Monday, December 04, 2006

Hello, Blog

I'm a little surprised to see how long it's been since my last visit. I have been busy.

I did a Harry Potter presentation on Halloween. That was fun. The best part was that I got mentioned on a blog called The Chocolate Frog, which should be everyone's aspiration in life. I know this, of course, because I did a vanity Google.

I'm also pushing ahead with my oral history project. I've been working with The Good Dr. Sloan at USM, and I'm getting very excited about the whole thing. It looks like there might be some promising grant opportunities, and I am very much in favor of any activity that has me playing with microphones, talking to old people, and passing it off as an academic accomplishment. :)

I'm looking forward to presenting some of my project at the Cs.

I've also had students doing some oral histories, and I've been very pleased with the motivation levels. I'm even downright astounded by the degree to which the writing improved when they began to really care about the subject matter and about taking it home to show their grandmothers in the end. It was heartening enough to even make wading through six sections of essays at once a good experience.

I'm a little bit on the overbooked side for spring. If I show up for everything, I've got four presentations scheduled so far. All on different topics, of course. That might be stretching things even for someone whose entire social life consists of drinking coffee in public places while grading papers. I might have to sub-let some of my students.

That's about it. In my next incarnation, I'm going to have a blog called "The Haphazardician" because I know I'll always have periods of neglecting any blog I try to start up a relationship with.

Take care, everyone. Stay warm and caffeinated for the upcoming grading crunch.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Confessions of a User

I've been wanting to respond to some of the Turnitin debates over at Kairosnews all week. I just haven't had time. I've also been considering submitting a proposal about Turnitin best and worst practices to a local technology conference. In light of that, here are some thoughts I've jotted down this morning.

Turnitin Problems

Turnitin does not distinguish between things that have been properly quoted and documented and things that have not. The percentage matched number cannot be used to determine whether a student has cheated.

Turnitin is inconsistent. In one student's essay, he had several quotes from the Bible. Some were marked as unoriginal; others were not. We know that the entire Bible is available online in all of its various translations. Anything quoted from it should have shown up as unoriginal.

Turnitin even marks the headings on the papers as unoriginal. We know that a certain amount of the percentage matched number can be accounted for simply in the student spelling the instructor's name correctly.

One student had several sentences marked as unoriginal in an essay about Harry Potter. The link provided by Turnitin for where the sentences had been copied took me to a message board where all of the users were posting under anonymous screen names. The “unoriginal sentences” were not all together in one place. They were scattered throughout various threads and topics on the board. For all I know, the student was only quoting herself.

If essays are submitted to Turnitin in rough draft form, revisions of those same essays cannot be submitted without showing up as entirely plagiarized. This discourages teachers from having students submit rough drafts and using the originality reports as a teaching tool.

One student wrote an essay about her senior project in high school. The portions that showed up as matched were linked to an article in an educational journal about possible assignments for senior projects. No whole sentences were matched, only phrases. It is my thinking that the student had internalized the instructions for her assignment after spending so much time working on it. It is also my suspicion that the high school teacher, on the other hand, had lifted the assignment straight from a journal without changing a thing.

Turnitin only catches one form of cheating. If a student gets another student to write a paper, Turnitin can only catch that if more than one student has submitted the same paper to Turnitin.

Turnitin Worst Practices

** Accepting Turnitin's word as law (or even as true)--anything identified as plagiarized by Turnitin should be carefully reviewed by the instructor to determine why it was marked.
**Using the percentage matched number as an indicator of how many points should be deducted from an assignment for plagiarism—even if a student has incorrectly copied some sentences from sources, a portion of that number can be accounted for by things that do not constitute plagiarism.
**Submitting student work to Turnitin without informing the student that this will happen.
**Having students submit their own work to Turnitin without explaining to them exactly what it is or how it works.
**Submitting only final drafts to Turnitin without working with the student on identifying and correcting possible instances of plagiarism first.

Turnitin Better Practices

**Submitting rough drafts only to Turnitin and using the originality reports as opportunities for student revision rather than as proof of crimes.
**Recognizing that not all forms of “unorginality” are plagiarism.
**Using the originality reports as an opportunity to revise for lack of original thinking and/or original voice in writing as well as for outright plagiarism.
**Recognizing that some sharing of information and some internalizing of information is likely to show up in these reports in ways that do not constitute cheating.
**Having students submit their own papers to Turnitin and giving them open access to their own originality reports.
**Recognizing that students have to be taught how to avoid plagiarism before they can be expected to demonstrate expertise in avoiding it.
**Recognizing that information sharing is so prevalent in our common business and educational practices that students have good reason to expect that some degree of “borrowing” is acceptable in their writing unless they are told otherwise.

Like grammar checkers, plagiarism detection services are unreliable. They should not be the only way that plagiarism is dealt with in student writing, and they should not be used as a means of creating less work for the instructor. Used correctly, plagiarism detection services do require time and attention on the part of the instructor.

It is my thinking that people trained as writing instructors are the most likely people to understand how to avoid improper use of plagiarism detection services. Like grammar checkers, however, it is the people who understand how to use them who are the least likely to need them.

Though I have been using Turnitin as part of my department's adoption of the service, I agree with Becky Howard and others who have spoken out against it. I also agree that compositionists should be educating themselves on exactly how Turnitin works and exactly how it is being used so as to be better prepared to educate others in its possible pitfalls.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Academic Fantasies

There are some great discussions going on right now, but I'm too covered up with students and grading and committees to do any of them justice. Instead I'd just like to share a quick note about academic fantasies.

I finished my Ph.D. in 1996. Since then it has been my continuing dream to go back to school. There's just no life I love better than that of a grad student. Of course, anything I might want to take wouldn't actually advance my career. Often I consider ditching everything and running off to an MFA program. Hello. My Ph.D. is in creative writing. This wouldn't exactly be a move forward. Once I was going to apply for a Ph.D. program at Duke and just get a degree in another field of English. What can I say? I drove through North Carolina and thought it was pretty.

Often my fantasies actually stray toward other disciplines. I'd like MAs in history, philosophy, and graphic design.

I never fantasize about taking courses that would allow me to make more money. I'm just an arts and humanities girl through and through.

I could, however, change the particulars of my current job by getting another MA. Instead of two sections of literature and four sections of composition every semester, perhaps I could teach two lits, two comps, and two comparative religion classes. Wouldn't that be nice?

Ah, well. We all need our dreams.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Year of the Pod

I started the year off not with a bang but with a cough. I've been fighting off bronchitis and generally feeling like a drag on everything lately. I do want to want to make my new school year resolutions and plans, however.

Lots of changes around here. We have a new president, new department chair, lots of shifts in dean positions. We've lost administrators to both retirement and death.

Overall, though, there is a very positive air around here, and even through my Nyquil hangovers I can feel it. There is just a kind of attitude that everyone is ready and willing to try new things. It's a good attitude to work with and around.

My new thing will be podcasting. I've been adding audio clips to my online class. Those are just little five minute mini-lectures to help jump start their study efforts. I'm going to expand that, though, into recording actual class discussions to make available online for my day students and my online students.

This all falls in line with the oral history I've now obligated myself to follow through with by getting my CCCC proposal accepted. All along I've held back on my plans to do oral history interviews because I wanted to podcast them, and I was never quite satisfied with the quality of recordings or with my own game plan for how to work out the technical logistics of it.

Because our new president is very interested in podcasting classroom lectures, though, this has all worked together to help me find a solution for the classroom and for the oral history project.

My current podcasting plan is to use my new laptop computer and a high sensitivity microphone for recording along with the program Audacity.

I also plan to steal some ideas from Derek and from Steven who seem to have been working on some of these same issues.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Blogging Continues!

Joanna and I completed the 24-hour blogathon to raise money for Katrina victims in Pearlington, MS, but we aren't stopping there. We're going to keep going by adding at least one new thing a day to the Pearlington blog up until the Katrina anniversary on August 29. Please help us pass the word along, and if you weren't able to drop by to leave a comment during the blogathon, it's all still there. Come on over when you get a chance.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Blogging Begins!

As you may or may not have noticed, the planned blogathon for Pearlington had to be postponed because I had a funeral to go to last weekend. Joanna and I are blogging all day today and all night tonight, however, on behalf of the small town of Pearlington, MS that was just obliterated by Katrina.

Come on over and contribute what you can, whether it's money, labor, or good old-fashioned good wishes.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Have Blog. Will Type For Charity.

Joanna and I are going to participate in Blogathon 2006 to raise money for rebuilding the small coastal town of Pearlington, Mississippi.

As anyone who has followed this blog knows, Pearlington was not merely devastated in Hurricane Katrina; it was decimated. I've done some volunteer work in Pearlington through University Baptist Church and The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi. I can attest first hand to how much the people of Pearlington have struggled this year and how much they are still struggling.

I will attest next Saturday, July 29 when we blog every thirty minutes for 24-hours straight for Pearlington.

Money donated through this blogathon will go to University Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. It will be used to purchase building materials for people in Pearlington who lost their homes in Katrina.

Please help us spread the word, and if you are able, don't forget to click on the PayPal link at the Pearlington blog to leave a much appreciated donation.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Playing with Odeo

I've just discovered Odeo Studio, and I've taken that discovery as an opportunity to jump right in and do that pod thing everybody is so crazy about.

Podcasts, Access, Quality

I've been teaching online classes for the past few years that were really hybrids. They met on campus five or six times per semester, and the rest was online. Now we are converting those classes to fully online. This has all of our online instructors scrambling to make the online instruction a little more sophisticated. Currently, I'm experimenting with adding audio clips, and I have a few thoughts/questions.

(1) Should I be worried about whether I have students on dial-up who will have trouble accessing the audio files?

(2) Where can I get a better microphone than the piece of junk I got at Radio Shack without spending a whole lot of money?

(3) If I want to imbed some audio clips into PowerPoint presentations, how can I end up with a file that isn't impossibly large for posting online?

(4) Is it better for mini-lecture audio clips to be scripted and polished, or am I okay to just wing it and hope for the "natural" sound?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

New Normal

This house is in Pearlington, MS. This is now a typical scene in Mississippi coastal towns. Many, many houses are sitting abandoned in this condition. It is overwhelming to think how much still needs to be done just to take care of storm clean up and meet basic necessities. At the same time it is heartening to see the sheer number of volunteers still showing up.

One group I met were high school students from Syracuse, NY on a civil rights tour of the South. They came to Pearlington for a service project as part of their trip. They learned important things that day like "Never open a refrigerator that's been sitting in a destroyed house for ten months." Some of them were also very excited about getting a close up look at some alligators.

Thumbs up to the teachers who put this together and the students who poured their hearts into the job.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Monday evening I rode down the beachfront with a group of volunteers from North Carolina. I took this picture in Waveland. You can't really get the effect from the picture, but we were fascinated with this house because it was the only thing left standing for miles and because you could see from it just how high the storm surge had been. There had clearly been water in that third floor.

Also, we all agreed that we would have stopped to look at this house even before the storm.

Monday, May 29, 2006

To Pearlington I Go

I'm headed to Pearlington, MS this morning where I'm going work off and on this summer as a volunteer. Pearlington was absolutely wiped out by Katrina. The only business currently open there is a bar that is operating out of a tent. It once had a gas station, a grocery store, a bank, and a post office. All of that is gone now as are most of the houses.

I have to admit I'm pretty nervous about volunarily giving up things like flushing toilets and hot showers to camp out 70 miles away from my home, but the needs are tremendous in Pearlington, and I feel very humbled when I consider how the people there have been living all year.

Still, it's only about 25 miles from Slidell, and I'm not above burning up $3.00 a gallon gas in search of a clean bathroom. :)

Have a good summer, blogland. I'll see you soon. Probably very soon. My heart wants to help my neighbors as much as possible, but my back wants to come home and sleep in its own bed as much as possible.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Yo, Clancy!


Couldn't happen to a better blog.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Summer Reading

What's on your summer reading list?

I've been out of school for a week and a half now. So far I've read all seven of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, and Walking Across Egypt by Clyde Edgerton. I'm currently reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

The Ladies Detective Agency books are just a pure delight to read. I can't think of a better way to relax, but you do need plenty of tea and cake on hand to read these books. :)

Housekeeping is incredible. I had read Gilead by the same author previously, and it is equally amazing. There is a sort of deep, philosophical grace to the writing style. If you don't read anything else this summer, my suggestion is to go with Marilynne Robinson.

Walking Across Egypt is just sort of silly. I enjoyed it, and I'd read more of the same. I even related well to many of the details of Southern culture depicted in it, especially those details of Southern Baptist culture. At times, though, the hillbilly slap-stick is just a little overboard for me.

I haven't gotten very far into The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time yet, but I'm already prepared to be impressed. A number of people recommended this book to me, and I fully expect it to live up to its reputation.

On my summer wish list are Bel Canto by Ann Pratchett, Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee, and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. These are all books I've heard good things about and have just never gotten around to.

I'm also planning to re-read Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. These are books I'm going to discuss with a summer reading group.

So what's on your list? Do you have anything good to recommend?

Monday, May 08, 2006

Hurricane Season is A-Coming

The Sun-Herald reports this morning that a major relief organization is pulling out of Waveland for the duration of Hurricane season.

The Morrell Foundation, a Utah-based relief group, has announced plans to pull out by Saturday, leaving a void in the volunteer effort to rebuild this Katrina-torn county.

The Morrell Foundation built a relief village at Buccaneer State Park just after the Aug. 29 storm, and has since housed thousands of out-of-town volunteers here to help haul debris, rebuild homes and just about whatever else was needed. The group also helped repair local spirits through holiday festivals and other gatherings.

According to a press release, the group is leaving the beachfront park because of the looming hurricane season. Weather conditions earlier this month that pushed saltwater over the beachfront road made it "abundantly apparent that our facilities would be unsafe for future volunteers," the release said.

I can't really blame them, but it still makes me sick to think of it. It also underscores the level of anxiety and uncertainty we are facing with the upcoming storm season.

The people who were living in solid houses that got blown away by Katrina are now in FEMA trailers or tents or cars. Places that were once used as shelters either no longer exist or have been banned by the government for use as shelters. And even without another hurricane, there are still whole towns along the Mississippi Gulf Coast where there are few jobs and essentially nowhere to purchase basic necessities. Residents could always drive to Slidell to stock up, I suppose--if they happen to have working vehicles, gasoline, and money.

We're looking at a grim, hot summer with or without the volunteer organizations. The steady presence of volunteers at least brings psychological comfort and the reassurance that things are being done. It brings hope that there is a normal to return to.

To watch a big volunteer group leave...

I'm sure I don't have to explain the psychological effect.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Remember Pearlington

Here is a blog with photos from Pearlington, Mississippi. I've been there several times this year to work as a volunteer. I've seen everything in these photos and more. Pearlington is in Hancock County at the mouth of the Pearl River. It, along with Waveland and Bay St. Louis, was really Ground Zero for Hurricane Katrina. This is where the eye made landfall. Pearlington, however, is several miles inland. The people there did not expect to be affected by the storm surge, yet their houses were completely submerged in water. Many of them did not have flood insurance. I've talked to several people there who lost everything and got almost nothing from the insurance companies. One house I worked on, for example, was about $2000 square feet. The owners are in their 60s and retired. They lost everything, including their grandchild's car and school books that were left behind when they evacuated. They got $8000 from the insurance company. That was for a tree that fell on the roof.

Anyone who stayed in Pearlington during the storm and lived to tell about it is a walking miracle.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Doctor Daisy has a wonderful post on trauma theory.

I wanted to respond to it earlier, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to say. I still don't know. I want to say something probably for the same reason Dr. D. did. I'm very close to the subject of Katrina and trauma. My head is full of images of TrinaTrauma that I'm only just now starting to realize are not going to go away.

I have nothing smart to say about this.

All I have is the observation that I've now reached a stage where I want to say something.

At first I wanted to simply get out the information about what had happened or was happening. Beyond that I didn't know what I had to say.

I belong to a writing group, and most of the people in the group have said the same thing. They just aren't able to write in a creative way about Katrina yet. They might write in an informative way, but anything else falls into the realm of "nope, nope, not that, not yet."

Even now, I think the main reason I want to say something about the Trina is to abate my fear that people are forgetting. If I could take every single one of you by the hand and lead you through what I've seen and continue to witness in Hancock County, I would do it. If you could see for yourselves, you couldn't forget, and you couldn't not care, and you couldn't fail to want to do something to help.

So I'm going to give myself permission to blog about what it's been like to see absolutely nothing left in places where my memories used to live, what it's been like to watch my 74-year-old parents living in a gutted out house, what it's been like to learn how to use a hammer for the sake of total strangers who lived through the storm by swimming and climbing trees and hauling their grandmothers onto rooftops and their babies and puppies into boats.

Forgive me if I can't explain what it has to do with teaching composition.

Before and After, Green Oaks B&B, Biloxi

From The Sun Herald.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me

From the person who brought you the extremely nasty tirade against students that I linked to earlier...

Closed for Business

Not to be trite or to add to AP's feelings of persecution, up. Please.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Grading Swamp

I graded 15 research papers today, and I feel like my head has been through the pea sheller (If you live somewhere where you don't have pea shellers, insert your own bad analogy here).

I've got to find a way to step it up. I've only just begun. Lot's more where that came from. And so forth...

I've also got to find a way to keep my sanity for the next few weeks, and I'm assuming most people who read this blog are feeling the same way right about now.

I don't have an answer, but my strategy so far is actually not much different than it was when I was the one turning in the research papers this time of year.

Eat lots of sugar. Drink lots of coffee. Let everything good and good for you in life fall by the wayside as you pretend someone else has been leaving the empty Funyun bags in your office trash can. Forget to go to committee meetings. Sign things only when people follow you to the bathroom waving them in your face. Let the mail pile up for days without looking at it (but obsessively check email). Skip lunch, but close the door and act like you went to lunch. Explain to the cats that what happens in the litter box stays in the litter box. Spend amazing amounts of time procrastinating by thinking about how much has to be done. Eat lots of sugar. Drink lots of coffee.

Did I miss anything?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Players and Haters

And I thought I was burned out.

Um...if you really hate students so much, have you considered that you may in fact be in the wrong profession?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I know there's a lot of hatin' on Turnitin going on out there in the Composphere, and I am sympathetic. I really am. I had my students submit their research papers to Turnitin, though, and I think I'm glad I did. They submitted rough drafts, not final drafts. I wasn't trying to do a "gotcha" thing. I just wanted to have an object lesson in paraphrasing without subjecting myself to reading 3000 (bad) paraphrases.

It's worked out pretty well. They bring me their reports from Turnitin, and I tell them which parts really should be reworded and which parts strike me as insanely silly. It marks things like "in the United States," for example, as plagiarized.

I have noticed that no one yet has submitted a paper Turnitin said was 100% plagiarized. My theory is that the people who were planning to cheat have opted instead to just not turn anything in.

So if I have a point it's that automated plagiarism catchers can be made into useful exercises if the power to decide to take their advice or not is in the hands of the students. That is all I have to say.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

National Poetry Month

My first offering for National Poetry Month--Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Bad Deeds

This morning I kicked a lady out of my parking place. She was obviously not a student. She looked more like a distinguished guest, but I'm guessing she was here for a workshop or fund-raiser or some special event. She seemed very nice. The only thing I had against her was that she parked in my spot. I'm not that terribly attached to my spot, though I've been parking there a long time. I could find it in me to see other lots. It's just that if I park in another reserved spot, someone will get mad and call campus police. If I park in an unreserved spot, the students will get mad and key my car. It's a lose-lose situation.

And I bet you all thought I was a pretty nice person until you heard about me going all Nazi over reserved parking and making little, old ladies go park in the back forty and walk.

The whole thing made me wonder if parking is just as difficult on other college campuses as I remember and if anybody else out there has a love-hate relationship with reserved parking.

Also, by taking the time to post this, I've delayed getting started on grading by at least five minutes. :)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Write Five Paragraphs, or Lose Your Salvation!

A friend told me today that she once committed the blasphemy of telling her students that they did not have to have three supporting points, and only three and always three, in their essays. A student raised his hand and said, “But my teacher told me that it has to be three, like the Holy Trinity.”

Um…okay. The Father, The Son, and The Holy Thesis have spoken.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Volunteers Needed

I'm throwing this out there just in case...

As you may or may not be aware, there is still a whole lot of work that needs to be done on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to clean up and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Many of the families were poor before they lost everything they had. Many of them have lost their jobs and their vehicles in addition to losing their homes. Insurance companies are not always paying out in areas flattened by the storm surge. The only hope these families have of getting out of the cars, tents, and campers they are now living in and back into homes is through volunteer labor.

Often, people in academics have some time in the summer when they can get away. If you are one of those people, and you would like to volunteer, let me know.

