Big Day

Nothing much to report beyond the injunction to be perfect treated in Oswald Chambers’ devotional for today.

God’s life in us expresses itself as God’s life, not as human life trying to be godly.

Try that one on for size. As I understand it,  Matthew 5:48 wasn’t written to exclude or deny one’s identity the way say the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was written. It was penned as a reminder to all of us for whom Jesus died to invite Him consistently to stretch out in us as we stretch beyond our limits to embrace more of Him.

The Tail Wagging the Dog

Politics being what they are, I am glad I was led to create the new Migrant Literature course when I did. If, as the latest report to the Regents indicates, remedial education gets shifted back to the high schools, I will have another course to fall back on. I requested to teach it as an in-class hybrid for the first eight weeks if the Spring 2012 semester and as an online course for the second half. We’ll see if the short course option is once again on the table.

As With Parenting…

…A species of madness comes with the territory of teaching.

It is a thing of beauty when students start correcting themselves, their own work, paying attention to the details. If you create a supportive enough vacuum of leadership this seems to be a natural consequence. This weekend I received several emails from students acknowledging their oversight or former confusion and proposing solutions or announcing corrections had been made. I replied appreciatively and ended my session by releasing the folder of Team Resources. I don’t know why it took me so many failed attempts to assign the teams, update the Sample Assignments and post an announcement pointing the teams toward their dedicated discussion boards. This time I included a disclaimer about the deliberately open-ended nature of the Collaborative Midterm with a hope that something pleasantly surprising would emerge from “this group of flexible intelligences”. Here’s to doing the same thing and expecting different results 20 years and counting!

Then, The Devil Left Her

After a significant wrestling match getting words on the screen I read today’s devotional. Here is a feminized excerpt:

A [wo]man’s disposition on the inside, i.e., what [she] possesses in [her] personality, determines what [she] is tempted by on the outside. The temptation fits the nature of the one tempted, and reveals the possibilities of the nature. Every [wo]man has the setting of [her] own temptation, and the temptation will come along the line of the ruling disposition.

Temptation is a suggested short cut to the realization of the highest at which I aim – not towards what I understand as evil, but towards what I understand as good. Oswald Chambers

What do you make of that? What occurs to me is that temptation is a given and, like sin, it is part of the reason the Holy Spirit abides with us even now. That being the case, once you have accepted your assignment, look not back. Enter the wilderness knowing that once you emerge on the other side you too will be fed by angels.

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over – Class That Is

After getting the Migrant Literature course approved with corrections through Curriculum Committee I return to the office to grade online submissions and answer and delete email. An hour or so in, a former student texts me that he’s back from Afghanistan. I let him know I’m in the office in case he wants to stop by.

When he does, he pulls out his journal from the few weeks he spent in class with us. He said he kept practicing his paragraphs using the PREP method through the six months’ of his redeployment and that he still has a few essays he wants to write for me. That would have been enough to start the waterworks leaving it at that, but he went on to say that writing, staying connected with the assignments, memories of his classmates and our times together kept him going.

He read aloud a paragraph he’d been working on when his unit was ambushed yet again. A straight week of getting ambushed every night. That did it. The dam burst, though I was able to pull it back together relatively swiftly. He’d been writing about the first hot meal they’d just had in more than a month and how rations ‘suck’ when they came under fire.

After that, the conversation took several turns and we touched upon everything from being grateful to stand up without the weight of his pack to intervening at a local grocery store where a man was kicking his girlfriend on the ground. He mentioned his mother’s angry relief at his return (she didn’t want him to go again after he returned from his first tour with the tip of a finger missing and a scar from a near-fatal blast to the forehead) and what it was like losing buddies. We brainstormed some strategies for responding to the challenges of returning to civilian life and he acknowledged in no uncertain terms how the prayers of classmates kept him alive. After viewing the class slide show, we parted with his promise to return to campus and visit to encourage one or both of my current ENG 098 classes. I printed him a copy of the list of personal appreciations classmates had written about him at the end of last semester that I hadn’t been able to email him. I am humbled by how good things can get every now and then.

