School, school, school, …

It’s bad when school is the first thing you think of in the morning and the last thing you think of at night. I realized at midnight last night that I had forgotten to do something for my class that met this morning. I panicked. Midnight is not a good time to realize you should have done something for a Saturday class.

This afternoon I was napping, after my late night start I woke up at 6:30 this morning. I got up and thought, “I haven’t been thinking about school. I must have been asleep.”

I figure eventually I will quit thinking about it. I’ll be so sick of it or so used to it that it just becomes a blur, but right now I’m not there.


I felt like I had been working constantly, not even stopping to rest, after two weeks of ten hour days composing syllabi. Then I thought I had finished. But I got a call asking me to take another class whose teacher had decided not to show but not deigned to tell anyone. I agreed.

School started and it should have been a relief to slow down from the pell mell run of getting ready. Instead I felt as if I were having to run even faster just to keep up with myself.

Then Thursday arrived. I had taught three classes twice. One class once and had another that afternoon. One class is still to come.

On Thursday I wasn’t working all the time. Mostly I’d taught my classes for the week and it was a time of rest. I did some errands which were chores but not time consuming. On the way back from them I realized that I am teaching more than full time, for a college teacher, and getting half time pay. Briefly I wondered how I had come to such a pass.

Then I realized that if I taught full time, I would teach fewer hours but I would have less control over my schedule. As a homeschooling mother, I need control over my schedule. That recognition was sufficient to cause me to relax about the schedule and the income. I should feel a bit pushed and I’m not making big bucks, but I am able to continue doing what is most important–homeschooling my sons. It helps.


Had finals this week. I gave mine on Saturday. Had to be graded and grades in by today at noon. Got it done. That’s not amazing. What is amazing that I had people come to class who have been absent half the time, haven’t turned in any papers, and want to know if they can pass.

NO YOU CANNOT PASS an English class if you don’t write the papers. No you cannot pass any class where the teacher wants you to learn stuff they talk about in class if you don’t show up for the class.

Then I had students who are still on my rolls even though they didn’t come past the second week. So they got Fs. Cause they didn’t drop the class themselves. What’s up with that? (Happens every semester and it still freaks me out.)

Citing the Web

Since I teach college English, I often have students who have to cite things they've found on the web.

Today we were talking at home about the fact that a fourth grade son of a friend had to cite works he used in a paper and didn't know how to cite the web.

(There's a story in how when you talk about something it turns up. I've tried writing it. Maybe after my novel's done I can redo it better.)

Then today I was looking at one of the blogs I read and he talked about citing on the web.

Anyway, MLA citation rules for the web are here. They don't, you will notice, tell you what to do when you don't know whose site it is. (Common problem for my students.)

So, now that I've put it on my blog, you'll be having people asking you about citing sources off the net.

(MLA is the proper format for essays and research papers. It's the English version of rules for writing papers. There are others: journalism, psychology, etc.)

NOTE: This is a different site. I couldn't get the other to open either.

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.

6 Types of Questions for Creating a Test

Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to create different questions.

1. Begin with the simplest. Remembering.

These questions would use words like: Acquire, Define, Distinguish, Draw, Find, Label, List, Match, Read, Record.

For freshman comp, for example, this would be: Define two kinds of papers we wrote in class.

2. Understanding.

This is where you had to read/listen and make sense of the information.

The questions would use words like: Compare, Demonstrate, Differentiate, Fill in, Find, Group, Outline, Predict, Represent, Trace.

For comp and lit, an understanding question would be “Compare the treatment of women in Glaspell’s Trifles and Chopin’s ‘The Story of an Hour.'”

3. Applying.

This is where you employ information in new situations.

These questions would use words like: Convert, Demonstrate, Differentiate between, Discover, Discuss, Examine, Experiment, Prepare, Produce, Record

A sample question might be “Discuss how you could use your expertise in art to connect to the college community.” (It’s a useful idea and most of my lower income students were artists.)

4. Analyzing.

This is when you separate the whole and determine how the parts relate to one another and to the whole. It requires organizing.

Analyzing questions would include words like: Classify, Determine, Discriminate, Form generalizations, Put into categories, Illustrate, Select, Survey, Take apart, Transform

A sample question would be “We read four papers on feminism. How would you define feminism based on these works and how do the works illustrate feminism?”

5. Evaluating

This is when you make judgments based on criteria.

Words for these questions would include: Argue, Award, Critique, Defend, Interpret, Judge, Measure, Select, Test, Verify.

A sample question might be “Argue either for or against the inclusion of English writing classes as a requirement for all majors.”

6. Creating

This is where we put things together, reorganizing them to form a structural whole.

Possible wording for questions include: Synthesize, Arrange, Blend, Create, Deduce, Devise, Organize, Plan, Present, Rearrange, Rewrite

A possible question of this type would be: “We learned that Glaspell and Gilman had personal experiences that effected their stories. Using “The Story of an Hour” what can you deduce about Kate Chopin’s experience with marriage?”

Class-Based Value Differences

taken from JZ’s work, part of the whole. She said she doesn’t want her name on it yet. (And she still said that in 2007.)

Another Cultural Diversity Issue in the Classroom

The often unspoken personal hierarchy of values drives decision-making, and student responses to education. If we are to retain students from homes with generational poverty values, we must understand conceptual barriers to success. Community college teachers must plan strategies to optimize strength and bridge differences in order to release hostility and build trust. Understanding does not connote tolerance of unacceptable behaviors, as one of our unstated missions is to help students function positively in an academic and /or business environment dominated by middle class values.

From Melvin Kohn (1969) is this gem: “the essence of higher class position is the expectation that one’s decisions and actions can be consequential; the essence of lower class position is the belief that one is at the mercy of forces and people beyond one’s control, often beyond one’s understanding.”

In other words cause and effect obvious to middle-class may not be visible to persons from generational poverty. Middle class persons may label lack of action by persons from generational poverty as a personal deficiency such as “lazy” or “unmotivated” or having “low self esteem.” Persons from generational poverty may view middle-class community college culture as hostile and untrustworthy.

Possible scenario based on value differences across classes:
Teacher: “Come and ask me if you have problems.” (Values achievement)
Student has problems but never comes. (Values politeness and conformity, feels powerless over destiny)
Teacher labels student failure to ask for help as personal deficiency (Values self direction).
Student views teacher as hostile and drops class (Values relationship over achievement).

Teaching Gaffes

When you are a new teacher, no one tells you anything, because they expect you to know everything. Which would be fine if you did. But I don’t.

I was going to sleep tonight, cuddled up with my sick husband, when I realized that I hadn’t posted my grades.

I thought yesterday was the last time to post them, which would mean I was in big trouble. But it turned out it was today. However, when I went to post I realized two things. One is that someone dropped one of my students who shouldn’t have been dropped. Two of my students who should have been dropped weren’t. And I forgot to check on a test of another student. I can’t do that at midnight, so I have to go tomorrow and hope they’re there.

AAAGGHH. And the bloggers I’ve been reading think finals are hard.

Actually, if you could spell and write grammatically correct sentences, mine was rather easy.

Community Colleges

Plastic: Community Colleges talks about community colleges adding honors programs.

Then it goes on to discuss the fact that more private and public universities are accepting community college transfer students. It mentions that community colleges cost a LOT less than others.

Then it talks about how community colleges aren’t fair to the urban poor who come there if they have honors programs. It says the urban poor aren’t transferring.

Then it ends with a quote, “Even the students who say they want to transfer aren’t really doing so.”

A couple of comments on that:

The urban poor can get in the honors programs. It’s not like they’re restrictive. “Sorry, if you’re from around here and make less than $25K you can’t enter.”

Second, the academics/scholastics who are pooh-poohing the job the community colleges are doing are NOT urban poor. They don’t understand the culture of the urban poor.

A friend pointed me to a great site about the difference between middle class teachers and the lower class students they are teaching. (Unfortunately it is no longer available. Follow the low SES tags to posts on the topic.) It talks about how the middle class values independence and initiative while the lower class values belonging to the group and not making waves. If you don't understand that the lower class students getting an education at the community college are already breaking away from their culture just to do that, you need to read this site.

And, for my personal opinion, a lot of students who say they want to do a lot of things aren't doing so. Ask anyone on campus. They'll say they want to make As. What if they're not. Why not? Because they aren’t trying to make As. They’re not doing what it takes to make As. They just “want” to make As.

Well, I want to win a million dollars. But I’m not buying lottery tickets. So, while I say I want to win a million dollars, I’m not really doing anything about it. Is that the fault of the lottery? No.

If a student says they want to transfer and don’t, is that the fault of the community college? No.