If you know of any church groups, civic groups, student groups, or just groups of friends who could come down to work, let me know.

Of course, people who have some carpentry skills are much in demand as volunteers, but even I've been down working on houses, and if I can do it, anybody can.

Keep it in mind. If you can make it down during the summer to work, I will put you in touch with a church group that is working very hard in the recovery efforts. I'll even come pick you up at the airport and lend you a sleeping bag and a tent. :)

Oh, yeah...people need money to rebuild too. If you can't come, but you can help financially, I can put you in touch with the people who will put your dollars to very good use as well.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Welcome to the Blogosphere

Sharon Mitchler, the national chair of TYCA, has a new blog.

If I ever get around to updating my links, she'll be the first person I add. I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say. Warm welcomes, Sharon.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cs Report, Part 6

I went to two SIGs, Christians on Thursday night and Bloggers on Friday night. Both were enjoyable and informative. I particularly liked the blogging SIG because I saw so many name tags I recognized and got to finally start figuring out the faces behind the blogs. I won’t really go into the meeting because Clancy has already posted the very thorough notes she and Mike put together.

The Christians were a very serious and productive bunch. I came away with a large stack of annotated bibliographies. They’d been working in teams on compiling them since the SIG last year. I didn’t recognize any of their names because I had not done any reading at all having to do with recent scholarship and Christian rhetoric before crashing their Cs party. I was interested to find out, though, that the woman running the SIG, Elizabeth Vander Lei, has a book out, Negotiating Religious Faith in the Composition Classroom.

There is also a Rhetoric and Christian Tradition web site.

I think the Christian rhet people are doing a great job, especially on banding together to plan research projects, conference panels, and so on. It’s not all up my alley. I’m a back-row Baptist. There’s only so much interest I can drum up in actually studying a faith-based rhetorical tradition. (Heh. Just kidding.)

What I mean is I recognize that I don’t have time to be seriously interested in everything on an academic level. I’m stretched a little thin as it is with the massive piles of papers from my six sections that I’m working so hard to ignore at the moment.

But I was interested in some of the more hip things going on there, like Christian rhetoric and popular culture or Christian rhetoric and blogging. I could ignore a lot of paper grading to get into thinking about these kinds of things.

I’m also interested in something that wasn’t discussed there—Christianity and Contemporary Poetry. I’d been thinking about this before, but going to the SIG kind of made it gel for me. I’ve read a little bit about Christian poets or poets writing about Christianity—Denise Levertov, Mark Jarman, Scott Cairns, Mary Oliver, etc.

Today I ordered this anthology. I’m going to let the idea keep bouncing around and work on it little by little. Maybe I’ll write a paper on it at some point (if I can start getting up at 4 a.m. instead of 5). But I probably start by just ordering books and writing blog reviews of them.

Someone has already made a bibliography.

Cs Report, Part 5

One of the most exciting parts of CCCC to me, even more exciting than delivering my own presentation with Peter Elbow sitting next to me, was Clancy's talk in which I heard my own name. Ha!

Clancy offered an excellent example of how peer-to-peer reviewing happens in the blogosphere with a breakdown of a blog-to-blog discussion last year in which Collin responded to an article in Inside Higher Ed, and I responded to Collin, and well, check out Clancy's slide to see who all else got involved and how the debate bounced back and forth from blog to blog and how consensus was reached.

This was my first time to attend the Cs, and the reason I wanted to go was because of the energy I saw on the blogs when people returned last year. I was glad to be part of that energy this year. I was also glad, for the first time ever, to see myself quoted on anything at all in a presentation. Ha!

Clancy asked if this same kind of exchange might have happened on a listserv. Maybe, maybe not. I can say that I probably wouldn't have gotten involved had it not been for the blogs.

When I first started doing this, I didn't know that people could check their referrals and go read things that had linked to their blogs. I wrote my response to Collin, thinking that maybe only Tammy and Jeanne in the building across campus might read it. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been bold enough to take issue with him to his face.

I'm not sure what it is, but there is something about blogs, that has freed me to jump in and be part of a larger academic community in a way I was not before. I am going to put some thought into this, and if I come up with more to say on it, I'll share.

Thanks, Clancy. You did a wonderful job, and I got a big kick out of seeing my own name mentioned.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cs Report, Part 4

I went to a presentation by Senioritis, A.K.A. Becky.