It Almost Felt Like Time Wasted

At first, I was overjoyed that the Direct TV installation crew knocked so early. It was minutes after 8 and despite the fact that I was just preparing a dance of praise as part of my new morning worship practice, it meant – or so I thought – that they would be out of here in a few. Turns out someone neglected to tell me that there would be a $70 fee for the tripod needed to install the dish and that another company, Direct Sat, was the only agent who could help me with this. Trouble was when I called their number and pressed the selections indicated, their outgoing message indicated a phone number belonging to Direct TV. So I dialed, and while on hold there, got on the internet looking for a better more direct customer service number, and noticed that the technician was also dialing his supervisor.

Nine calls using three cell phones later, someone picked up and agreed to a partial payment with the promise of an additional $20 coupon for first month’s service when I offered cancelling the service as my alternative and possibly preferred choice. Of course, just about then, came another knock on the door, to inform me that installation on the rocks on the public side of our patio is not permitted. Concerned about drilling holes in the patio concrete I called the front office on property. They gave me the restrictions and we proceeded.

I redeemed some of the hold time by revising documents for a Curriculum Committee presentation tomorrow – if the documents are sufficient to make tomorrow’s agenda – of the new course I piloted this summer and have renamed Migrant Literature. After ensuring that my department chair would be in to sign documents today, hubby and I were able to grab some breakfast across the street and get back in time for me to login to a webinar on Building Effective Learning Communities for Developmental Learners Online. Only that’s about when they decided to mow the grass in front of my freshly minted home office. I persevered having at once made the decision and found the accompanying desire and determination to participate in the webinar against all odds – the way I tell students to expect to be the resistance to everything that resists their commitment to learning. Webinar accomplished, hubby installed in front of the television, I believe I will take a nap before heading to campus to collect and carry the forms to their next destination. In celebration, I invite you to join me as I SMILE with Kirk Franklin.

Will This Class Make A Difference?

That was more or less the question our class Discussant offered for our freewriting. All who shared afterward answered in the affirmative in great detail and two volunteered to read their freewriting aloud. I plan to post my response here once I get remote access to the classroom server. I am deeply encouraged by their rising word counts. A full third of the class are writing in the neighborhood of 250 words in 10 minutes – and it’s only Week 3! Now, if I could only get that many submitting the weekly analysis in its entirety as an attachment we’d be saying something. Tomorrow is the Day of Prophecy. I’m going to sleep fast!

If Grieg Could Paint

Don’t Volunteer to be a Victim

I enter the house, hands full, not a light on. All is silent but for the crickets. For the first time in 13 days they seem to be more outside than in. The day’s efficiencies behind me now, I can think back and remember what it is I wanted to say to those students whose conversation I overheard while leaving the building. Don’t volunteer to be a victim. I said nothing not wanting to be sure of what I’d overheard. It was more of an invitation than a response to the part of the conversation that I didn’t hear but could easily guess. I’m ditching, with you. The speaker was a young African American backpack wearer. His audience was a female of either Korean or Japanese ancestry and her body language said her mind was made up, torso leaning in the direction of the door, still open, as if waiting.

I said nothing because I didn’t know into which ear to whisper and could not guarantee that whatever I might manage to say would not be a rant. What I did know for certain was that they were not my passion’s primary audience. You can’t speak truth to power if there’s no one there. For the better part of two decades I have had a soapbox, limelight, and a center stage in front of one college classroom or the other and yet have remained virtually silent for all intents and purposes. Thankfully, that season has ended.

In the name of keeping better company I set out to a Border’s closing after a delightful dinner with a kindred spirit. The pretext was to find a copy of Freire’s Pedagogy of Hope or Clifton’s Ordinary Woman for the new dean who has invited us to share a book that tells her something about the giver. I know neither will be available but the quest provides reason sufficient for driving across the parking lot from Sweet Tomatoes to the once proud anchor store of this shopping plaza. For something in the neighborhood of eight dollars I score three titles, among them a reader, a memoir and a novel. All are written by authors known and beloved by me. The latter two are cloth-bound hardbacks and originally sold for $25. The reader is softcover.

