the same mistakes that I made, my (supposedly) adult self feels an almost uncontrollable urge to tell their adolescent or prepubescence selves what they must not do. Sheesh!

I don't feel like I've ever been very good at speaking to them on their level and in the terms that make sense to them. As a result, I've probably talked (or yelled) AT them far more than I've communicated with them.

It all makes me rather sad some days. And yet...

I happen to believe that there is grace enough (and to spare) for parents who are willing to try and keep trying. So I keep trying.

Of late, my wife and I have made concerted efforts to see the good in our children (and there's LOTS of it) and comment upon it. What a better way to live... Really.

What do you do to build your children up? How do you help them move along toward worthy goals? Where is the balance between praise and correction?

I'm sure I have lots to learn. Do I need a paradigm shift? Will my children survive me?

Monday, March 3, 2014

I think I've graded one too many essays tonight...

I can tell. When I start to get a little mean or snarky, it's time to hang it up for the night. I started a mini marathon session about three hours ago... maybe a little more... and I was reading good essay after good essay. Now, however, they seem trite and hokey and contrived. What has changed? Not the students.

So... I'll put away the stylus*, get some sleep, and plug away again tomorrow. I'll probably revisit the last couple of essays I read tonight to make sure I wasn't too hard on them.

The good news is that I'm WAY more than half way done with this big batch.

*I have had some fun grading on "my" iPad (it really belongs to the college, but I still play Plants vs. Zombies on it from time to time... don't tell) with iAnnotate. That overpriced little app allows me to customize almost infinitely and create shortcut after shortcut. Pretty fun, really. And actually, for what it can do, the app isn't overpriced. Especially after I learned recently that it has come down in price since I got it. So... there you go. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Two days ill...

I'm not sure if it's a head cold or allergies, but I've had a packed head for a couple of days. I took advantage of the down time to grade a bunch of papers. I didn't get as many done as I hoped, but it feels good to have done some. A few per day gets the job done. 

Sometimes people ask me if grading essays is the least favorite part of my job. The answer to that is "no, not really," The first semester I ever taught composition, I recall staying up late into the night grading that first batch of essays. There was a palpable sense of satisfaction in giving feedback to students on their efforts to communicate something in an academic setting. I've since explored that venue many, many times (something like 8,000 essays graded todate) and I know the power it can have for students. When they and I engage honestly in the process, substantive change can happen. 

How do I know this? Because I can see the change from one paper to the next and from one semester to the next. Students sometimes take more than one (and occasionally more than two) courses from me in succession. One recent student not only improved in writing ability, but his confidence level changed markedly. I recall him being unsure that even belonged in college in the first semester, and by the end of the third, he was in the honors program, headed to conferences and excited about a real career. 

Am I tooting my own horn here a bit? Maybe, but I believe in what I do and I know it CAN make a difference. I'm glad when it does. I'm glad to be a part of it when it does. THAT is what's most satsifying about my work. 

So... scoring essays is a little tedious when there are stacks of them, but if I can remind myself (and attend to each one this way) that this little feedback might help make a confident learner out of a timid student, I can make a difference. 

Back to the stacks I go... packed head or not. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

It's not quite a year

I have no real clue whether this tiny little post will inject a little life into this moribund blog. I intend to try however. We'll see what happens. I find real value in writing as catharsis, as exploration, as communication. It's likely that I will wax a little philosophical and/or exegetic here, so be warned.

In the meantime, here's a picture...part of my bookshelf...: