Today was the intro to poetry at the college. I am not sure that my class feels any less afraid of poetry than they used to. But at least they’ve heard/read some poems and have an idea what they mean.

The problem with poetry is that sometimes you have to read it more than once. Sometimes you have to know some history. Such as Who is Brother Lawrence? in order to read Browning’s “Soliloquoy in a Spanish Cloister.” Some archaic (old fashioned) language. What’s a mistress? (wife) What’s a maid? (virgin) …

Next week we’ll be reading another 12 poems, which they should already have covered in their own reading. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.

We talked about possible final exam questions from the poems we read today.

And, because I didn’t think we got off Easter weekend, I have 2 sets of papers from each person to read and grade.

I had someone show up today who has been absent the last four classes. She hasn’t turned in or asked for the information for the last two papers. Why is she still coming to class? Of course, I had two folks show up who haven’t been to class in weeks. They did come with some of the papers though. One guy is missing the last paper and the one before it and he didn’t turn in his rewrite for his research paper. Sometimes you have to wonder. Wht are these people thinking?

Oh well.

Thoughts on Writer’s Survey

Couture and Rymer’s Writers’ Survey:

            I wonder if we (as technical writers working on a technical manual) would be more willing to share the credit if we and others saw our work as document managers and editors.  I would be in charge of making sure that multiple perspectives were represented in the work.  And I would be in charge of “editing” them in.  I think that might work.

Barbara Couture and Jone Rymer’s “Discourse Interaction between Writer and Supervisor.”  Collaborative Writing in Industry: Investigations in Theory and Practice, ed. Mary M. Lay and William M. Karis (Amityville, NY: Baywood, 1991, 284 pages).

Coming to Class

I am the world’s easiest teacher. I require papers, but the same ones that everyone else teaching this class requires. I actually went and looked up topics for the research paper, to make sure there would be articles on the topics. But the one thing I can’t stand is when someone comes to class only when papers are due. I’ve had one student show up two and a half times now. Two and a half, because he came half way through a class. I’ve got two who have missed several classes in a row. “I was tired.” “I was asleep.” “I was out of town.” “The contractors came today.” This is when we only have one class a week. How can you take a once a week class and then just miss it, miss it, miss it?

Thankfully I actually included 5% of the grade for being in class. I figure if you are there less than half that’s a 0 on that. But it’s only 5%. That’s not enough to make a considerable difference. But it is enough to make me feel a bit better.

How long does it take to write well in a corporate setting?

New writers taking up to four years to learn to write successfully (Paradis, Dobrin, and Miller). They said it was because the writer had to learn about his/her audience.  To get to know them.


Paradis, Dobrin, and Miller. “Writing at Exxon ITD: Notes on the writing environment of an R&D organization.” Writing in Nonacademic Settings. Ed. Odell and Goswani.

5 ways of thinking of audience

 Coney : “Think about your audience” reminded me of some work I saw, read, and used during an advanced comp class.  I think I’ll print and attach a copy of some questions about voice.  I think a similarly exhausting, if not exhaustive, list of questions about audience would be useful to define our assumptions about audience.

            I liked the taxonomy of readers, although I don’t think I would have had I not already been exposed to the idea.  Not sure why.

            reader as receiver of information

            reader as user

            reader as decoder

            reader as professional colleague– social constructions community creating meaning?  If so, how different from below?

            reader as maker of meaning


Coney, M.B.  “Technical readers and their rhetorical roles.”  Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions 35.2 (June 1992): 58-63.

Teacher Learning

Found the following info on a teacher at a California college.

Kuro5hin says, “A speech class professor, Rosalyn Kahn, told students they could get extra credit for writing an anti-war letter to President Bush. To receive credit, the letter had to protest the war, and the letter had to be mailed to President Bush. (I would find this just as worthy of mention if she had required students to write a pro-war letter.) Then, according to a press release, “One week later, Kahn again required students to write letters with a specific political viewpoint, this time to California State Senator Jack Scott. Professor Kahn collected the letters from the class and personally delivered them to Scott.”

When the administration found out, they took care of the problem. This letter was from the president of the college to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

I found this interesting for a number of reasons.

One is that I am a college teacher.

As a college teacher, I have given extra credit for writing letters. Those were to members of the armed forces during the Gulf War and to missionaries (when I taught at a Christian college). I did not ask to see the letters. I did ask for them to be turned in inside an envelope that was addressed and stamped. However, I was an ENGLISH teacher. The students were getting extra credit for doing a writing assignment. Writing assignments are normally the pervue of an English teacher.

I was a bit dismayed by the fact that this teacher picked which side the letters were to agree with. (Although I hope none of the students wrote the servicemen and women and told them they were baby killers!) But I have had assignments which weren’;t made with the best judgement. Unfortunately, teachers are human too and make mistakes.

I thought the administration did a good job of taking care of the problem. I was amazed. I have worked under an administration in which the whistleblower gets in trouble, not the person doing the wrong thing.

Reading in America

Was reading a blog this morning. A very negative, inaccurate blog. I try to read alternative views, to keep my vision clear. This one said that you and I are stupid. Well, if you are an American he said you are stupid. He said I am an “uneducated clod”. He said my neighbors were. (Remember blogs are addressed to the reader. “You and yours” means “me and mine” to the reader.)

He also, foolishly, said that he was sure I didn’t know the last 5 books I’d read. Because Americans are too stupid to read. He said my neighbors wouldn’t know either. He took my answer off his site and disconnected comments from it.

This was my answer:

Goddess by Mistake

The Little Girl in the Blue Dress

The Other Linding Girl

The Wedding Assignment

The Baby Assignment

The Culture of Mesopotamia

Wonders of the Ancient World

The Tomorrow Log

A Fantasy Hero

A Summer's Breeze

The Mesopotamians

The Babylonians

The Assyrians

Archaeology and the World

Dummies Guide to Myth

Universal History of the World: Early Civilizations

Ancient Mysteries

GURPS: Low-tech

My Sister Celia

Sweet Adventure

The Curtain Rises

When Love is Blind

song Cycle

No More Secrets

One Good Man

The Black Gryphon

This is a short list, maybe half, of the books I read THIS WEEK.

Maybe the people you know don’;t read, but the people I know do. (Except for two.)

That’s the end of my answer.

I was ANGRY. I was furious that someone, I assume an American, would tell fellow citizens that they are too stupid to read.

I went to nursery class this morning to teach the three year olds like I do on Thursdays. I asked my fellow teachers, who I only see at class and do not know personally, if they could name the last 5 books they’ve read. The shortest list was 11. The longest was 17. That’s from 3 people, women who teach nursery school.

I asked my parents if they could name the last 5 books they’ve read. They did. My mom has read 9 in the last two days.

Of course, since I read a lot, you would expect people I know to read a lot. I do know two people who don’t read a lot. But they can also tell me the last five books they’ve read. One of them is a doctor and he reads multiple technical/medical journals every month.

A quote from the blog that made me so angry.

Our education level is far below, MANY other countries in the world. Consider the latest statistic that over 60% of Americans read below a 4th grade level. Don’t believe it? Name the last five books you’ve read in the past year. Ask your neighbor to do the same. (If you can do it without naming a magazine article from Car and Driver, I applaude you.) You get a gold star and can consider yourself part of the “elite” 40%)? The rest of the world knows we’re a bunch of uneducated clods…

According to our government, though, our children have an average education for other highly industrialized nation. Our government wasn't too happy that we were average, though. But we certainly aren't below average for the world if we are average for industrialized nations. I would be amazed to find someone outside our own country calling us uneducated clods. Because we aren't.

According to a 1993 literacy study, the average American reads between 8th and 9th grade level. That includes those who are in and grew up in a culture of poverty and are totally or functionally illiterate. According to the site above, most medicaid patients read at a 5th grade level. So according to this, even the functionally illiterate read at the 5th grade level.

If someone is going to say something like you and I are stupid, they ought to be able to back up what they say. And they can’t. Because we’re not.

What does that tell you about the rest of what they say? It isn’t reliable.

I know that people think reading has gone down in America, but I am not sure why they think that. One hundred years ago, my great-grandmother didn’t even finish high school. She was busy working as a secretary in a bank, trying to support my grandmother. She didn’t have time to read. And she was not a stupid woman.

Yes, the most elite read one hundred years ago. Certainly Jefferson, Adams, Washington, and Franklin (200+ years ago) were avid readers. But the regular folks in town? Were they avid readers? I don’t think so.

Students, papers, Fs

(Kept private until 2008.)

I was grading my first essays for this semester this week. That just about killed my week. There is not a lot that is more of a bummer than a college essay with 72 marks against grammar on the first page. That was the first essay. The second essay wasn’t any better. I did finally get some decent papers, towards the end of the bunch. (I saved the ones from students I knew wrote well till later.)

I know some of my students are my age and older. But it is the younger students who seem unable to use their computers to do grammar and spell checking. I have one student who thinks that every time he pauses he needs a semi-colon. That’s going to be a tough habit to break.

The papers were a short story analysis. They had to read three Flannery O’Connor short stories and write on one or all three. They could pick which they wrote on. But they had to have quotes from the story in their paper. They did okay on the quoting part.

I actually had my last semester college kids write a process essay. They did fairly well on that one. Some of the other types were much harder.

Less Work, Higher Grades

As a college teacher, I found this article interesting. It said people are learning to work the system to get the grades. It also said that freshman are drinking less.

However, the more interesting section was the comments. Lots and lots of comments.

My favorites were the ones about going through the quizzes afterwards (Which students were complaining about that?) and the curve (I gave that same lecture.). The ones on drinking were also interesting though.

Wow, there were a lot of comments. I even made one.