To-do

  • Food prep stuff. Don’t wait to be hungry to fix food.
  • Clean desk and living space. Get mentally clear.
  • Dye hair.
  • Some weeks later do keratin treatment to hair.
  • Wash dogs, which can always wait because old dogs, old bones, rainy day. Why not let the old fellas rest.
  • Fix carpet shampooer. Shampoo carpet.
  • 1 hour per day: WORK THE POEMS.
  • 1/2 hour per day: WORK THE BODY (i.e., exercise, fool)
  • On some future non-rainy day, power wash rugs outside.
  • Change light bulbs (bedroom, bathroom, above dining table)
  • Make appointments for hair and teefs. Call doc about error with prescription.
  • Go do stupid fasting blood work!!! Make appt?
  • Set up prescription refills by mail and save some tiny bucks.
  • Switch to prepaid phone plan and save some tiny bucks.
  • Figure out money. What is it? How does it work? How do you save it?
  • Figure out life. What is it? How does it work? How do you save one?

Self Syllabus

Whenever I announce a new plan for improving some aspect of my life, my shrink smiles and points out my love of systems. I can’t just do a thing: I have to have a plan. Often my plans are so ambitious, I never get further than the planning stage. But here’s the thing: I suck at time, and without a plan, I just end up drinking coffee in my PJs and playing Facebook. So I need a plan.

I urgently need a plan because this is the first week of a semester in which I’ve been granted a course release. My chair was kind enough to schedule me for back-to-back Tuesday-Thursday classes in the afternoon so that all my mornings are free–free in as much as in addition to prepping and grading the classes I’m teaching, I have the ambitious goal of making serious progress toward a book manuscript–and I have no teaching on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays. Those are whole long stretches of opportunity I’m terrified of squandering.

Looking back at what’s worked for me in the past, I think the most success I ever had with making a plan and working on it independently was when I made reading schedules for myself as I studied for my PhD exams. As I recall, I ended up pushing my exams back by a couple of months, but it still got done, and I passed, hallelujah, amen. Even when I thought I didn’t always live up to the schedule 100%, I still did more in those months than I ever had before and possibly since. So having that schedule worked. The schedule was a table made up of three columns, one for each of my exam areas, and sections of rows marking off each week and my reading goals for each day. In other words, it looked an awful lot like a mashed up syllabus for three courses. A syllabus that had me aiming to read two books a day, but a syllabus nonetheless.

And that’s what I want for myself now: a syllabus working toward some kind of goal, counting down toward that goal over the next 16 weeks.

I think my instinct to document my planning process here is also a call back to using a private blog to take notes on my readings as I went. I was terrified a house fire would burn my books and notes, and computer, so above all, I wanted some way to safeguard my work outside of my house. This was before I knew about Dropbox. My system was simple. I’d read, noting important passages as I went, and then review my notes deciding which passages were particularly salient and quotable, and finally type up those passages with parenthetical citations–all ready to be used in my exams themselves.

So I’m going to make this block private again. Or something like it. Not searchable via Google. And I’m going be accountable to myself here on my activity.

Let’s begin again.

I have two main things I want to work on in the syllabus: reading poetry productively and writing. By “writing,” I mean writing new poems, revising old poems, and thinking about some kind of way to pull it all together in a manuscript, which is problematic because I’ve felt myself drawn in a few different directions in my writing, and I’m not sure if I can tie all these directions together. So before I can get too deep into my plan, I need to figure out where I am and what I’m heading towards. So for now my assignment is to review what I have–the poems from my diss that I want to carry on with and the poems I’ve written in the last five years.

So my next post will be an embarrassing inventory or reflection on what I have written and what ideas this review gives me for moving forward.

Until then.

Being an adult

This started out as a facebook post, and then I thought why trouble the world with these sleepy thoughts.

* * *

When I started teaching, I was maybe six years older than my students. Now I find myself giving students, individually or as a class, advice that could be categorized as “being an adult is not nearly as liberating as you think it will be.” Most often it comes with the preface to discussions of literary works that, as a professor, I don’t care if students like a story or poem; I care about whether or not they can read it and discuss it intellectually as a part of a college discussion. I say something like, “Sadly, part of being an adult means doing things you don’t like. I don’t like paying my bills, but I do like my cell phone and living indoors. I don’t like sitting in meetings or grading papers, but they’re necessary for me keep my job, which I do otherwise like.” And so on.

