I read everything posted [by students] on the website that three sections of basic writing students have access to: freewriting on the communal blog, email, Service Notes, submissions (okay, so there was only one assignment submitted. It was a single freewriting session and not the freewriting analysis as an attachment expected). Rather than lose hope, I draft and send emails to All regarding posting freewriting Monday morning and send one section of the class an addendum correcting the chapter assignments due. I send another group of students, those who have yet to logon, a reminder to print and read the syllabus in time for the quiz. Each email is copied to students’ outside email, in case they read those. Some have attended class and so I have phone numbers if I get no reply. Others will be referred to Retention Services at week’s end otherwise. I sign each email with a photo of me, the dogs, and or some inspiring quote.
The longer I spend in the classroom the more I realize it has less to do with me than it has to do with those who show up and thereafter take their learning seriously. This is a hard lesson to learn because one hazard of the jobs of teaching and parenting is the madness required: We must do the same thing over and over again expecting different results. [Each part of this platitude of course, is but the party line and simply what I tell myself and others I believe. It’s too loaded a political posture to go into here or almost anywhere…Stay tuned. It may just be time for me to wade on in.]
On another note, what if more than a few of the students who place into ENG 098 have learning disabilities? What are the implications for how and what I do and for the institution? Will I begin reading Self-Development and College Writing – which will require reading four pages a day for forty days if I want to read something else in the same semester. Might just lure me in to completing my treadmill commitment as well – or will I look for additional resources for teaching writing to students who have learning disabilities diagnosed or merely suspected? We’re all special needs now... Are there layman’s ways (read cheap, non-humiliating, and quick) of diagnosing same? Hmmmm. I am not satisfied that an initial search for strategies for teaching in such a context indicate that I have integrated many of the best practices already. I am not satisfied to learn, so late in life, that I might have been lumped into the ADHD category decades ago had the label existed and had the more (?) immediate consequences of being targeted by competing oppressions not taken priority.
Okay. So I decide to begin reading the text that I have at home after reading a summary of it online. I make this decision because in part, the author is stating what I had taken to be obvious until now – that developmental writing classes require destabilization, psychological and otherwise. Writing this, I realize I am putting my own premise in the author’s mouth. In fact, this is precisely what my committee member was getting at. I have a different take on things and it warrants exploring in public. I am constantly filling the vacuum with what I want this, that or any author to say since time immemorial. And perhaps the reason I have not said as much until now is because either I can’t believe it hasn’t been said or, it has not been time, or else I am colluding with the oppression of institutional silencing that I have committed to combat on my students’ behalf. Might the answer be instead, that this self-imposed (?) gag-order is yet another way of compensating for what has been missing all along…
Preparing to bring the Adult Sunday School lesson tomorrow on living a Spirit-filled life, I thought a wordle on the white board might be a good thing. Only trouble is the program wouldn’t work on my laptop to create it. I had a good time selecting the words as I read the lesson. Came up with a few focusing questions and ways in, in pairs, small groups or individually. I cleared my cache and everything. It still didn’t work. After a long day shopping it feels like this will have to do. I’ll paste the words below.
Spirit-filled-life if-I-go-not-away Savior’s-Surveillance how-where-when-Spirit-guides have find search read hear know obey teach talk bind write Hands Eyes way-of-peace benefits narrow-way Spirit-filled-life guidance peace lie-down still-waters comfort deception springs-of-water spiritual-renewal wilderness-weary-wanderers guide protect must-judge-ourselves decision security confidence assurance Spirit-filled-life
After confessing to God how confident I was at the start of the marriage and how I am having to learn love in the way God showed me what trust looks like, He sent this verse:
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38)
He followed with the question, if you believe this scripture, why don’t you think it applies to you? At this I smile inwardly and, writing this, realize the same is true of the semester. I took on the third section of 098 with gusto and even in this, the first week, feel exhausted.