Once home, I can barely put them down long enough to decide which will be first. Maxine Hong Kingston’s I Like a Broad Margin to My Life wins though, truth be told, I began Alvarez’ Saving the World in the bare naked bookstore amid row after row of garishly empty bookcases. It is one thing to read history. It is another thing to be awake in the world when it is passing before your eyes. First, the Post Office, now, this? When, after all, did the writing of letters fall by the wayside? Did it stumble and cry out, or whimper, as it lay in the road in broad daylight, gasping? Were there any witnesses? Where is Baldwin now – not Alec or Stephen, William or even Daniel, but James, the darker, older brother.

All In A Day’s Work

An online student arrived at my office early for her appointment today. Her questions were straightforward and, for the most part, easily answered. When she’d called to schedule the meeting, she’d asked to borrow the first two texts, Barakat’s Tasting the Sky and Chin’s Other Side of Paradise. For some reason I agreed to loan the texts. During the course of conversation she noted the deterioration in registration processes and financial aid services in her three years at the college.

In the same conversation we experienced repeated unstable server-related frustrations while attempting to access a glossary of literary terms from a textbook publisher’s website and I noted a sample portfolio from an entirely different course was available in course resources instead of one from the most recent six-week summer session of the same class. I confessed that some of the irregularities were to be laid to my charge while others were simply to be tossed into the things-that-make-you-go-hunh bin.

Entering the office a minute before the appointed time,  I was greeted by a former student who interrupted the scheduled appointment to inquire if s/he could add a section of another section of my courses. Lamenting the paucity of choices given our department’s decision to suspend eight-week course offerings until further notice, or until someone learns to schedule such sections in the recently adopted student and personnel management system, PeopleSoft, I suggested to the student that s/he attempt to regain admission to the course s/he’d dropped upon falling behind due to registration glitches and the resulting Angel access issues.

Students in the traditional College Preparatory Writing course I met this morning were delightful despite the previous week’s holiday and steep learning curve in a hybrid course that meets only once each week. The time feels far shorter than the 80-minute period allotted. We did manage to complete a freewriting, discussion, presentation from Student Success and Retention Services, troubleshooting of MyCompLab, submission of assignments as attachments, and a couple lecturettes on learning styles, desensitizing oneself to timed writing assignments, building from individual thought to reflection in context and community action. We even managed to spend about 15 minutes in teams and select which of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Course Objectives, textbook chapters, and MyCompLab resources the teams would be teaching before Colombo asked the question on everyone’s minds and the homework was announced. We ran out of time for Mr. Roger’s summary of random acts of scholarship but a general murmur of affirmation ran through the room when I explained the career-related books they’d be summarizing for homework would be worked into a skit during their Team-Teaching Collaborative Midterm Exam.

The next thing I’m waiting for God to settle is when, where and how to fit in four teams’ teaching, individual book reviews and service-learning. Writing that last sentence the order was revealed. Book reviews will happen before the Midterm and Service-learning afterward. I will use a class period or two to practice an exit exam and peer editing before Week 7 and the service learning proposals can be submitted before the first team teaches so that when all teams have finished, I can return the proposals for action. Thank you, Jesus!

P.S. After the meeting with students, a phone call with another, posting feedback to the Preparatory Writing students’ introductions and freewriting analyses, I felt an anointing to clean up my email inbox. We all received an email stating that a smooth migration to the more recent version of Outlook depends on our efficiency and readiness for the move. We were given step by step instructions on how to “clean up” our inboxes. I took the more quick and dirty slash and burn approach and deleted some 10K email dating from 2007 first via conversation, then according to sender, then by date. This took the better part of three hours. I feel thinner already. I am so profoundly grateful that everything I need has been added or subtracted to make room for the present assignment. And I credit the residual inspiration from the Ga ‘New webinar by Bev Hitchins, was it only last week or the week before?, on getting rid of clutter for entrepreneurs with playing a significant part in this move of God.