Yesterday, I had a conference with a student who is smart and despite her coolness (wearing sunglasses in the middle of class, not carrying a book bag to stash her phone in so she alone of the whole class regularly texts or whatever during discussion etc), participates in class discuss with an enthusiasm that seems like a compulsion she can’t deny. One day a couple of weeks ago, her enthusiasm led her to talk back and argue and eventually cuss me when I told her that, 17 minutes late to class, she was too late for to come in. I’m so old, that even when I’m kicking students out of class for egregious behavioral issues, I am almost never mad (at least not until they refuse to stop arguing with me) and don’t take it personally; it’s just a fact; according to my rules, if a student is more than ten minutes late, I reserve the right not to admit them to class.

Anyway, in the conference I ended up telling her that I related to her frustration and anger, that I myself had been mostly angry most of the time for many years, but that to be an adult, to move in the professional world, you have to keep your cool, that losing your temper often means losing the argument, that if I talked to my boss the way she talked to me, no matter if I was right and my boss was wrong, I could expect that would have negative consequences (to say nothing of how miserable being mostly angry most of the time made me). Beforehand, I’d worried about how the conference might go, but I made sure that I didn’t act mad and approached it as a skill she needed to work on as she moves into the professional world. She was sweet and apologized. We’ll see what happens in class.

All this leads me to thinking this morning how as a semi-professional adult, I do have less freedom than when I was a child, and I don’t just mean that I have to work, which is what I always thought my dad meant when he made similar comments to me, but that I no longer have the excuse “we’ll, she’s still basically a child” to hide behind when I’ve behaved less than graciously.

That’s all, not-facebook.

Summer Resolutions

Read:

  • Collections of poems I should have read but haven’t.
  • Collections of poems by friends.
  • Foundational collections of poems I should re-read.
  • At night, novels I should have read but haven’t.

Write:

  • I am actively not writing because I am not ready, and when I think about writing while I read poetry, everything just breaks down. So I am reading. And when I am ready, I will write.
  • I will start writing before I am “ready.” When my poetry reserves are 80% refilled, I will sit down to write again.
  • I do not have any plans about what to write, whether something new or a continuation of an old project. I will write what wants to be written. I am reading to figure that out both in my head and in my heart. Yes, I’m talking about my stupid heart. Yes, it’s sentimentalizing. But I mean I will figure out what I FEEL to write.
  • If an idea for a poem won’t let itself go while I’m reading, I will add it to a list of ideas of poems so I can keep on with my reading.
  • Of course, if a line hits me while, say, I’m vacuuming, and my mind wants to run with it, then I can stop and write a poem. But I will not force myself just yet, not at least for a few weeks, not until I’ve gotten comfortable reading poems again.

I wake up before I’m done sleeping and go back to sleep.

I wake up before I’m done sleeping and go back to sleep.

Somehow too late and too early to put into the Coosa and paddle.

So I do what I’ve been doing most summer mornings: read poetry.

And then the poems make my head spin, so I look up articles about the poems to ground me.

And then the articles make my head spin, and I go to Facebook, the comforting solidity of its ephemeral nonsense and muchsense.

And then I think I must document this process of waking and sleeping and reading and reading about reading and reading to not have to read.

And this is called writing. Somehow well into afternoon, the thunder of afternoon showers like a distant booming clock, and yet morning.

Because the brain is new from sleep.

As if each day were a life and each morning spent learning how to live again. Ah, yes. This is how I feed myself. 

Last night, full of wine tears, I wanted to write an essay about how there is no suitable prophylactic to avoid the memory of trauma.

Because I file that trauma under “rape” obviously, but also “lavender shower gel” and “aphasia” and snatches of dialogue like “I promise I’ll be a good boy” and how I learned the hard way that when someone feels the need to reassure you that he’s a good guy, he’s probably not.

What I mean is that an index of triggers would include every detail from every iteration of every possible trauma and that, my friends, is like writing a scene description for the whole earth’s autopsy, a list of contents of the whole earth’s pockets, like the wise comedian’s 1:1 scale map of the earth, impossible to fold.

This is the mind of morning, the amnesia of dream consolidation, the mind’s braiding of synaptic routes to last.

I think I am awake now. The dream of whatever I was writing, forgotten.

Grading Self Deceptions

I always take too long to grade, and I’m always coming up with new ways to supposedly trick myself into grading faster. This right here, this is my latest trick. Sweet Jesus, I hope it works.

So here’s what I want to do: I’m about to start grading a new assignment, and rather than dive in and start grading and not be able to resist the urge to comment on everything, I instead want to take a moment to reflect on what my grading goals are. A review of the grading rubric might be helpful, so let me see if I can paste it in.

Paper 1 Grading Rubric: Rhetorical Analysis

Analyzes the rhetoric of a text, making original claims about its effectiveness Yes     No — paper must be rewritten
Paper Elements – each area worth 1.0 (all numeric scores x .25 and added together)

0

+.25

+.5

+.75

+1.0

 

Organization:
Uses an organizational method appropriate for the topic.
Has an original, debatable, narrowly defined thesis and forecast statement.
Paragraphs are united around a central idea expressed in a topic sentence.
Transitions show how various points are related to each other and the thesis.
           