Either I find a way to teach that takes less out of me (giving the lie to what I said at a workshop last week about loving teaching precisely because it demands all of me), or I find at this late date – 20 years in – a new career. I left at 10 years, preferring to leave the field while I still had a taste for the game. Now, even trawling the parking lot for a space is too much for me. I wonder how much a cab would cost…
When I left class, I had an idea to write about. I made my way upstairs stopping only at the restroom. Lunch did me in. I spent the next hour online looking for my 8th grade English teacher, thanking my husband for making lunch and generally feeling like a slug. Did I great job getting students elbow-deep in the syllabus, gave a diagnostic quiz, refocused attention more than once, prayed for a student who requested it though the prayers had already been sent up at 5 this morning as Intercessory Prayer resumed. Didn’t get the freewriting in. Am pretty certain folks will not consult the assignment schedule to see what more than the chapter on quizzes needs to be completed before Monday. They did not, after all, realize that I was truly asking for yesterday’s freewriting word count, and so gave me Mondays – at least that is all members of the class but two. Did a deft job of putting in my two cents as folks translated their page of the syllabus and still, I feel something akin to a failure. I’ll get out of here soon and hope the funk leaves with but takes a different car.
I thought yesterday’s playing chicken in the parking lot also bears mentioning. There’s no greater test of obedience than hearing a word meant for your ears only and waiting, faithfully until it comes to pass. In my case, I heard a word directing me which road to turn down and which row to wait in. Did both of those without question until about the fourth car swerved around me. Eyes heavy. Must sleep. Suffice it to say, I outlasted my ego and got the parking space desired. Now if only I could do likewise in higher stakes waiting matches.
It never ceases to amaze me that each section of the same course is so different from the next. The paradox and necessary schizophrenia of teaching (and parenting for that matter) is precisely this: 1) We must do the same thing repeatedly and expect different results and 2) By the time we figure out what might have worked, the context changes and we’ve got to move on to the next with or without the benefit of relevant experience.
Today I met the other two sections of students in ENG 098. The later section has the oldest group of students in it. The earlier section had more participation but less spontaneous commentary than yesterday’s students. The good news is I’ve had more students come to the office in two days than in all of last semester, and I’ve remembered to ask each for hints on how they learn best. The bad news is half the last class came equipped with the wrong textbook and yesterday the computer was down so I couldn’t use any of the bells and whistles I’d prepared.
This evening, having opened an extra credit board on the subject, I stayed at office late and listened to the State of the Union address taking notes from it while doing a little catch up data entry. I created a course roster with contact information of shape preferences for each class. Puppies call and 5 a.m. Intercessory Prayer resumes tomorrow.
Peterson’s Solo Remix today prompts me to ask: What does it mean to be kind to God? I freewrite my response.
- I buy chopsticks to slow me down when eating.
- I buy creamer so I can sit and sip coffee at home.
- I buy notebooks, pens, markers, mechanical pencils, planners, books and bible study aids so I can spend more deliberate time with Jesus and yet…
I feel so far from Him – not to mention the accordion relationship with my husband. Is this as good as it gets? Oswald Chambers affirms:
Jesus has needs which we can meet – ‘Give me to drink’ (John 4:7
And yet, rather than pour out to Him, I plead, pour into me, and do not open to receive. Instead, I do what is familiar. I suspend the endless loop of the chronic worry radio station in my head, WCWK radio, by becoming absorbed in work or study. Be my Friend, Lord, wreck that I am and give me a heart like yours.
How, today, might I be kind to the new students?
That question ends this morning’s notes. Only now, as I am typing, do I realize that God answered it at once. Arriving 10 minutes early for the first class of the semester in order to get the technology up and running, mercy said, no. I couldn’t even log onto the network. The phone lines were also down so I could call neither the Help Desk nor the on campus OTS folk I know personally to sort things out. That’s how my prayer was answered. I had to do what He has taught me to do best, wait on Him. And so I did by being with the class, showing up for real and connecting with those who wanted to do likewise while holding out the invitation to those who didn’t appear similarly hopeful. It was perhaps the best opening day on record. And I didn’t even have to have the traditional nightmare beforehand. Thanks, Je.