She had some interesting things to say about not making assumptions about what kinds of sources are the most valid sources for student research. She gave examples of people, like herself, who have both books and blog entries on related subjects. Thus, we can't just make blanket statements in the vein of blog = bad source, journal = good source.

I have to admit I didn't take copious notes at any of the presentations I witnessed, and I don't actually remember if that was the main point she made, or if that's just what she happened to be talking about when I looked up and thought, "Hey, good point." I do remember thinking, "Hey, good point," though, and that's good enough for me if it's good enough for you.

Anyhow, I learned something else from her. I can't assume that people at more privileged institutions don't have the same problems I have. I want to do more with technology in the classroom. I want to push myself and my students to be more literate in new technologies ( that I mention it I think there was something about techno-literacies in her paper too). In order to do that in a way I think works well, I need access to a computer lab all or most of the time. There just aren't enough labs for that to happen for all composition classes, and if even one does it, that class would take away time with computers that other classes need. Therefore, to do what I want to do with my students, I have to be a real jerk toward the other instructors and grab up their lab times in addition to my own. Given my seniority in my department, maybe I could get away with that. But should I? Really?

It never crossed my mind that people at places like Syracuse might be facing similar conundrums. It's probably a kind of reverse classism that I have the perception "they rich, we poor." But I sort of, kind of, distinctly remember Becky Howard saying she did face problems of inadequate lab space and had the same qualms about how to deal with this that I've had. Who knew?

Cs Report, Part 3

I attended a couple of panels specifically about two-year colleges, and I found them quite informative and encouraging. First, TYCA has put out some documents that should be of interest to anyone teaching in a two-year college.

Research and Scholarship in the Two-Year College

Guidelines for the Academic Preparation of English Faculty at Two-Year Colleges

Second, it seems there is an organized and sincere effort afoot to lobby the powers that be in graduate programs on behalf of those who will one day teach in two-year colleges. I don't know anyone who was actually trained to teach in a two-year college. I don't know anyone whose graduate work would have been anything remotely resembling preparation for the job. It's good to see that future grad students have some hope of a different experience.

The semester I defended my dissertation I decided to move back to Mississippi. It was the general way of things for the newly graduated to hang around teaching adjunct until landing a "real" job, but I decided that if I was going to teach adjunct, I'd just do it from home. The following fall semester I taught one section of British lit, one section of creative writing, and two sections of composition at JCJC in addition to two sections of technical writing at USM.

I can tell you, I learned a lot more that year than I had in writing my dissertation or taking my comps. I can also tell you that those comps in poetics and contemporary literature only spread so far in helping me through my first year of what my professors called "pack mule teaching."

I'm happy to see that people are working toward raising awareness of a need for a more generalist degree geared specifically toward two-year college teaching.

I also remember from my first year on the pack mule track that one of my professors said, "Don't stay there more than two years. If you do you'll be out of the loop."

That was ten years ago. I guess I'm out of the loop.

I am, however, very heartened to see real support, promotion, and encouragement for the notion of two-year college faculty as a legitimate, productive, and necessary part of said loop.

Thanks, TYCA.

Cs Report, Part 2

There are some great recaps on CCCC happenings already being posted by Mike and Dennis, both of whom I deeply admire for being awake enough for such industriousness today. I was also very happy to meet them both for the first time in Chicago, along with Clancy, Collin, et al.

**If I met you for the first time in Chicago and did not mention your name, it isn't because I don't love you. It's simply because I'm too lazy at the moment to link to your blog.

Cs Report, Part 1

Peter Elbow was writing in a Gryffindor notebook. A good time was had by all. More to follow after a break for post-conference napping.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Writing is Thinking; Thinking is Personal

I posted this to another (non-academic) blog, but I decided to put it here as well. I didn't write it with an academic audience in mind, but maybe it is fitting enough.


I’ve been flipping through a Donald Murray book this morning in preparation for a conference I go to next week. It is a book I’ve read before, but it is one I’m always happy to pick up again. It’s not necessarily meant for entertainment, but it is pleasurable to me because it is about things that are close to my heart: writing and teaching.

Murray reminds us that “writing is thinking” (3). He quotes Peter Taylor: “Writing is how you discover what you think” (7).