Content:
Makes claims about how rhetoric is used and evaluates its success.
Identifies the speech’s rhetorical situation (author, purpose, audience, and context).
Analyzes rhetorical appeals and strategies used and uses vocabulary words like rhetoric, rhetorical appeals, rhetorical strategies, logos, pathos, and ethos correctly.
Analyzes the author’s language and style choices.
           
Correctly uses templates drawn from They Say / I Say, signal phrases, quotation marks when necessary, and citations pointing to works cited entries.            
Demonstrates a mastery of sentence and punctuation mechanics.            
Deductions            
MLA paper format, .1 to .3 letter grade. See “Formatting Papers the MLA Way.”            
Plagiarism, one letter grade for each sentence, failure for a whole paragraph.            
Insufficient length, one letter grade for each page short. Minimum of four full pages of text + Works Cited Page            
QEP Outcomes            
Effectively uses critical thinking, organizational patterns, standard English mechanics. (R&W)            

A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0. + = add .3 – = subtract .3. Slash (/) grades fall exactly between the two grades. E.g., A- = 3.7, A/B = 3.5, B+ = 3.3.

Okay, that sort of worked. So obviously this thing is long—I have an unfortunate habit of trying to anticipate every concern and address them in writing, both in my assignments and my personal correspondence. I, too, am annoyed by this.

But there’s a clear limit of the things I’m looking for: organization, content, quotations & documentation, and mechanics.

It’s this last item that bogs me down. I’ve already programmed a couple hundred macros or auto-correct entries so I can type things like “cs” and “Comma splice. S-3.” spits out. Or type “rhetpgh” to get “You need 1) topic sentence stating claim about author’s use of specific rhetorical strategy, 2) supporting example or quotation, 3) explanation of how example or quotation supports claim, 4) repeat 2 and 3 as needed, 5) concluding sentence evaluating success of specific rhetorical strategy.”

Of course, these are useful, but what is not useful is my inability to leave an error unmarked. Okay, I leave plenty unmarked, but I feel compelled to mark at least one of each kind of error. Holy baloney, that’s a lot. It must be intimidating for my students to see all those electronic marks on their papers, and it sure as hell takes time, even to highlight, hit ALT-C for comment, and enter my coded keystrokes. More importantly, when my mind is in proofread mode, I’m not focusing on content. And even though I eventually address content, it must seem like an afterthought when it comes later in the paper or as a final comment at the end.

So my new plan: At the end of the first page—not as I go—list no more than five of the most common types of errors. Hopefully, that will be that, but should I feel compelled to note more, I’ll also mark those in a single comment only at the end of a page. Otherwise, I should spend my energy just absorbing what the student is saying, commenting on content, and perhaps no more than once or twice a page making observations about the student’s larger writing issues—organization, topic sentences, explanations of how evidence supports topic sentence claims and so on.

My goal is to offer helpful, not overwhelming advice and to be able to move through a virtual stack of papers quickly. Incidentally, I’ve finally stopped taking up hard copies all together for first drafts. I can’t imagine, however, grading an entire virtual portfolio. I think I’ll still need hard copies at the end of the semester.

Okay, Jesseca, there’s your pep talk! You know what to do. Now, get in there and get to work.

Right after  you take a shower.

And let me know how it works out. I’m curious about this new experiment of yours.

Dear Internet,

I’ve had three beers, and I’m pretty sure I’ve posted all that I’m legally allowed to post to facebook without declaring that I’m drunk and just posting a whole bunch of random shit. First, I want you to know that I’ve had this beer for three days. Three whole days. Basically the same amount of time that it took Jesus to resurrect himself and crawl out of a cave. Three days, and I haven’t had any because of calories, colds, guilt, and responsibility.

WELL FUCK THAT.

I taught three classes today, one after accidentally taking two doses of Dayquil, which meant, obviously, that I was slightly high while teaching. Off cold medicine. For a cold. Should colleagues be reading.

Anyway. I was up until two last night doing work for school, and you know BREAKING BAD, so I had to watch breaking bad and drink some Monkeynaut after school today. Damn, Charlie Rose, you sure know how to push Walter White’s buttons. Are we entirely sure that Breaking Bad isn’t an 1800s Russian Novel from the future? Shit, that last sentence was so good, I think I’m going to have to post it on facebook, even if I delete it in two hours.

Ah, so I’m back from posting that wee bit of wisdom to yee olde facebooke. What have I learned? Monkeynaut is 7.+% alcohol is what.

I think here ends my post. Now, I’m going to watch Dexter. I wish I were eating a steak while watching the last episode of Dexter. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.