Archive for the ‘ Teaching Writing ’ Category

On Pandora, ‘The Giver of Gifts”

Nothing shifts my mood like music–my favorite music.  This morning  I settled in to my seat to finish off some grading in a less-than enthusiastic state. Sigh… another day, another round of student writers to coach.

I sign on to Pandora, an automated Internet music site, then toggle back to the student-essay file. Named after the Greek goddess who “sends up gifts,” it lifts my mood by launching into Led Zeppelin’s Traveling Riverside Blues, followed by the live version of Whole Lotta Love.

With this soundtrack lifting my spirit, not only do I breeze through the day’s workload, but I also start some writing that I hadn’t quite been able to push myself to do.

I discovered Pandora Radio about a year ago, while shackled in the silence of grading student essays.  Unlike those students, my entire music catalogue is not housed in mp3 files, but on CDs and vinyl shelved in alphabetical order in my home office/family room.

Just as I need music to step up the pace and keep me moving toward my goals when working out, I need rhythm to move me from paper to paper, some harmony to inspire my feedback. But pushing that desk chair away from the screen, and poring over the possibilities in my music canon,  can and does distract me enough to throw me off from the grading task.  So, Pandora is a great alternative—she pulls the tracks that keep me moving.

The goddess Pandora has a bad rep in our mythology–she is, after all, credited with opening a box from which escapes all the evils and misery that plague us. In fact, there is much controversy over the interpretation of the Pandora myth that is wrapped up in semantics. Some say releasing evil was a bad thing, yet others claim the story has been  misunderstood and that she really released blessings onto the world, rather than ills.

  I take the more optimistic reading of the myth and see her as Hesiod does in Works and Days, as an innocent and curious woman who holds one last thing in her box—hope for humanity. I guess it all depends on how you look at it. Is your Pandora’s  box half full, or half empty? 

I feel blessed today. I’ve got another round of student writers to coach while listening to my favorite music.

The Power of the Pen

I stopped in Borders today with no intention of grabbing anything in particular. When my son wandered over to the Young Adult table, I decided to  look for a couple of texts that were on my Christmas list, but didn’t show up under my tree…and none were available in store.

So, I ended up picking up a copy of The Federalist, which is available online. This Modern Library edition is edited by Robert Scigliano, a Boston College political-science professor. His substantial introduction to the papers provides background that I wouldn’t get from the online versions, and an interesting perspective on some of the controversies surrounding authorship of the 85 commentaries.

From  this intro, I gleaned something of significance to my teaching this semester that I hadn’t before considered. My students rarely understand the power  writing can have. Most consider it something that they do in exchange for a grade. It is quite a struggle to convince them that to write is to create knowledge, to express, and to participate in civic discourse.

I plan to use The Federalist Papers to demonstrate the significance of argumentative writing to their lives. I won’t assign them as reading, but I plan to provide them as an example–Alexander Hamilton had a problem. He had to convince the state delegates to ratify the Constitution forming a national government. If they did not, each state would be completely self-governed.

Hamilton and other Federalists had had no luck convincing the hold-out states, so he brainstormed and came up with a plan to write a series of newspaper pieces  that would, “…present a full discussion of the merits of the proposaed constitution in all its relations.”

He enlisted John Jay and James Madison to co-author in their areas of expertise…and the plan worked. By the power of the pen, the citizens and state delegates were persuaded by the written word.  Without  persuasive writing, the United States of America would not exist.

Will my students be awed? Doubtful. But perhaps it will give them something to think about as they pen their own arguments.

Holiday Fun

I’m afraid I’ve not much time for blogging today…celebrating Mother’s Day and grading portfolios and figuring final grades keeps me from this calling. (Funny how the two cancel each other out, no? How can I celebrate AND grade!?!?)

Know that once all this grading is done and the semester winds to its fateful end, my readers can expect me to write more regularly.

For now, in a return to the roots of blogging–when bloggers almost exclusively wrote about other bloggers–I point you to a post at Bookfinder.com Journal: Worst Mothers in Literature. A fun read and a nice respite from my work…. 

I’d make two additions to the list:

  • Medea, for brutally slaying her sons in an act of revenge against her husband
  • Edna Pontellier, of The Awakening. OK, she doesn’t murder, torture, mistreat her kids, but she completely abandons them and thinks only of herself and her identity. She always struck me as a bad mother, maybe because I do know people who act a bit like her at times.  Maybe not worthy of this list, but she’s definitely on mine!

On Procrastination

Really too much to do to write today–I’ve logged a pretty extensive list of must-dos. A stack of writing projects to my right whispers …”We’ll still be here tomorrow…don’t worry about us…get outta that seat… the dishes are calling for you…and so are your kids…at least one of them…you probably shouldn’t let the other one sleep all day….Hey, did you blog yet today? That always gets you going! There is a sale at Kohl’s…Finish that writing for the softball team? Did you check your e-mail?…”Finish the Boosters materials that go out this week? The notice for the church bulletin? Don’t you have to finish the renewal letters for the advertisers who sponsor the booster club? Aren’t these supposed to be out Wednesday? Weren’t you working on that reply to PJ O’Rourke in your head yesterday? Shouldn’t you get that on paper right now? Didn’t you tell yourself you’d practice the Read the rest of this entry

Wrestling with Time

I am currently up-to-my-ears in writing work with what little time I have whirling at the opening of the drain.

I am not only writing courses, syllabi, and materials, AND updating my teaching portfolio for review this semester, but also starting a couple of other blogs, AND migrating two years of content from my old blog into this blogger interface.

I no more than get started on one thing and am called away for something else. My mind is, not unlike a computer, shifting and reprioritizing my daily tasks as they come in. Unlike a computer, I am the task-doer and have to actually get all these reordered tasks accomplished…soon!

I did manage to edit, upload, and order photographs snapped in the month of July. I really want to catch up on this…only five months worth to go!