These are pretty simple concepts, but they are profound to me. They are how I have lived my life. They are why I am writing this now.

Not everyone loves writing, but we do all need a place to think, a place to discover what we believe, what we care about, what our most important choices will be.

Writing is my sanctuary. It doesn’t matter to me whether I write for others or only for myself. Either way, it’s where I go to lay claim to my own thoughts—whether they be emotional, spiritual, academic, political, or social. They all become a very personal and reverent process for me as they move from the cluttered, chaotic stacks of information inside my head onto the page.

Everyone needs this. My father works in his garden and goes for long walks in the woods. My niece listens to music. My sister rearranges the furniture in her house. Some friends cook. Others shop. A few run or bicycle or do yoga. However we go about it, we all crave a place inside our own heads we can rely on, a place we can go to for decompression, a place where we can discover what we think and feel.

Because I teach writing classes, it is so important to remember this. It isn’t just about an academic skill. It is always personal. It is always sacred. Murray says writing is “a product of the interaction of the global and the particular” (5). It is also a product of the interaction between the persona we are willing to present to the world and the person we see when we look within.

I am about to start writing down what I will say about personal writing and composition students at the conference next week. This is what I will most likely not say. This is my discovery draft, my pre-writing, my warm up. This is where I am practicing what I will later preach.

In order to accomplish something real with writing, or with any decision making process, we have to first spend quality time in that place inside our own selves where we remember what is most important to us, where we understand what it is we honestly think.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


I'd heading out to AWP first thing in the morning. I just have one question. How many pairs of shoes is one person allowed to take on a three day trip?

On another note--spring has arrived. The pear trees are in full blossom in Hattiesburg, and this afternoon I noticed the dogs on my street were napping in the shade.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Call for Submissions



Award winning author of __Smoulder__,__Thirty-seven Years from the Stone__, __Natural Causes__, and other works

April 6-7, 2006
East Central University
Ada, Oklahoma

*Possible submissions: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, mixed genre, or performance pieces involving text (15-20 minutes reading time).
*We are open to any form of creative work, traditional or experimental. We embrace "variorums of variation." Writers may address any subject, and they may also use the opportunity to perform work about the region or examine the idea of regional identity, etc.
*Email submissions are encouraged. Submit a brief cover letter with contact information and a brief career narrative with a short sample of the work to be performed. If the submission is electronic, the career narrative and sample may either be in the body of the email or attached as separate files.
*Festival participants will not be charged registration fees.

Deadline for submission: March 3, 2006
Notification by March 17, 2006

Send submissions or inquiries to:

Dr. Hugh Tribbey, Scissortail Festival Board Chair
Department of English and Languages
East Central University
Box P-1
Ada, OK 74820

Sponsored by the ECU Cultural Affairs Committee, the ECU Foundation, Ada Arts and Humanities Council, and the Oklahoma Arts Council.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I saw a survey recently in which someone had polled local instructors on what they believed was the single most important thing students needed to learn in order to be more successful in college. By far, the most common answer was responsibility.

How would you answer this question?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Paperless Classrooms

I know people have been talking about and experiementing with paperless environments in composition for a long time, but this is the first time I've actually tried it myself. I'd be interested in hearing from people who have more experience with these sorts of electronic tricks (or treats?) in the classroom.

I'm using an online program that comes with our textbook. The students upload papers for peer reviews and for instructor comments and grades. There are drop down menus that allow the instructor to insert automatic comments in the papers along with pointers to the handbook and to exercises on particular errors. McGrading, I suppose.

As with anything, this has its ups and downs. I think it will work well for me in that I have big class loads and limited time for individual attention to the students. I also have students who need extra help with grammar, and I work in a place that does not have a writing center. The online classroom does give students the opportunity to seek more help on their own should they so desire.

The downside, I think, is that the students who "don't get it" and tend to fall by the digital wayside are the ones who are in greatest need of the extra pointers and exercises and online resources.

Thoughts, anyone?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Austin and Chicago

I've taken care of all of my registrations and reservations for AWP in Austin and CCCC in Chicago now. When I look at the tally, I have difficulty shushing that scream inside my head of "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING??" There is no such thing as a travel budget at my school these days. Still, I'm sure I'll be glad in the end.



Okay. That's one panic attack out of the way. :)